The Nagpur bench of Bombay high court on Friday directed to demolish the illegal construction done by Dr Punjabrao Deshmukh Agriculture University on its six-hectare land in Nagpur within the next 30 days.
A division bench, consisting of Justice Sharad Bobde and Justice M N Gilani directed the local civil authority, Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) and the agriculture university authority to pull down the unauthorised structure, erected without approval and ignoring notices of Civic Body and also sought a list of persons responsible for the construction to fix responsibility and recover Rs 12.75-crore public money that was allegedly wasted.
The agriculture university authority has constructed the complex, along with an auditorium in no development zone that was also notified as Grade I Heritage site. The state government even had refused to regularise construction, stating that it would set a very wrong precedent.
The high court also asked NMC and Nagpur Improvement Trust (NIT) to ensure protection of greenery, open spaces and patches which serve as lung for urban centres and cited example of Jaipur where such open spots were carefully nurtured. The judgement came down heavily upon the agriculture university and its conduct and feeble and desperate attempt to justify the construction and minced no words.
The court had treated a news-item published by a local newspaper in July last year as PIL and directed the university to stop construction. The varsity had mooted a swanky centenary auditorium-cum-farmers communication centre, exhibition space, VIP guest house and other facilities, with a collective expenditure of Rs. 12.75-crore from the grants received from central and state government.
Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) has allotted Rs. 8.31-crore for auditorium and Rs 2.75-crore for college building. The then chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh had performed bhoomipujan four years ago. The auditorium was to be named as Vasantrao Naik Farmers Communication Centre and Centenary Auditorium of College of Agriculture. Alongside auditorium, a huge space has been reserved for holding exhibitions about agriculture tools and machinery’s. Towards the Maharajbagh end, the space has been reserved for a restaurant. Similarly, a conference hall, for holding small functions, seminars, lectures too is part of the project.
During centenary celebrations of local Agricultural College, affiliated with the agriculture university, witnessed heavy downpour and hence the idea was mooted during the function itself by then vice chancellor Dr. Sharad Nimbalkar. The union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar was quick to respond and announced a grant of Rs 5-crore from ICAR.
Interestingly, the two-storied building plans of the university (around one-lakh sq feets construction area) were rejected by Town Planning department of NMC and notice under section 53 of MRTP to stop construction was issued. But the university authority approached the State Government and got stay to notice of demolition.
According to the university authority, the entire construction is coming up on its own land and for educational purpose. The impugned land was shown for Maharajbagh extension in the development plan and the university had already raised a dispute about grant of heritage status to its land. Since NMC refused to accord sanction and instead issued demolition notice, the university approached the state government and the then minister of state for urban development, Rajesh Tope and now Bhaskar Jadhav stayed the notice threatening action.
However, later the formal appeal was rejected on December 15 by the union development principal secretary T C Benjamin, who found entire construction absolutely illegal.