Published On : Fri, Mar 24th, 2017

Blow to Rashtrabhasha Sabha as SC upholds High Court order

Supreme Court
Delivering a hammering blow, the Supreme Court on Friday refused to interfere in the orders passed by Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court against Maharashtra Rashtrabhasha Sabha and directing the Nagpur Improvement Trust (NIT) to recover additional premium and ground rent for extra FSI granted for its prime government land on North Ambazari Road.

A bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar, and comprising Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice Sanjay Kaul dismissed a Special Leave Petition filed by Maharashtra Rashtrabhasha Sabha and confirmed the judgment passed by High Court. Earlier, it had directed the NIT to complete the assessment of premium which was calculated as Rs 163 crore.

Senior Counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi appearing for the petitioner Rashtrabhasha Sabha claimed that it was unfair to reassess the ground rent and additional premium from 1991 and that it was doing lot of good work including promotion of Hindi, conducting cultural activities. However, the Apex Court refused to quash the High Court order while passing some scathing remarks against officials who dealt with the file permitting user change, commercial use of public utility land.

The Supreme Court, however, directed liberty to Rashtrabhasha Sabha to appeal to State Government against the order passed by the NIT assessing the premium of Rs 163 crore as an alternate remedy. It directed the Sabha to pay an amount of Rs. 40 crore immediately within 30 days to file the appeal and upon depositing the said amount stayed the recovery of interest of Rs 123 crore during the pendency of appeal. The SC also directed the competent authority to decide the appeal on merits and directed appellant to implede all parties as respondents in the appeal.

The top court, however, exonerated M/s Wockhardt Hospitals from making payment of premium as it has no direct allotment in its name, but made it clear that in the event if original allottee Rashtrabhasha Sabha fails to make the payment then other parties will have to pay.

It may be recalled that the High Court while allowing a PIL filed by Citizens Forum for Equality through its President Madhukar Kukde alleging gross abuse of procedure, illegal allotment of land and its brazen commercial misuse leading to massive revenue loss of Rs 100 crore, had directed State Government and NIT to conduct an enquiry as to how commercial buildings were permitted without change of user.

The High Court had also directed State Government to probe roles of present and ex-officers and elected representatives and in case if find that any wrongful loss was caused to State or wrongful gain to any individual, then to immediately initiate appropriate civil or criminal proceedings against such persons.

The High Court had came down heavily upon the NIT for determining ground rent as per 1961 rate and quashed the order dated August 11, 2005 while directing it to determine fresh ground rent for the lease period from 31-02-1991 to 31-03-2021and additional premium to be recovered from Sabha for additional FSI as per Rule 8(2) of the Land Disposal Rules with effect from 21-02-2004 till 31-03-2021 within three months. The Sabha was been directed to pay current premium and ground rent within two months of its computation and arrears were to be recovered in 12 equal bi-monthly installments. About the alleged unauthorised construction by Rashtrabhasha Sabha and demolition notice issued by NMC, the High Court had directed the Civil Court to decide the civil suit within one year. The NMC, NIT and UDD were directed to study the documents and examine whether any right over undivided share was conferred upon any of the occupants including Wockhardt Hospitals. Joint Charity Commissioner was also directed to audit whether Sabha earned more income.

It is pertinent to note that as the High Court judgment is confirmed now, the State Government will have to conduct the enquiry as directed by High Court and will also have to initiate criminal proceedings against the persons found guilty in enquiry.

Senior Counsel A M Singhvi appeared for Rashtrabhasha Sabha, Senior Counsel Adv. Vishwanathan represented M/s Wockhardt Hospitals. Adv Prakash Meghe appeared for the SMG Hospitals, while the NIT was represented by senior counsel Adv. S.K. Mishra. Adv. Satyjit Desai, Adv Sudhir Voditel and Adv Adv. Tushar Mandlekar held brief for Citizens Forum for Equality.