HC moots judicial probe into NIT’s PU plot allotment scam

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 05 Oct 2017 09:27:22


 

Staff Reporter,

IN a tough stance against the political big-wigs who bagged 325 public utility lands situated in prime city areas from Nagpur Improvement Trust (NIT) by tweaking rules, manipulating allotments and then brazenly exploiting it for commercial purpose, Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court on Wednesday mooted a judicial probe to unearth this massive scandal exposed by ‘The Hitavada’ a decade ago. The High Court deplored the apathy shown by NIT and State Government to act for last 13 years against those responsible for abuse and misuse of power and stressed the need to conduct an independent probe to be headed by a retired supreme court or a high court judge.


The High Court had suggested names of former Supreme Court Judge Justice (retd) Vikas Sirpurkar, ex-High Court judges V C Daga, A P Deshpande, C N Pangarkar, R C Chavan and M N Gilani and directed Registry to find out their availability and obtain their consent to undertake this task of scrutinising these 325 allotments.


At least 85 allotments made to politically influential individuals were found to be in absolute breach of then existing Land Disposal Rules and were offered as largesse by a powerful coterie of NIT officers to please their political bosses.


A division bench consisting of Justice Bhushan Dharmadhikari and Justice Swapna Joshi while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) based on 28-part series published by The Hitavada in 2004 about bunglings in Nagpur Improvement Trust (NIT), also made it clear that respondent-NIT will have to bear the expenditure of this judicial probe.


The news-series based on CAG report dealt with gross abuse of power, brazen favouritism in allotment of public utility lands to politically influential individuals and their institutions throwing all norms to wind, misuse of power in managing the affairs of NIT, tweaking norms to shower favours on near and dear ones of those ruling NIT a decade ago. The series had badly exposed the murky affairs within NIT and how a powerful group of officers and then ruling party politicians gobbled prime plots, made mockery of development plan and were instrumental for haphazard development of Nagpur.


The news-series had rocked the NIT and it was submitted to High Court by a vigilant citizen Anil Wadpalliwar and was treated as PIL and leading lawyer Adv Anand Parchure was named as Amicus Curiae.


To avoid judicial probe, then State Government volunteered to conduct an in-house probe initially named Satish Soni to head the panel and later appointed one-man committee headed by then Additional Chief Secretary Navin Kumar to probe at least eight irregularities. From the beginning, the committee and its mandate turned out to be a non-starter and as expected the report turned out to be a damp squib and Amicus Curiae Anand Parchure had sought rejection of this report dubbing it as “mere eyewash” aimed at exonerating all wrong-doers.


Adv Parchure pointed out that the one man committee appointed to probe into the affairs of the NIT was a “voluntary step by the State Government and it was neither an order passed by the High Court nor was issued under Commission of Enquiries Act.” Launching a blistering attack against Navin Kumar report, the Amicus Curiae pointed out that instead of recommending any action against erring officers and trustees of NIT, Navin Kumar panel ended up with recommending regularisation or irregularities and safeguarding the officers of Trust, while accepting in principle that irregularities have occurred.


Even the recent amendment to Land Disposal Rules were carried out as per Navin Kumar report to help the wrong-doers and PU land grabbers, alleged Adv Parchure while seeking fresh enquiry into NIT bunglings. He also recalled that assets of NIT employees and officers should be scrutinised and brought to public domain. About rampant misuse of Gunthewari Act to delete reservation of a whopping 1.50 crore sq ft land including reservations meant for playgrounds, hospitals, gardens, maternity homes, cremation ground etc, the Amicus Curiae described it as another mind-boggling scam due to which Nagpur’s development was badly affected and DCR was reduced to a mere waste paper.


NIT counsel Mukesh Samarth sought some time to place on record compliances and subsequent developments.
Amicus Curiae Anand Parchure, Adv Makrand Agnihotri (Rajkarne), Adv Mukesh Samarth (NIT), Adv Sudhir Puranik (NMC) appeared in the matter.