The arrest of bureaucrats Ramanand Tiwari and Jairaj Phatak in the Adarsh scam yesterday sent a ripple of joyful text messages through the Mumbai activist community. As we eagerly await the arrest of bigger fishes, the question arises: Why no FIR against former MMRDA Chief Ratnakar Gaikwad? Is CBI deliberately ignoring the key role that Ratnakar Gaikwad played as MMRDA’s metropolitan commissioner? So far, there is no evidence that he gained monetarily from giving the Occupation Certificate (OC) to Adarsh building. But documents clearly point to Criminal Misconduct as defined by Prevention of Corruption Act Section 13(1)(d)(i), (ii) and (iii).
To summarize the offense, ‘A public servant is said to commit criminal misconduct while holding office as a public servant obtains for any person any valuable thing or pecuniary advantage without any public interest’.
Despite being informed by Western Naval Command that Adarsh was against public interest, Ratnakar Gaikwad issued an Occupation Certificate. Documents procured by RTI activist Viren Shah clearly reveal the offense.
SEQUENCE OF EVENTS:
- ON 25 JUNE 2010, the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Naval Command, wrote to Maharashtra’s Chief Secretary, Municipal Commissioner of Greater Mumbai and Principal Secretary of Urban Development Department.
The defense chief referred to an earlier letter written on 8 June, and raised “serious concern with regard to the construction of a building by a private housing society in the vicinity of defense installations at Colaba Defence Station, Mumbai, and the necessity for screening of the allottees from the security point of view”. Mentioning the increased threat perception post 26/11 and asking for the list of allottees, he said, “It is of the utmost urgency from the point of view of security… that necessary directives under Section 154 of the MRTP Act 1966 be immediately issued by the Government of Maharashtra to the Planning Authority not to grant any Occupation Certificate, partial or otherwise whatsoever, to the said building/society, which is in the vicinity of the WNC Defence installations /Colaba Defence Station till the desired information is provided by them, and vetted by this Headquarters. You are requested to kindly take action on the aforesaid, failing which HQ WNC would be constrained to take legal recourse to legal proceedings.”
This letter must have created a flurry of activity in Mantralaya for a couple of months, but the defence chief did not get the simple information that he was requesting for – the list of allottees. He got no reply.
- ON 30 AUGUST 2010, the Chief Secretary then put the ball in Ratnakar Gaikwad’s court. (See page 3.) And Ratnakar Gaikwad did the dirty job very quickly.
- ON 29 SEPTEMBER, Ratnakar Gaikwad delivered the coup de grace to the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief. In his letter dated 29 September, he coldly stated that, based on a letter written by the secretary of Adarsh Society, THE OC HAD BEEN ISSUED ON 16 SEPTEMBER i.e. 13 days earlier. (Imagine! The word of an ordinary building secretary – representing a very private interest – is stated as justification for acting against the word of a defense chief, without even calling the latter for a personal hearing!) Gaikwad’s letter went on to conclude that if the defense chief had any security concerns about the members of the society, he should now go to the police commissioner.
In other words: “I just did what you are saying we must not do. Ja, ukhaad le jo ukhaadna hai!”
READ GAIKWAD’S AMAZING LETTER:
“Sir, please refer to your above cited letters. In this regard, secretary of the society has written a letter to MMRDA in which it is stated that ‘It is reliably learnt that Naval Authorities have also written to your office regarding the antecedents of members of our Society. In this context, I would like to bring it on record for your kind information that the society consists of members from Army, Navy, Government of India Officers from IAS, IPS, IFS, IRS and other Government Officers. Our members are including Ex Chief of Naval Staff, Ex Flag Officer Commanding in Chief, two formal Chief of Army Staff and other senior officers from Army, Navy, Defence Estates etc. The Society also have Hon’ble Members of Parliament, State Assembly besides senior people who held position of Union / State Cabinet Ministers and Speaker of Maharashtra Assembly. It is also brought on the record that the land in question is State Government land allotted to the Society by the State Government and Membership have been approved by the Government of Maharashtra/Collector Mumbai according to the Government Resolution in force and antecedents of all the members have been verified and approved by the government prior to allotment of membership. In the light of above, any further verification of antecedents of members by the navy appears to be overstepping the right of propriety vested in the Government of Maharashtra and Collector Mumbai City, who have verified and approved the names.’
“IN VIEW OF THE ABOVE, IT IS FELT THAT AFTER COMPLETION OF THE BUILDING, BASIC ISSUES MAY NOT BE RAISED (emphasis supplied). If there is any reasonable apprehensive (sic) about the members of the society from the security point of view, you may refer the matter to the appropriate authority such as Commissioner of Police, Mumbai. MMRDA has issued the Occupancy Certificate to the Adarsh Society on 16/9/2010.
Yours faithfully, Ratnakar Gaikwad, Metropolitan Commissioner.”
This fait accompli presented to Western Naval Command, is seemingly based on a boastful letter written by an ordinary building society secretary.
NOW LET US ASK SOME QUESTIONS:
1) Did Metropolitan Commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad dismiss the concerns expressed by someone who is only two or three levels below the President of India, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces on the word of a mere building secretary?
2) Was Ratnakar Gaikwad’s letter written in obedience to the command of someone very high up in the government or administration? Someone whom Ratnakar Gaikwad could not name in his letter? Who might that be?
3) Did MMRDA chief Ratnakar Gaikwad have the authority a decision in this unilateral matter? Was this a decision based on sound administrative logic i.e. weighing of public interest against private interests?
4) Since when did handing out Occupation Certificates to private building societies become part of MMRDA’s duties? Was it envisaged in the MMRDA Act? Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) was constituted to build urban projects to unify the MMR region; Is Adarsh Society such a project? If not, how did MMRDA issue Occupation Certificate to Adarsh? Isn’t this a job that only the Municipal Corporation could have done?
5) Was MMRDA empowered by an innocuous government resolution (GR) to give occupation certificates to such buildings, which has nothing to do with the unification of Mumbai Metropolitan Region? If so, we need to look at the process by which this GR was passed, because this appears to be another illegality perpetrated by the State Government to favour the builder lobby?
6) Who made Gaikwad the Chief Secretary? Was this a reward for the illegalities that he committed to favour the builder lobby while he was at MMRDA? Read documents of Ratnakar Gaikwad’s many favours to builders.
7) Final question: How many more documentary evidences like these will whistleblowers have to put in the public domain before the State Govt. sacks him and CBI files an FIR against Ratnakar Gaikwad? Isn’t an offense of criminal misconduct adequately revealed by all this, my dear sirs? Must we get directions from Bombay High Court for that?
(Krishnaraj Rao is a prominent Right-to-Information activist and journalist based in Mumbai. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org )
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect BH’s editorial policy.