Former chief information commissioner (CIC) Shailesh Gandhi sent legal notices Monday to the chief secretary and Mumbai city and suburban collectors for allegedly leasing out over 700 government properties which are under unauthorised occupation of lessees. Leases of the properties have allegedly expired and the lessees are paying only 20 to 30 per cent of the market rate as rent.
Citing information availed under RTI Act,Gandhi has claimed in the notice sent to the chief secretary: My calculation shows an annual revenue of over Rs 2,800 crore is being lost and the revenue departments proposal would instead get a onetime revenue of only Rs 4,050 crore.
Mumbai accounts for 1/700th of the geographical area of Maharashtra. According to these estimates,the loss incurred by the government from such properties leased out across the state would be at least ten times more.
Gandhi said he had sought the information from the government first in 2005. They sent me a 900-page file and eight years later,in December 2012,the government came out with a resolution.
His notice to the chief secretary states,The revenue department has informed me that a bizarre policy has been evolved to give away public lands to lessees at 20 to 30 per cent of the ready reckoner values. This is arbitrary,since it decides to give largesse only to people who were given leases earlier.
It is because of this policy that (actor) Shah Rukh Khan gets his Bandra (residential) plot worth Rs 200 crore at Rs 8 crore.
Gandhi said in Mumbai city there were 1,200-odd government-owned lands and the department could not identify the date on which the lease of 103 started or expired.
I have sought information regarding these properties,however,the department said it would require two-three months to make it available, he told Newsline.
In his legal notice to government authorities,Gandhi wrote,You are a public servant representing the poorest man in Vidarbha who may be starving and is an equal and rightful owner of this land. It is necessary appropriate revenue is obtained for him and his land and interest safeguarded. Citing a 2010 Supreme Court judgment,he said,It is clear the law requires that when a new lease is given or a lease renewed,the proper market rent must be obtained by the state….It is evident that this has not been done. Very arbitrary methods have been adopted and it appears the state,with a debt of Rs 2.5 lakh crore,is trying to divest the lands to some,merely because they had been given lands on lease at one time.
Please start a process of correct price determination and then give the lands on lease,and stop this offer of a 75 per cent discount sale.
My future course of action would depend on their response. If they take necessary action there would be no need to take any other recourse. If not,I would take up this cause with citizens or file a PIL.