THE Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court Wednesday scrapped 97 of 99 allotments made between 1990 and 2007 of land declared surplus under the Urban Land Ceiling Act (ULCA) in Nagpur. A specially constituted division bench comprising Justice Prasanna Varale and Justice Z A Haq delivered the verdict on a PIL filed by NCP’s ex-Legislator Sunil Shinde and others in 2004, against irregularities in allotment of ULC land to “politically influential persons and institutions controlled by them”.
The bench came down heavily upon government officials for not following any procedure while allotting the land. Terming the process “opaque”, the bench rapped successive governments and officers for allotting prime urban plots to a chosen few without “issuing any public notice, without giving publicity, without inviting tenders and without conducting auction.”
The High Court directed the state government and the district collector to take back possession of all vacant plots not put to use from the date of allotment.
Among the allottees were former guardian minister Satish Chaturvedi, former ministers Chhagan Bhujbal, Aneed Anees, Shivajirao Moghe, Nitin Raut, Vinod Gudadhe Patil and others.
In the landmark judgment, the bench directed that the educational institutions on ULC land be treated as aided schools for the purpose of admission. This will serve as a big blow to such institutions. Similarly, the housing co-operative societies that got ULC land have been barred from undertaking any other activity and its members have been restrained from transfer, sale or alienation of house, flat, block or tenement without the permission of the Collector and only after depositing the profit earned out of such transaction.
The state government had set up a one-man committee of Justice R K Batta to probe the allotments in 2006. “In majority of cases, there has been no scrutiny whatsoever at the level of Competent Authority or sincere attempt to collect essential, necessary, vital and relevant information/data which is required for taking decision whether land should be allotted and if so how much,” Justice Batta had observed in the report submitted in 2008.
The HC bench endorsed the committee’s findings and termed the allotments “irregular and illegal”.
“In case of allotments for housing purpose, the allottees shall not transfer their right, title and interest in the house/ apartment/ flat/ block/ tenement constructed on the allotted land without seeking prior permission of Collector, Nagpur and without paying additional charges/ profit, if and as may be determined by the Collector as per rules and policy governing and permitting the transfer of such properties,” the bench ruled.
In case of schools/ educational institutions, the HC said they would be treated as “aided educational institutions” by equating land with financial aid. Their management will be governed by rules and policy of the state government for the purpose of admissions.
In case of the Sahitya Bhushan Annabhau Sathe Smarak Trust, the HC ordered cancellation of the allotment and said it be taken over by the government, since the construction of the community hall and other allied purposes were funded by the government.