Published On : Fri, May 12th, 2017

Rashtrabhasha Sabha fails to pay NIT Rs 40 crore despite SC order, faces contempt rap

In a major development, Maharashtra Rashtrabhasha Sabha has failed to pay Rs 40 crore to Nagpur Improvement Trust (NIT) as directed by Supreme Court and thus faces contempt proceedings. The apex court, on March 24, 2017, after refusing to interfere in the orders passed by Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court against Maharashtra Rashtrabhasha Sabha, had ordered the NIT to recover Rs 40 crore towards additional premium and ground rent for extra FSI granted for its prime government land on North Ambazari Road within a period of 30 days. However, the Rashtrabhasha Sabha failed to pay the amount within the stipulated period set by the top court.

A bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar, and comprising Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice Sanjay Kaul had 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.

In the Supreme Court, Rashtrabhasha Sabha had 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, had 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.

Subsequent to failure of Maharashtra Rashtrabhasha Sabha to pay the amount, NIT has, on April 27, 2017, issued a notice to it. NIT has demanded the Rashtrabhasha Sabha to immediately pay the entire amount of Rs 40 crore as directed by Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court on 7.9.2016. The notice further said that if Rashtrabhasha Sabha pays the amount, recovery of the remaining amount of Rs 123 crore could be stayed. The NIT has warned that it will initiate contempt of court proceedings as well as forcible recovery/cancellation of lease and registration of Maharashtra Rashtrabhasha Sabha.

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 by Maharashtra Rashtrabhasha Sabha.

As the Rashtrabhasha Sabha has failed to pay Rs 40 crore to NIT as directed by High Court and Supreme Court, the Citizens Forum for Equality has warned that it will file contempt petitions in both the courts. The Forum President Madhukar Kukde has demanded to seize property of Sabha as well as all trustees. He has also demanded cancellation of lease and registration of the truant Rashtrabhasha Sabha. “In case NIT fails to take action as demanded by the Forum, we will launch an intense agitation against it. We are also contemplating approaching the High Court and Supreme Court seeking filing of FIR against Maharashtra Rashtrabhasha Sabha for contempt of court orders,” Kukde said.

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.

The Nagpur Improvement Trust (NIT) had calculated and demanded an amount of Rs 163,75,63,688 (One hundred and sixty three crores, seventy five lakhs, sixty three thousand and six hundred and eighty eight only) as “revised premium” and “ground rent” along with interest from original allottee Maharashtra Rashtrabhasha Sabha and its tenants namely SMG Hospitals Pvt. Ltd and operator M/s Wockhardt Hospitals Pvt Ltd. as per the directions issued by the Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court in PIL No.47/2013 filed by Citizens Forum for Equality through its President Madhukar Kukde.