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HC issues notices on PIL accusing ex-CM Chavan of favouring Sea Rock hotel

The Bombay High Court has issued notices to the Maharashtra Government, Centre and two private companies on a PIL alleging former Maharashtra CM Ashok Chavan misused his discretionary powers in giving some sanctions in the redevelopment of the landmark Sea Rock hotel here.

The notices were issued yesterday, a day after he and 12 others were chargesheeted in the Adarsh Housing scam in which he was accused of doling out some favours to the upscale Housing society in Colaba as a quid pro quo for getting two flats alloted to his kin.

The PIL alleged violation of Development Control Rules and environmental norms in the proposed redevelopment of the hotel at Bandra reclamation. The notices issued by Justices S A Bobade and Mridula Bhatkar are returnable after four weeks.

Ashok Chavan
Fresh trouble for ex-CM Ashok Chavan. File Pic

The PIL filed by lawyer Sonia Sood said the plot belonged to the state government which it gave on leave and licence basis in 1961 to M/s Luthria and Lalchandani (L&L) for 99 years. L&L sub-leased the plot to M/s Elel Hotels and Investments Pvt Ltd (EHIPL) which is rebuilding the hotel now.

The PIL alleged that Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation had sanctioned Floor Space Index of 5.5 for the hotel while Ministry of Environment and Forests had granted Coastal Regulatory Zone approval for only 2.5 FSI. However, using his discretionary powers as Chief Minister, first Vilasrao Deshmukh granted the hotel an FSI of 2.5 in October 2008 under Development Control Rules (DCR), 1967.

In July 2009, Deshmukh's successor Chavan again used his discretionary powers to grant FSI of 3 to the hotel under DCR, 1991. Discretionary powers cannot be used twice for same project and two DCRs cannot be applied to the same plot, Sood has argued in the petition.

Chavan was not immediately available for comments. The hotel had closed down after the 1993 serial Mumbai blasts. One of the explosions had ripped through a hotel room causing extensive damage that had resulted in complete shut down of the establishment. The hotel is now proposed to be reconstructed.

The PIL alleged that the location of the hotel was in CRZ-I and that the officials and promoters had colluded to show it as partly in CRZ-II zone. It urged the court to examine the legality of the transactions between the parties.

Counsel for EHIPL, Janak Dwarkadas, informed that as of now, no construction was happening at the site because they were awaiting permission from the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

The CBI had on Wednesday charge-sheeted Chavan and 12 others in the 'Adarsh' housing society scam where also he was accused to granting additional FSI to the controversial society apart from allowing civilians to be become its members. 

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