Adarsh Panel calls two former CMs

Mumbai: The two-member commission set up to inquire into alleged irregularities in Adarsh housing society today summoned Union ministers Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushil Kumar Shinde, both former chief ministers of Maharashtra, next month, to record their statements.

Deshmukh has been summoned on June 21 and 22 while Shinde has been asked to appear on June 25 and 26. The summons were issued by the commission headed by J A Patil, retired judge of the Bombay High Court. Meanwhile, the commission reserved till tomorrow its order on an application filed by another former chief minister Ashok Chavan seeking exemption from appearance to give evidence.

Chavan was to appear before the commission today. He, however, filed an application yesterday seeking exemption. The commission`s counsel Dipan Merchant argued that there should not be any discrimination between witnesses, no matter who they were and howsoever highly placed they might be. The witnesses have to come before the Commission and give information, he said.

Both Deshmukh and Shinde had claimed in affidavits before the Commission last June that the Adarsh land in Mumbai belonged to the Maharashtra government and was never reserved for defence personnel at Kargil war heroes. "The records maintained with the collector of Mumbai clearly show that the land belonged to the state government.

The ownership of the land was never an issue at any stage so far I am concerned," Deshmukh had said. He had also denied allegations that he had continuously held meetings with Kanaihyalal Gidwani, one of the promoters of the scam-tainted cooperative society.

"I deny that it was on the insistence of Gidwani that Revenue department was asked to put up the case of allotment of land to Adarsh. The suggestion that I ordered the allotment of land to Adarsh in an irregular and/or improper manner to favour Gidwani is fully mischievous," his affidavit said.

Earlier, former principal secretary Ramanand Tiwari, in his affidavit, had said approvals for the Adarsh building had been given by Deshmukh. Shinde too had reiterated Deshmukh`s version that the Adarsh land belonged to Maharashtra government and added that the allotment of plot to the society was done after proper scrutiny of all records.

"The Letter of Intent dated January 18, 2003 made it clear that the land was alloted according to the government resolution (GR) of July 1999 which did not provide reservation for war heroes," Shinde had told the Commission. He had also denied allegation of receiving favours from the society members and said that due process of law was followed and verification done by several state government officials before granting permission to the high-rise.

"During my tenure as chief minister from May 2003 till November 2004, I did not get any complaint about any alleged irregularity in allotment of the land to Adarsh Society," he had asserted. Chavan, who had to step down as the chief minister in November 2010 following the scam, while seeking exemption from appearing in person said he had already filed an affidavit in which he disclosed whatever information he had about Adarsh Society. He said he had nothing more to add and did not wish to say anything before the Commission.

In its interim report, the commission had said the land belonged to the state government, contrary to the claim made by the Ministry of Defence that it was a defence land. Chavan is accused of recommending 40 per cent allotment of flats in the Adarsh Housing Society, originally meant for Kargil war widows, to civilians. Chavan is also facing allegations that his relatives got flats in the society. He was the revenue minister from 1999-2003 when the land was allotted to the housing society. Deshmukh was the chief minister during that period.