The Centre’s push to rid its limited living spaces of squatters got a fillip on Wednesday with the Union cabinet clearing amendments to the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Act, 1971.
The amendments to the law will ensure that ministers, Members of Parliament and bureaucrats, don’t overstay in government bungalows once their term is over. They will also have to shell out stiff fines. For instance, if they overstay beyond five months, they will have to pay up to ₹10 lakh.
Currently, among the politicians, Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh is overstaying in an official bungalow for over two years.
Besides, 70 officials continue to occupy government houses two years after their tenure in Delhi got over or they retired.
All of them have moved court and got a stay.
Under the rules, a former minister can hold on to his or her official accommodation for a month after demitting office. Once the stipulated time to vacate the house is over, the Union urban development (UD) ministry takes about two months to initiate eviction proceedings.
“This gave ample time to squatters move district or high courts and get a stay delaying the whole process,” said a ministry official.
Not anymore. The amendments will ensure that the UD ministry starts eviction proceeding within three days after the stipulated time given to a former MP or a retired official is over. This will ensure smooth and speedy eviction of unauthorized occupants, the official added.
“Also, the clause to approach district court has been removed. It was a easy way to delay the process by getting a stay. Now, an unauthorised occupant can move only the high court or Supreme Court, which requires time. It can’t happen in three days,” said another ministry official.
Former Union ministers and senior Congress leaders Ambika Soni and Kumari Selja had also unsuccessfully tried to get relief from the judiciary.
Politicians, bureaucrats and their families overstaying in Lutyens Bungalow Zone long after their term is over is a perennial headache confronting the central government.
The NDA government has evicted about 1,500 squatters, mostly politicians and bureaucrats, since it came to power in May 2014.
It has refused to entertain any request for extension, even from ex-party parliamentarians and ministers.
To deter squatters, last June the UD Ministry revised the fines for overstaying.