The Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) to register an FIR against officers of Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) for failing to take action against developers who had failed to surrender surplus area of around 1.37 lakh sqm and thereby causing loss of Rs 40,000 crore to the state exchequer.
Justices S C Dharmadhikari and Sandeep K Shinde, stated that “…material shows prima facie positive or tacit acquiescence of officials with defaulting developers and discloses commission of cognizable offence by the officers of the MHADA/Board punishable under the Indian Penal Code and other penal laws and, therefore, we direct Economic Offences Wing to register the FIR within five days…”
The bench passed the order in the criminal public interest litigation, where activist Kamlakar Shenoy alleged an “unholy nexus” between the defaulting developers and the officials of the MHADA caused “unlawful losses to the state’s exchequer” by virtue of defaulting builders not surrendering surplus area of approximately 1.37 lakh sq m, which otherwise is an exclusive property of the state.
The petitioner alleged that though this fact was well within the knowledge of the officials of MHADA, and despite repeated reminders to take steps for effecting recovery of property which belongs to the state, nothing had been done and no action was initiated against the defaulting developers by the officials.
The bench, in its order, said that two high-ranking officers of the state were of the opinion that Shenoy’s allegation prima facie discloses cognizable offence committed by the officials of MHADA. “However, in spite of this fact, officers of the EOW and officers of the Anti-Corruption Bureau declined to entertain the complaint… It is nothing but shirking the responsibility and acting in defiance of provision of penal laws,” the court said.
The bench said “once the developer is granted permission to redevelop the cess buildings under DCR rules, officers of the MHADA, being public servants, were under statutory obligations to ensure recovery of constructed area, but in this case material on record clearly indicates that these officers knowingly… disobeyed the directions of law…”