A division bench comprising Chief Justice of India TS Thakur and Justice Jagdish Khehar, while issuing notice to Kukde on Tuesday, passed strictures against Sabha and asked the NIT to complete the assessment of premium within six weeks. Tushar Mandlekar and Sudhir Voditel pleaded for the petitioner.
‘Citizens Forum for Equality’ president Madhukar Kukde had moved the high court claiming a loss of Rs100 crore to the exchequer due to illegal leasing out of the government land to Sabha for promotion of Hindi language by NIT bypassing the mandatory provisions of Land Disposal Rules, 1986. “A huge plot was illegally leased out for a meagre premium of Rs30 lakh for 30 years by the NIT in 2007 without conducting any auction. Thereafter, the land was illegally subleased and the interest was transferred to several parties through various agreements to which NIT was not a party,” Kukde alleged.
Kukde added that Rashtra Bhasha Sabha illegally inked a development pact with Prajakta Developers, who subleased the land to SMG Hospitals for Rs65 crore. The SMG Hospitals further leased out 22,000 sq ft area to Wockhardt Hospitals for Rs33 lakh premium per year.
While seeking CBI enquiry into the entire transactions, Kukde had pointed out that all transactions were violative of the lease deed signed by the NIT, as the civic body acted against the interest of the exchequer by calculating the premium of Rs30 lakh at the market price of 1961.
High court bench of Justice Bhushan Dharmadhikari and Justice Atul Chandurkar, on September 7, had directed the NIT to undertake fresh decisions on quantum of lease premium and ground rent charged by Sabha at first renewal from March 31, 1991-2021. The trust was further told to calculate the lease premium after change of user from Sabha to Wockhardt Hospitals from February 21, 2004 to March 31, 2021, for additional FSI, as per the Land Disposal Rules, 1983. The NIT was asked to complete the exercise within three months after giving an opportunity of hearing to the Sabha.
The NIT was also asked to recover arrears in 12 equal bimonthly instalments, either from the Sabha or from Wockhardt Hospital, either jointly or severally. The HC asked NIT and Sabha to pay Rs10,000 cost each to petitioner.
The petitioner Sabha through senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Prakash Meghe challenged the HC judgment quashing additional premium and ground rent decided by the NIT for leasing out the government land to it, as per old rates.
Singhvi, also a Rajya Sabha member, pressed hard for a stay on HC’s verdict contending that his client was a charitable organization. However, the judges refused to hear his arguments tersely observing that they know which kind of charity the client was doing. They added that determination of premium, which was under challenge, was done at throwaway prices. When Singhvi pointed out that nobody had taken objection to the premium amount, which was fixed in consultation with the government, the judges remarked that “conduct and integrity of government officials was doubtful”. “The land reserved for public utility was grabbed and commercially exploited by politicians in connivance with government officials,” the judges said.