Mumbai, Apr 13: Virtually restraining the government from demolishing the Adarsh society building during the pendency of a petition challenging the move, the Bombay High Court today said it would like to hear the Society and the Environment Ministry before passing a “drastic” order for pulling it down.
The breather came just a day before the expiry of the three-month deadline set by the MoEF to the society to appeal against its January 16 order for demolition of the 31-storey building for violation of several norms including those related to coastal zone regulations.
“We are assured that the MoEF would maintain status quo until the court decides the case. Nothing drastic will happen. In case it does, the society can rush to the court immediately,” a division bench of justices Ranjana Desai and R G Ketkar said posting the matter for arguments on April 27.
“Anything which is illegal needs to be demolished. We (court) agree with that but at this stage we would like to first hear the arguments to satisfy our judicial conscience. Demolition is a drastic step,” the judges said while hearing the society's petition against the demolition order.
“In any case the building is empty. There is no water and electricity supply. So the society is not going to get any benefit if it is not demolished. We are not saying MoEF does not have a good case. Maybe after hearing the arguments we would direct for demolition but before passing any direction the court needs to hear the case,” they said.
The judges also wanted to know if demolition was the only solution or if the building in upmarket Colaba could be put to any other use.
“But is demolition the only solution. What is the alternative? Can't the Society approach the ministry for clearance now as in the case of Lavasa Corporation? Or maybe the building could be put for some other use,” Desai said.
Replying to this, Additional Solicitor General Darius Khambata said if the society wanted clearance now they should say so and approach the ministry with an application.
Khambata, appearing for the ministry, said the society did not take any permission or clearance before construction which started in 2003. “They never came for permission. The building is illegal and needs to be demolished.”
Senior Counsel Mukul Rohatgi, Adarsh's lawyer, argued that the construction was completed several years ago. “All permissions were taken then. How can they (ministry) say now that everything is illegal?”
In a related development, the court has adjourned another petition filed by the society that seeks a direction to CBI to defreeze its bank accounts till April 26.
CBI, which is conducting a probe into the scam, has attached the society's bank accounts.
On January 29, the agency registered a case against 14 people, including former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan, retired army officials and bureaucrats for criminal conspiracy, fraud and misuse of official powers while granting various clearances to the society. PTI