The Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court dealt a severe blow to the Maharashtra minister for employment Nitin Raut and some other influential political leaders who had involved in illegal constructions on public utility land.
Responding to a public interest litigation (PIL), a division bench, comprising Justice Bhushan Dharmadhikari and Justice Ashok Bhangale, directed the state government to take necessary action against illegally constructed bungalows on the said land. The court also severely reprimanded the state government for its failure to take action the encroachers on the land meant for workers of erstwhile Empress Mills.
The Empress land, measuring 80.90-acre, at Bezonbagh area in north Nagpur, originally belonged to the Empress Mills and reserved it for housing facility for Empress Mills’ workers. The land was later taken over by the state and a layout plan was proposed by the housing society of Empress Mills’ Workers Society. It is mandatory to earmark 15% as open space and 5% as public utility space. This 20% land was encroached upon by Raut, the former legislator, Ramesh Nikose and others.
The district collector, who had enquired into the matter following a court order in this regard, revealed that the society’s office-bearers illegally sold those plots. The residents made several complaints to the state government and the Maharashtra Governor in this regard, but no cognizance was taken and finally petitioners approached the court.
Raut not only usurped the public utility land in his name but took three other plots, measuring 9013 sq feet for his wife Sumedha, son Kunal and daughter, Diksha. The fraud could be gauged from the fact that he took a piece of land, measuring 3009 sq ft (plot no 20-A/1) in his wife’s name by using her maiden name Sumedha Bajirao Sakhare.
While hearing the matter, the bench on Friday asked the Nagpur divisional commissioner to submit a list, mentioning the plots to be regularized in the area. The court sought to know details of encroachments, their regularization application and its present status along with rules under which they are being regularized and illegal construction is compounded, if any.
Earlier, during a hearing, the court took a strong exception to the chief minister Prithviraj Chavan for taking "personal interest" to bail out his cabinet colleague Raut. The court had even served a notice to the chief minister for his "inaction" in removing encroachments.