A senior bureaucrat from the state is paying the price for overstaying in a sprawling South Mumbai government bungalow. Mumbai’s Additional Municipal Commissioner Vijay Singhal, a 1997-batch IAS officer, has been labelled a “squatter” by the government and may now face the ignominy of being evicted.
Senior government sources said this is perhaps the first case where eviction proceedings have been initiated against a serving bureaucrat. Singhal has been accused of clinging onto the state Excise department’s bungalow adjoining the Mumbai municipality’s headquarters in South Mumbai for over a year after he was transferred from the Excise Commissioner’s post.
As per rules of the Maharashtra’s General Administration Department, official accommodation can only be retained for a maximum of three months after the end of tenure. While Singhal was first transferred to the Industries department and later to the Mumbai municipality, he has held on to the Excise department’s accommodation.
The pressure began building up on Singhal after Maharashtra’s Excise Minister Chandrasekhar Bavankule took a decision that the bungalow must be razed to make way for a new Excise Bhavan on February 14 this year. Singhal was first sent a notice on March 22, 2017 asking him to immediately shift out. This was followed up by reminders issued on May 19 and June 3. An official in the excise minister’s office said Bavankule too had personally rung up Singhal on a couple of occasions asking him to vacate the bungalow, but Singhal did not shift out.
Further on May 3, the General Administration Department offered Singhal a 2 BHK accommodation in Suruchi building near Mantralaya, which is the residential address of several senior civil servants. But Singhal declined to move in citing that the accommodation was too small to accommodate his family. Eventually, the government decided to initiate eviction proceedings against him. It is learnt that the Excise department has moved an application before Mumbai’s competent authority for evicting him.
Singhal has also been slapped with a fine of Rs 14.07 lakh for overstaying. The department has also written a letter to Mumbai Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta asking him to issue orders to recover the fine amount from Singhal’s monthly salary.
The competent authority has scheduled a hearing on August 22 to decide on the eviction action against the IAS officer.
Singhal, when contacted, confirmed the department’s action against him. Defending himself, Singhal said, “I’m entitled to one government accommodation as a civil servant. V Radha, who succeeded me to the Excise Commissioner’s post, already had been allotted a government premises in Mumbai. It was on a mutual understanding with her that I continued to occupy the bungalow.”
While confirming further that he had declined the state government’s offer for a 2 BHK accommodation in Suruchi, Singhal stated, “Since I stay with my parents, I’ve sought the allotment of a 3 BHK.”
Singhal further stated that he did not wish to come in the way of the property’s redevelopment and was himself keen to shift out. “I’ve formally requested the Mumbai civic chief to allot me an accommodation. He is fully apprised of the issue and has discussed it with the state government too.”
Mehta, when contacted, said, “We are examining the issue. We are looking for an alternative accommodation for him (Singhal).”
Civic sources said chief minister’s Secretary Pravin Darade, who has been occupying a civic bungalow, has been asked to shift out. The possibility of accommodating Singhal there is being explored.