Contempt plea against Minister, Rashtrabhasha Sabha withdrawn

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 13 May 2018 08:15:18


Staff Reporter

Citizens Forum for Equality withdrew its contempt plea before Supreme Court against Minister of State for Urban Development Dr Ranjit Patil, Maharashtra Rashtrabhasha Sabha for allegedly flouting the apex court’s order.
The Forum alleged that Minister Patil heard the matter before the Sabha deposited Rs 40 crore as directed by the apex court and reduced the premium amount from Rs 163 crore to paltry Rs 8 crore and this according to the Forum amounted to gross and wilful contempt of the court.

However, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justice Ajay Khanwilkar and Justice Dhananjay Chandrachud firmly indicated that it was not in favour of even issuing notice, after which the Forum counsel opted to withdraw it.

The Forum sought action against Minister, but the Supreme Court after perusing record, did not concur with counsel for
the petitioner.

It may be recalled that the High Court, while allowing public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Citizens Forum for Equality through its President Madhukar Kukde, had quashed the NIT resolution dated August 11, 2005 by which premium of mere Rs 30 lakh was fixed for allotment of land to the Rashtrabhasha Sabha and had directed NIT to make fresh calculations as per Rule 8 (2) of Land Disposal Rules 1983 as per prevalent rate. The High Court had also directed the Sabha and others to pay the new lease premium within next two months of the calculation of premium.

A committee consisting of Joint Director of Town Planning, District Collector and NIT Chairman pursuant to orders passed by Nagpur bench to calculate and recover the revised premium from the original allottee and subsequent tenants who used the land for commercial purpose, finalised Rs 163 cr premium.

Maharashtra Rashtrabhasha Sabha had challenged the High Court ruling by way of special leave petition before the Supreme Court but could not get any interim relief. The Supreme Court had also directed the authorities to continue with the process of determination of fresh premium as directed by High Court in its judgment dated January 3, 2017. The apex court had also stated that there would be automatic stay to the recovery of Rs 123 crore if the Sabha makes a payment of Rs 40.33 crore to NIT. In the event, if undertaking given by the Sabha was not honoured then it was directed that authorities should recover the amount from other beneficiaries.

Subsequently, while deciding the statutory appeal, Minister of State for Urban Development Dr Ranjit Patil reduced the premium and penalty from Rs 163 crore to Rs 8 crore citing prevailing land costs, similar transactions on same road stretch and possible loss to public exchequer. A second round of litigation is already before the Nagpur bench and Citizens Forum for Equality, Nagpur through its President Madhukar Kukde, had accused the Minister Dr Ranjit Patil of misuse and abuse of power and for quashing Rs 163 crore order by over-stepping his jurisdiction and had demanded judicial probe. The order was passed overlooking High Court’s order and Supreme Court directives and caused huge revenue loss while saving wrong doers, the second PIL claimed.

The State Government had quashed NIT’s order demanding Rs 163.75 crore from the Sabha and its tenants as “revised premium” and “ground rent” for the prime 1.01 acre land situated on North Ambazari road along with interest. Instead, the Government directed the NIT to re-assess the ground rent and revise premium as per ready reckoner of 1991 and actual market transactions of NIT’s plot with permissible commercial use to finalise the amount. Allowing the statutory appeal filed by Sabha, the Minister of State for Urban Development Department Dr Ranjit Patil had set aside the order passed by NIT on February 4, 2017 holding it as highly inflated, improper and without considering prevailing market rate of similar plots. The UDD had further directed NIT to recover the entire sum from the Sabha within one year by allowing it to pay the ground rent and revised premium in six installments. In case the Sabha failed to pay the sum, the entire amount should be recovered from its tenants M/s SMG Hospitals and their tenant Wockhardt Hospitals Limited.
Adv Sudhir Voditel and Adv Tushar Mandlekar argued for the petitioner Forum.