Maharashtra Co-operation, Marketing and Textiles minister Subhash Deshmukh has found himself embroiled in a controversy over his bungalow in Solapur city that allegedly stands on land reserved for a fire brigade station and garden according to the development plan.
Records show that although the plot bore the reservation, the building permissions section of Solapur Municipal Corporation gave approvals for construction twice — in April 2004 and July 2012 — though both times on the condition that the final decision of the state government regarding cancelling the reservation on the land would be binding on the land owner.
Nearly six years after the second approval letter, the reservation remains and the city engineer of the Solapur Municipal Corporation has now issued Deshmukh and his co-owners a notice directing them to appear for a hearing in front of Municipal Commissioner Avinash Dhakane.
While the hearings were postponed twice, a hearing was held on Monday during which both parties presented their case to Dhakane.
The hearing is now scheduled for Wednesday. The case dates back to September 2000 when Deshmukh and nine others jointly purchased a two-acre plot in Majarewadi, along Hotagi Road in Solapur, for Rs 50 lakh.
The land was already under a reservation at the time of purchase under the Solapur Development Plan, 1978, and the revised development plan of 1997.
In November 2000, Deshmukh and some co-owners wrote to the Building Permissions section of the municipality seeking a nod for construction.
The civic body replied in January 2001, denying permission, saying the land was reserved for a fire brigade and mini shopping centre. Under the Maharashtra Region & Town Planning Act (MRTP), privately owned land in municipal jurisdiction may be acquired by the municipality for development of amenities based on reservations imposed by the DP.
To a query by Deshmukh in March 2004, the municipality reiterated that his request cannot be considered owing to the reservation. In April 2004, Deshmukh, then a BJP MP from the Solapur Lok Sabha constituency, gave a sworn affidavit to the municipal corporation, saying he has proposed to the state government that the reservation be cancelled, seeking permission for construction and promising to abide by the government’s final decision in the matter.
Subsequently, permission was granted for construction of a “living room, toilet and bathroom”. The scrutiny report said permission was given on the condition that the government’s decision on the reservation would be binding on the owner.
In July 2012, the civic body granted construction permissions again, this time for a ground-plus-one floor structure, including a kitchen, dining space, family room, bedroom, store, servant room, waiting lodge and a toilet on the ground floor, and a bedroom, guest bedroom, hall, gymnasium and toilet on the first floor. Again, the permission was given, subject to the state government’s decision on cancelling the reservation.
Meanwhile, the fire brigade department gave its remarks when sought by the Town Planning department in November 2011 that developing a fire brigade centre on the reserved plot would benefit industries along Hotagi Road. In May 2013, the fire brigade department and the town planning department of the municipality also communicated regarding cost of acquiring the plot to construct a new fire brigade centre.
In 2014, a Solapur activist named Mahesh Chavan filed a PIL in Bombay High Court alleging inaction on the part of the Solapur Municipal Corporation despite his repeated complaints about unauthorised construction on the plot reserved for a fire brigade centre. In August 2016, the high court disposed of the PIL asking Chavan to refer the matter to the municipal commissioner and directing that the civic chief should take a decision within three months.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Chavan said, “Following the court order, the then civic chief held a hearing but did not pass an order. Permissions for a reserved plot can only be given for the amenity it’s reserved for. How did officials give permission for construction subject to conditions? Action must be taken against officials involved.”
Deshmukh refused to comment on the issue. Meanwhile, Nitin Bhopale, another activist from Solapur, filed a contempt petition in 2017 against the Solapur municipal commissioner for not following the Bombay High Court order of August 2016 in Chavan’s PIL. “The August 2016 order of the High Court gave a time frame for hearing and passing a speaking order. The civic chief failed to act on it,” Bhopale told The Indian Express. In February 2018, the Solapur Municipal Corporation issued a notice to Deshmukh asking the minister and a few others to be present for a hearing in Municipal Commissioner Avinash Dhakane’s office. Earlier, the hearing was postponed twice. The first hearing was held today and is again scheduled on Wednesday. Dhakane also refused to comment on the issue.
Sources in the civic body said the reservation on the plot still stands as per the revised Development Plan finalized in 2004.