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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Dec 2014

SC gets tough on bungalow-hogging netas

Bhadra Sinha, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, July 19, 2014
First Published: 01:05 IST(19/7/2014) | Last Updated: 12:18 IST(19/7/2014)

The Supreme Court Friday issued a notice to the Centre, seeking a response to former comptroller and auditor general (CAG) Vinod Rai’s letter petition that calls for ouster of ex-ministers and retired bureaucrats overstaying in Lutyens’ Delhi government bungalows.

A bench headed by Chief Justice RM Lodha appointed senior advocate Shyam Diwan as amicus curiae (impartial adviser) to assist it while hearing Rai’s complaint, in which he has questioned the discretionary power of the urban development minister and the secretary to permit overstaying on “flimsy grounds.” The overstaying, Rai claimed, was against SC’s July 17, 2013 order permitting the authorities concerned to use “reasonable force” to evict the illegal occupants.

He has even challenged the minister and secretary’s authority to allot government accommodation to non-entitled private individuals. Rai has annexed a news report of a national daily in support of his letter.

As per the report, 22 former Union ministers and retired bureaucrats are staying unauthorisedly in government accommodation. RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, former telecom minister and 2G scam accused A Raja, and ex-UPA ministers SM Krishna and Pawan Kumar Bansal are some of the ‘squatters’.

Extension to Lalu has been granted on the ground that his granddaughter’s school is close to where he resides. Rai said some occupants seek more time claiming that the bungalows hold memories of their deceased parents or relatives.

The letter addressed to the CJI was written by Rai on May 20. The former CAG wants SC to fix norms under which the government can exercise its discretion to allot type VI-VIII bungalows. The issues raised by him for court’s consideration also include whether a government can permit a chosen person to overstay after the legitimate tenure is over.

“Shouldn’t the government be a model in impartiality and uniform applicability of norms to all employees,” says Rai’s letter. He adds that overstaying by former ministers denies legitimate claimants, and those who follow the norms are “losers in the game of grabs.”

In its verdict last year, SC had said: “ If as per the Estate officer the occupant’s case is not genuine not more than 15 days time should be granted and thereafter reasonable force as per Section(5)(a) of the Act may be used.”

“It is unfortunate that the employees, officers, representatives of people and other high dignitaries continue to stay in the residential accommodation provided by the Government of India though they are no longer entitled to such accommodation,” it had observed.


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