More than four decades since the Rajasthan government’s endeavour, the Bikaner House, a sprawling complex within walking distance of India Gate, is free of the Central government’s control.
It took a nudge from the Supreme Court and a passionate appeal from the Vasundhra Raje-led Rajasthan government to the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre to end the occupancy row.
On December 1, the Centre conceded to a bench of Justices Anil R Dave and Kurian Joseph that they would pack their bags and leave by the end of the day.
The Centre’s counsel read the writing on the wall as the judges recalled that the Centre had sought time till August to vacate the space it occupied in Bikaner House.
The law officer was told by the bench that the Centre was already three months late in honouring its assurance doled out in July.
The counsel for the Rajasthan government said no further time should be granted since the Centre had already got a three-month extension after the court agreed to adjourn the case twice since August.
The bench agreed with the Rajasthan government, compelling the Centre’s counsel to give an undertaking that all Central government offices would shift out of Bikaner House on the same day.
“It has been submitted by the counsel appearing for the defendant — Union of India — that the portion occupied by the officers in Bikaner House, New Delhi, shall be vacated today itself i.e. on 01.12.2014. They are permitted to do so,” the bench said. On Monday, the court will examine the compliance of its order.
The Rajasthan government had laid its claim to the building last year by filing a petition in the court. The previous government had assured the court that the governments would amicably resolve the dispute but no conclusive arrangement was reached. In July, the NDA government, had however, agreed on an August deadline to vacate it.
The Rajasthan government’s counsel had earlier contended that the Centre had occupying 1.20 lakh square feet of the bungalow in Lutyens’ Delhi despite repeated promises to vacate it.
The correspondence between the Centre and state government dates back to 1979 when the Rajasthan government sought occupation of the entire building so that it could open its guest house there.
The Central government, however, had requested all the successive chief ministers — Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Jagannath Pahadia and Shiv Charan Mathur — to allow its offices to continue to operate on the premises.
While it later vacated some parts of the building, the Centre still occupied a major portion, prompting the Rajasthan government to knock on the court’s door. The Centre has been running around 10 offices, including offices of the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, Central
Government Health Scheme, National Tiger Conservation Authority, from the premises.