Rashtrabhasha case: SC issues notice to CM, top babus over plea seeking cancellation of lease of plot

Nagpur/New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday issued notices on a Special Leave Petition filed by Citizen Forum for Equality, Nagpur, an NGO, through its President Madhukar Kukde against the order passed by the Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court on September 7, 2016, in the PIL No: 47/2013, seeking cancellation of lease of plot allotted to the Maharashtra Rashtrabhasha Sabha situated at Shankarnagar in city by the Nagpur Improvement Trust after being satisfied with it because of the illegal continuance of lease in its favour.

A bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice R Bahnumathi accepted the explanation offered by the petitioner for delay in challenging the same and the delay in filing the SLP was condoned. The apex court issued notices to State of Maharashtra, through, Secretary Urban Development Department, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Director Town Planning, Pune, Deputy Director Town Planning, Nagpur, Sushil Kumar Shinde, ex-Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Municipal Commissioner, Nagpur Municipal Corporation, Chairman, Nagpur Improvement Trust, Maharashtra Rashtrabhasha Sabha, Girish Gandhi, Vice President of Maharashtra Rashtrabhasha, M/s Prajakta Developer, Nagpur, SMG Hospitals Pvt. Ltd., Nagpur, M/s Wockhardt Hospitals Pvt.,Ltd., Mumbai and the Director, Central Bureau of Investigation, New Delhi.

The petitioner contended that the High Court has erroneously refused cancellation of lease by ignoring the large scale illegalities by which the Maharashtra Rashtrabhasha Sabha has virtually handed over the plot admeasuring 1.14 acres, worth crores of rupees, to SMG Hospital under a revenue sharing agreement with Wockhardt Hospitals which is illegally running the hospital on the plot without the permission of NIT though the same is to be used for promoting Hindi language as per the condition of allotment.

The petitioner Madhukar Kukde further said that the High Court has ignored that this transaction is against public interest as Maharashtra Rashtrabhasha Sabha is getting only Rs 7,01,064 per annum whereas crores of rupees are being pocketed by SMG Hospital and Wockhardt Hospital since last ten years.

It is further contended that the High Court has condoned the illegal user change from Public Utility to commercial at the instance of the lessee i.e. Rashtrabhasha Sabha by the ex Chief Minister bypassing the objections of NIT & Town Planning Authority and instead of cancelling the lease of Maharashtra Rashtrabhasha Sabha has only directed that occupation charges be reassessed, enquiries be held against all those who have illegally conducted themselves and at the time of renewal of the lease expiring on 31.3.2021, the NIT should consider whether it is in public interest to renew the lease.

According to the petitioner such directions are vague and do not serve public interest since the conclusion of enquiries is not time bound whereas the renewal of the lease is to be done within a fixed period and in all likelihood the renewal in the absence of any material would be granted as the enquires have not even commenced till today.

The petitioner has alleged that the Maharashtra Rashtrabhasha Sabha has long abandoned the object of promotion of Hindi language and because of the continuance of lease in its favour, it has now just remained a front for SMG Hospital and Wockhardt Hospitals who are profiting illegally.

The petitioner has brought to the notice of the Supreme Court the subsequent events in pursuance of the direction for reassessment of the occupation charges passed by the High Court, by which the NIT has demanded Rs.1,63,75,63,688 but in the appeal preferred by Maharashtra Rashtrabhasha Sabha, the amount is reduced to Rs.8,07,33,661 by the Minster of State for Urban Development, Dr Ranjit Patil by giving direct monetary benefit to allottee.

The petitioner has preferred a Writ Petition in the High Court to challenge the order of the Minister. The Nagpur Improvement Trust which curiously does not feel aggrieved by the “huge loss of revenue” as it has not challenged the same and it is prayed that judicial notice be taken of this aspect of the matter.

The petitioner further alleged that in the peculiar situation the Maharashtra Rashtrabhasha Sabha is receiving Rs.7,01,064/-per annum from SMG Hospital which has deposited an amount of Rs 7 crore in NIT. It shows illegal proxy holding of the plot by SMG and Wockhardt Hospitals.

The petitioner prayed the Supreme Court for cancellation of lease of the plot and vesting of the Hospital in the Nagpur Improvement Trust or State of Maharashtra at the earliest. The petitioner has also prayed that if it is held that starting and running of the hospital is done unauthorisedly then in that event appropriate directions be issued to SMG Hospital and Wockhardt Hospital to refund the net income and for ascertaining the same has sought addition of Commissioner of Income Tax, Nagpur to the petition and directions to submit a report to the Court.

Adv. Sudheer Voditel and Adv. Tushar Mandlekar appeared for the petitioner whereas Senior Counsel K Vishwanathan, represented the Caveator-Wockhardt Hospitals who accepted notice. The next hearing will be held on July 4, 2018.