Nagpur: Resting a case pending since 13 long years, the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court made a big decision on Wednesday, in which it cancelled all the illegal land allotments under Urban Land Ceiling and Regulation Act 1976. It also asked the Maharashtra government to take possession of those allotted pieces of land with immediate effect. The decision may affect Nagpur’s top politicians including Satish Chaturvedi, Anees Ahmed and Assam Governor Banwarilal Purohit who have been allegedly allotted land by tweaking the norms.
A specially constituted division bench comprising justices Prasanna Varale and Zaka Haq, directed the government to complete procedure of reacquiring lands, which are not put to use, within a month and file an affidavit accordingly.
The court’s clamp down came on the recommendations made by Justice RK Batta Commission in its 1,375 pages report. He highlighted large-scale irregularities in allotments made to various institutions controlled by then top-notch politicians, including the then guardian minister Satish Chaturvedi, former animal husbandry minister Anees Ahmed and current Assam governor Banwarilal Purohit.
The court was hearing a plea filed by ex-MLA Sunil Shinde through Anand Parchure alleging that allotment of surplus land under ULCA was done in an arbitrary manner to the influential persons. He pointed out that surplus land was meant to be allotted to industries or for residential purposes, but was illegally allotted to educational institutions controlled by the politicians by blatantly tweaking rules.
“We find that all the allotments are made without any public notice, publicity, tenders and public auction. We hold that all the allotments (except two) scrutinized by one-man panel are illegal and invalid. In cases where the lands aren’t put to use and lying vacant, the allotments shall stand cancelled forthwith and the lands shall vest with the government,” the judges ruled.
In the setback to the educational institutions, operating on these lands, the court directed them that they would now be governed by the government. “In cases where the allotments are made for running school or institution, it should be treated that they have received aid from the government. Their managements can’t claim right to grant admissions to the students as unaided institutions. Accordingly, their management would be governed by the rules and policies of government regulating aided institutions for admissions.”
In cases of allotments for housing purposes where the allottees spent amount and undertaken construction, the court told the beneficiaries not to transfer their rights, title and interests in the house/flat/ apartment/block/tenement, constructed on the allotted land, without seeking (Nagpur) collector’s prior permission. If they want to do so, they would need to pay additional charges/profits.
“In such cases, considering the proposition laid down in the Supreme Court judgment, it wouldn’t be proper to direct cancellation. However, as the allotments are made without following proper procedure, certain conditions should be imposed on the allottees,” the court ruled.
Coming down heavily on the Sahitya Bhushan Annabhau Sathe Smarak Trust, the court directed cancellation of land and asked the government to take over existing construction. “The trust’s affidavits show that construction for community hall and allied purposes is made from the government funds while it hasn’t spent any amount. Their allotment is required to be cancelled and the construction on it has to be taken over by the government. This land along with the construction should be used by the government for a purpose which will subserve the common good as contemplated by subsection 4 of Section 23 of the ULCA.”
The judged noted that there is not a single case in which the government or the allottee were able to show conscious decision that allotment in favour of a particular person/society/institution is for valid and justifiable reasons.
“The submissions of government and the allottees that the allotment will not be illegal if made without issuing public notice or giving publicity or inviting tenders or conducting public auction, can’t be accepted. In our view, the mandate of Article 14 of the Constitution of India casts an obligation on the state to resort to proper procedure so that everyone gets an opportunity to put forward his/her application and claim for the land to be allotted by the government,” the court observed.