HC finds all ULC allotments irregular, illegal

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 16 Mar 2017 10:36:34

Staff Reporter,

Out of 99 allotments, 64 are cancelled

Govt directed to take possession of all vacant ULC lands within a month

ULC land beneficiary Educational Institutions to be
treated as aided schools/colleges for admission process

Housing society members restrained from selling flats/blocks without permission

No allottee permitted to change use of land

Jolt to political big-wigs

HC slams successive regimes, officials for opaque and arbitrary procedure

Batta panel recommendations endorsed

Collector asked to report back with possession

Heavy conditions imposed on allottees, where land put to use and substantial investment made

IN a major jolt to allottees of surplus land under Urban Land Ceiling Regulation Act (ULCRA), the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court on Wednesday declared that 97 allotments out of 99 made from the year 1990 till June 2006 were “irregular, illegal,” and asked the Government to immediately take possession of vacant lands within a month. Former Guardian Minister Satish Chaturvedi, former ministers Chhagan Bhujbal, Aneed Ahmed, Shivajirao Moghe, Nitin Raut, Vinod Gudadhe-Patil and many others came under fire in the High Court verdict which found entire allotment process quite opaque.

The educational institutions on ULC land would be
treated as aided schools for the purpose of admission, the
High Court ruled while giving a jolt to management’s of private unaided schools and colleges including professional colleges, who got ULC lands for educational institutions.
Similarly, the housing co-operative societies which got such ULC lands, 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 permission of the Collector and only after depositing the profit earned out of such transaction.

Coming down heavily upon the successive State Governments and officers for meekly allotting prime urban plots to chosen few without “issuing any public notice, without giving publicity, without inviting tenders and without conducting auction,” the High Court directed State Government and District Collector to take back possession of all vacant lands, not put to use from date of allotment.

A specially constituted division bench consisting of Justice Prasanna Varale and Justice Z A Haq, while pronouncing its much-awaited verdict in a major public interest litigation (PIL) filed by ex-legislator Sunil Shinde and others against irregularities in allotment of ULC lands to politically influential persons and institutions controlled by them, slammed the officials for not following any procedure all.
In fact, allotment of 65 acres of land at Wadadhamna by ULC authority to Satish Chaturvedi’s educational institution had triggered the entire ULC controversy leading to a historic order passed by High Court way back in January 2004 directing State Government not to allot any ULC land to any individual or institution without its permission.

Then MHADA Chairman Sunil Shinde had moved the High Court against transfer of land from MHADA to Chaturvedi’s institution and High Court had stayed the allotment.

Batta panel findings endorsed
Endorsing findings of one man probe committee headed by Justice (retd) R K Batta who found fault with allotment of ULC surplus land, the High Court imposed heavy conditions on allottees who have put the land to prescribed use. Justice Batta committee had examined 112 cases and found that in five cases the allotment was not referred to government and was made by the Collector. In 48 cases advance possession was given in breach of government guidelines. The committee examined 23 allotments made for Government purpose; 19 allotments made for Co-operative Societies of Government servants, other Co-operative Societies and Societies floated by Government servants; 8 allotments made for Hospitals/Nursing Homes and allied purposes; 18 allotments made for Charitable institutions/other institutions and 31 allotments were made for Educational purpose. Justice Batta committee pointed out that Government failed to take possession of whopping 3.71 crore sq. mt land (37192242.56 sq. mt land) under section 10(3) of the ULC Act in 1371 cases. Out of 3065 cases the government failed to initiate action in 2192 cases so far, the committee had pointed out with great anguish.
Justice Batta committee report had also pointed out several irregularities in allotments made to institutions controlled by then Guardian Minister Satish Chaturvedi, former Animal Husbandry Minister Anees Ahmed, former minister Vinod Gudadhe Patil, Guardian Minister Shivajirao Moghe, former Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, North Nagpur MLA Nitin Raut, ex-MLA Raje Satyewan Rao.

The committee had not spared the societies floated by officials namely Vidarbha Patwari Sangh, Maharashtra Rajya Magaswargiya Vidyut Karmachari Sangh, Vidarbha Mulki Sewa (E Z Khobragade, President), a society in which Rekha Eknath Khobragade, Wife of Competent Authority E Z Khobragade was president when land was allotted, Maharashtra Officers' Forum (President E Z Khobragade then Competent Authority) and Green City Government Officers Housing Co-operative Society (senior IAS, IPS officers and judicial officers are members of the
society) and pointed out discrepancies in allotment of lands to these institutions.

“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 tersely observed.

The High Court in its verdict completely agreed with Batta panel report about lack of transparency, absence of any scrutiny and found violation of all norms in allotment which compelled it to dub all allotments as irregular and illegal.

HC confirms cancellation of 64 allotments
The State Government has already cancelled allotments in 64 cases out of these 99 cases. The High Court still made exceptions in 10 to 12 cases, granted conditional protection to the allottees and ordered further probe in 5 other cases and cancelled allotments in remaining few cases including two allotments to Chaturvedi’s Lokmanya Tilak Jankalyan Shikshan Sanstha. The High Court found only two allotments- one in favour of Maharashtra State Electricity Board and one to Vidarbha Bottlers as valid and legal while all other 97 allotments were illegal and invalid. Even allotment made in favour of Mother Teresa of Missionaries of Charity was found be correct and legal. The allottees justified the allotment of lands and ruled out any favouritism or tweaking of norms. The allotment of surplus land was as per the preamble of the act and there was no question of holding public auction or favouring highest bidder, the institutions claimed.

Conditional nod to proper use of allotted land
Making a fine distinction between allotments made but land not put to use and some allottees who put the land to use for the purpose for which it was allotted, the High Court laid down guidelines to deal with allottees who have put the land to proper use and spent considerable amount to construct buildings for educational purposes and made it clear that it would not be proper to direct cancellation of the allotments. 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. This has effectively put a halt to profit earning for some who got the benefit of low priced houses on ULC lands in prime localities and in co-operative societies floated by various interest groups.

In case of schools/educational institutions constructed on ULC lands, the High Court made it clear that such schools/ educational institutions should be treated as “aided educational institutions” by equating land with financial aid and their management’s will be governed by similar Rules and Policy of the State Government for the purposes of admissions in those schools/educational institutions.

Though the schools/educational institutions are not getting any recurring monetary aid or grants from the State Government, as the schools and educational institutions are constructed on the land allotted under ULC, “those schools/educational institutions and their management cannot claim the right to grant admissions to the students as unaided schools/educational institutions and admissions in these schools/educational institutions will be governed by the Rules/Policy governing the aided schools/educational institutions,” the High Court clarified.

In case of Sahitya Bhushan Annabhau Sathe Smarak Trust, the High Court ordered cancellation of the allotment since the construction on the allotted land for community hall and allied purposes was made from government funds and the allottee did not spent any amount. The High Court directed Government to immediately take possession of the land along with construction standing on it and use it for public good.

Adv Anand Parchure (Petitioner), GP Bharati Dangre, Addl GP Shishir Ukey (State), Senior Counsel Sunil Manohar, Senior Counsel M G Bhangde, Adv Mukesh Samarth, Adv Rajeev Chhabra (NIT), Adv Bhaundas Kulkarni, Adv Shyam Dewani, Adv Anil Kilor, Adv Shreerang Bhandarkar, Adv Chauhan, Adv Darshan Siras, Advocates P B Patil, J S Zadokar, Y B Phadnis, A V Palshikar, S K Keole, B C Paul, A M Joshi, M P Janbandhu, A M Sudame, P S Sahare, R V Gaikwad appeared for societies/allottees/ interveners.