Coming as a major embarrassment for Maharashtra minister of state for home and Jail, Nitin Raut ahead of the state assembly elections, the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court directed him and other encroachers on government land to hand it over back to the government within a month.
Hearing a public interest litigation (PIL), a high court division bench comprising Justice AP Lavande and Justice PD Kode directed the district authorities to hand over the land to Nagpur Municipal Corporation after removing encroachments on these lands, if necessary, with police help.
Raut, senior Congress leader, Ramesh Nikose and corporator Vinod Walde, allegedly encroached upon the land reserved for garden, dispensary, public utility and construction of multi-storied buildings for economically backward classes at Empress Mills in Bezonbagh area.
The petitioner, Atmaram Ukey, a social worker of Nagpur, drew the court's attention that such land was disappearing fast as it was being usurped or encroached up by political bigwigs and authorities turned a Nelson's eye to their misdeeds. "Such open spaces which are reserved for specific purposes can not be regularised as per the urban development rules," the petitioner claimed and hence sought court's intervention.
While directing the district collector to make necessary arrangements to remove encroachments, it also asked how many times the authorities would be required to remove the encroachment. About 60,000 sq metres land was encroached by these people.
The court directives may jeopardise the minister's prospects in the ensuing state elections as Raut who has already been struggling for a Congress re-nomination from the North-Nagpur Assembly constituency. His is the known bete noire of Lok Sabha member from Nagpur, Vilasrao Muttemwar, who alleged the minister for his non-cooperation in the Lok Sabha elections. Raut's adversaries (read Muttemwar), may use the court directives for pressuring the party high command in denying a ticket for him in the ensuing elections.