Diplomat’s flat in Adarsh report

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  • Published 21.12.13

Dec. 20: The Indian foreign ministry had asserted yesterday that “there is only one victim in this case — that is Devyani Khobragade”.

The assertion struck a clairvoyant note today as Devyani’s father said: “We are the victims, not the perpetrators.”

Retired IAS officer Uttam Khobragade was not talking about the American mess but the Adarsh scandal.

His comments came hours after Devyani’s name leaped from New York, television studios and front pages to the probe report on the apartment complex that was made public in Nagpur today.

The judicial commission that looked into the Adarsh building scandal in Mumbai has mentioned that Devyani was ineligible for a flat there but the society approved an application filed on her behalf by her father. As many as 25 of the 102 members were found ineligible by the panel.

The commission has also named four chief ministers in the report ( ). Unlike the chief ministers whose roles have been questioned, the commission does not make any observation on Devyani other than noting that her membership was approved even though she did not meet the eligibility criteria and that her documents were not scrutinised properly.

Devyani’s father Uttam, who had held several posts including that of the chief of the Maharashtra Housing and Development Authority (MHADA), said tonight: “The commission knows that we are the victims of this scandal, not the perpetrators, and hence they have not made any other specific observation.”

The Indian diplomat already owned a flat in another cooperative housing society in Mumbai when she applied for a membership in Adarsh, which should have automatically rendered her ineligible, the panel said in its report.

The commission said it found two applications by Devyani — both made on July 29, 2004, and signed on her behalf by her father. While one showed no previous ownership of a flat in any other cooperative housing society, the other said she owned a flat in Meera Cooperative Housing Society at Oshiwara in Jogeshwari (west), Mumbai. In her testimony, she and her father stated that they owned a flat in another housing society in Mumbai.

The flat in Oshiwara was sold by her for Rs 1.9 crore in September 2008, more than four years after she had applied for the Adarsh project.

Devyani was issued a membership in Adarsh on May 25, 2008, while she was still in possession of the Meera cooperative housing society flat, the commission noted.

An IFS officer of the 1999 batch, Devyani was allotted a 1,076sqft flat in the “A” wing of the building.

The report said Devyani and her father had deposed before the commission but had remained silent on the purchase price of the flat and the source of the money. The report mentioned a huge figure from the Adarsh ledger but it appeared to be a printing error as the price of most other flats ranged between Rs 1 crore and Rs 1.5 crore.

The commission said Devyani was posted in Germany in July 2004. A certificate was issued to her in September 2004 by the tehsildar and executive magistrate of Mumbai that she had been residing in Mumbai for over 15 years prior to August 31, 2008, to fulfil the residency clause in the application for Adarsh society, it said.

Devyani’s father Uttam said: “We explained to them that in 2004 we had applied for Adarsh society membership, and we had informed the society that we have another flat in Oshiwara. We had told them that if this (Adarsh) flat is working out, we will resign from the membership of the Oshiwara co-operative society.”

He added: “But from 2004 to 2008, there was no progress in Adarsh society, and Devyani’s membership was approved only in 2008. By then, the Oshiwara flat was completed. The moment Adarsh society gave her the membership, we sold the Oshiwara flat for a sum of Rs 1.9 crore, and paid the capital gains tax of Rs 30 lakh. From this money, we purchased the Adarsh flat. This is a normal practice among IAS officers; if they get a better property, they resign from the first membership and take up the second one. Now tell me, what wrong have we done?”

Uttam said: “It is true that I was the CEO of MHADA when the flat was allotted to Devyani. But I didn’t show any favouritism. I wrote to the government and she was allotted the flat after the government’s approval.”