The Allahabad High Court has directed the state chief secretary to inquire and fix responsibility of officers, including then Allahabad district magistrate, after it arrived at a prima facie finding that the DM and other officers had colluded with a builder and manipulated records to give help him convert a plot from leasehold to freehold.
A division bench of justices Arun Tandon and Shashi Kant passed the order on September 7, while hearing a petition filed by one Shahadat Hussain and two others.
It also stayed any construction or activity on the disputed land.
The matter pertained to a 13,000-sq m plot on Muir Road in the posh Civil Lines area of Allahabad. Nearly half of the area (6,809 sq m) was sold by the original leaseholders to a cooperative society.
The dispute arose over the rest, which was owned by more than two persons. With all individually trying to sell their portions, 12 applications — seeking conversion of the land from leasehold to freehold — were filed before the civil and high courts.
In 1999, the petitioner had moved the high court with a similar application.
However, he was directed to approach the DM first. The petitioner filed an application before the DM and the matter was kept pending.
On March 4, 2014, the state came up with a government order (GO), stating that all applications — which were over six months old — seeking conversion to freehold be considered as rejected.
As a result, all the 12 applications became redundant.
On August 2, 2014, builder M/S Shaswat Infra-Estate, through its director Naresh Tulsiani, approached the DM seeking conversion of 3,708.22 sq m of the disputed plot from leasehold to freehold.
Meanwhile, several petitions were filed in the high court against the March 4 GO. In September 2014, even as the matter was pending before the high court, the government decided to amend the March 4 GO. this was also conveyed to the DM concerned, though the GO was finally amended only January 15, 2015. Consequently, the 12 applications were restored.
But, on January 14, 2015, however, the DM heard the builder’s case and approved land conversion to freehold, a day before the government issued an amended GO.
The court took note of the fact that the DM proceeded with the builder’s application, though he was aware that an amended GO was going to be issued on the matter.
Moreover, the court noted that the approval granted by the DM to the builder was “anti-dated”. While the ADM (Nazul) signed the relevant documents on January 15, the DM’s approval letter — it only had his signature — was dated January 14, 2015. The builder was personally handed over the approval letter on January 16.
In April, 2015, the petitioner filed an objection to the said approval, which was heard by the DM. The DM, however, rejected it on the ground that the entire amount required for conversion has already been deposited. Hussain then approached the high court.
The court said that prima facie, the DM and other officers have been found manipulating records to make an application filed by the petitioner, which was pending since 1999, “infructuous”. It asked the chief secretary to record his reasons on why the petitioner’s application was kept pending for months even after a government order (GO) — dated January 1, 2015 — was issued and in the meantime, the DM pursued the builder’s case.
The chief secretary has been asked to file a personal affidavit, along with the inquiry report, before the court on September 22. The court added that besides departmental inquiry, FIRs may also be lodged against the officials concerned, including the DM.