By: Vivek Gupta
In its latest official noting on the issue of converting leasehold property into freehold, outgoing Punjab Governor- cum-UT Administrator Shivraj Patil has stated that the local administration is not competent enough to take the policy decision on this matter as only the Central government could take a final call.
Currently as much as 50 per cent of the properties in Industrial Area are leasehold besides quite a large number of residential properties under Estate Office and Chandigarh Housing Board. There is a long-pending demand of the residents and local industrialists for conversion of leasehold properties into freehold.
The noting also reveals that the present Adviser to UT Administrator, Vijay Dev, too has indicated in his official communication that the decision in this case may be taken only after obtaining a clear-cut advice from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) or other relevant department or ministry in the Central government.
In his detailed justification on why the administration can’t take the decision, Patil mentions that the Union government through MHA had sent directions to the local administration in 2012 that no property should be given or sold to anybody at a price which is not on a par with the market value.
“Through Urban Development Ministry, the administration is also informed that even if a plot has to be given to the statutory body like Bar Council of the state, the same kind of the price i.e market price should be obtained from it. Further the ministry has also said that the decision to take less than the market price, even from a Bar Council, can’t be taken by the ministry and the same has to be taken by the cabinet of the Union government,” he states in his five-page-long noting on the issue.
Patil also notes that there are Supreme Court and High Court rulings according to which properties should not be given without auctioning them.
“In view of these facts, if the leasehold properties are turned into freehold properties, the directions given by the Home Ministry or Urban Development Ministry would be violated,” he says in his noting.
In para no. 21, he mentions that if the leasehold properties are turned into freehold properties, it would amount to giving ownership of the properties to the leaseholders at prices which are much less than the market price.
“As the properties which are very costly, if they are given to the private persons who are leaseholders, without auctioning them or taking the prices less than the market value, the matter can be raised as another scandal and those persons who are asking for it would not be able to say that they had insisted on the administration doing the same,” he states.
Patil says, “In my opinion, the matter is likely to create unnecessary complications. Therefore it should be considered at the highest level in the concerned ministries or at the central government’s level, i.e, the cabinet as suggested by the Urban Development Ministry or as though paper.”
In para no. 28, he says,” In view of these facts, I am inclined to hold that the leasehold properties should not be turned into freehold properties. This is my considered view.”
Patil has also opposed converting leasehold residential properties too. He says that in some notes, the officers of the administration say that the leasehold houses should be turned into freehold houses.
“If that is done, those who are having the leasehold shops will ask them to be turned into freehold shops as well as leasehold plots given for the industrial purpose. In my opinion, the persons who are living in the leasehold houses should not be disturbed and should be allowed to continue in those houses as per the existing policy or the changed policy which will be made by the concerned governments at the level of local administration or central government,” he states.