Chief Secretary to the Government of Maharashtra Sumit Mullick and his predecessor Swadheen Kshatriya were engaged in a war of words over allotment of official residences, documents obtained under the Right to Information Act show. According to the papers, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had to step in to resolve the spat.
Mullick replaced Kshatriya as the state’s Chief Secretary on February 28. However, Kshatriya did not vacate his official bungalow — A-10, located opposite the Mantralaya — within the mandated 15 days of demitting office.
Documents obtained by activist Anil Galgali under the Right to Information (RTI) Act show that Kshatriya, appointed post-retirement as the state’s Chief Commissioner for Right to Services, was initially allotted a flat in government-owned Suruchi building, also near Mantralaya. He, however, declined to move in.
The former Chief Secretary sought alternative accommodation in another government-owned building, Sarang, occupied by judicial officers of the Bombay High Court.
On March 6, Kshatriya wrote to the CM, seeking an apartment in Sarang. He wrote, “The status of the State Chief Commissioner for Right to Service is equivalent to the Chief Information Commissioner/ Chief Election Commissioner of India/Judge of the Supreme Court. I understand that there are two flats which are lying vacant in the Sarang building. I’m informed that when (ex-Chief Secretary) Ratnakar Gaikwad was appointed as the Chief Information Commissioner, he was allotted a flat in the building. Considering the status and the importance attached to the post of the Chief Commissioner for Right to Service, it will be necessary to allot a flat in Sarang building to me at the earliest.” Kshatriya also requested that he be permitted to retain the chief secretary’s bungalow till a suitable accommodation was allotted and readied for occupation.
The state administration turned down his request. “It has been decided that the entire Sarang building has to be handed over to the High Court. So it is unavailable,” Mullick noted on the file.
On March 15, a day after receiving orders to vacate the bungalow, Kshatriya wrote to Mullick: “It is very unfortunate the manner in which a former Chief Secretary and present Chief Commissioner for Right to Service is being treated. I’m surprised and shocked to receive this letter (March 14 orders) because I’ve represented to the CM for allotment of an accommodation in Sarang, on which the CM has desired action accordingly. I understand that the March 14 orders have been issued without the CM’s approval.”
Then, on March 22, Kshatriya wrote another letter to the CM, complaining about the orders he had received, and seeking an “immediate stay on the same.” Pressing again for allotment of an apartment in Sarang building, Kshatriya’s letter said if this was not immediately available, then he should be allotted two flats in Ambar building, located at Malabar Hill.
Mullick wrote his counter on March 30. In a proposal put before the Chief Minister, he said Kshatriya should be asked the vacate the bungalow immediately as he had already crossed the 15-day time limit. “It is ridiculous to presume that the Chief Commissioner of Right to Service would have the same status as a Supreme Court judge. This is erroneous,” Mullick wrote. “There is (also) no justification for allotted two flats. It is improper and unacceptable to ask for two flats, when the job description does not warrant it, and when there is an overall shortage of accommodation, allotment of two flats will cause resentment.” Mullick’s proposal that a single flat in Ambar building be allocated to Kshatriya, and that he be directed to vacate the bungalow immediately, was approved by the CM.
Accordingly, orders were served on Kshatriya and he was asked to shift out by April 15.
On April 10, Kshatriya wrote again to the CM, asking that he be allowed to retain the bungalow for another two months, as the flat allotted to him needed extensive repairs and renovation. Fadnavis directed the General Administration department (GAD) to grant a month’s extension, and remarked, “The Public Works may expedite (the repair work). The new CS also needs accommodation.”
Accordingly, Kshatriya was granted time till May 15 to shift out of the bungalow. He has now moved out, but Mullick is yet to move in.