President Patil's office seeks to justify her post-retirement mansion

Rashtrapati Bhavan has sought to play down the controversy over as much as five acres of defence land in Pune being allotted to President Pratibha Patil – the de jure commander in chief of the armed forces – for her retirement home.

Reports say the size of the land is much larger than the President is entitled to. The land is already being walled all around.

The President's office has denied that it had any role in the allotment. It also maintained on Thursday that there had been any malfeasance in the allotment, and all rules had been strictly followed.

Rashtrapati Bhavan official on special duty (OSD) spokesperson Archana Datta said, ''The land in question is defence land. The question of its transfer to any individual does not arise.''

She said Patil would have lifelong occupancy of the house, but it would revert to the defence forces after her demise.

"To say that a house is being constructed for occupation by the president on demission of office by 'snatching' or 'grabbing' land meant for soldiers is factually incorrect and malicious. The land belongs to the ministry of defence and will continue to remain with the ministry of defence," Datta said in a statement.