Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan was dragged into the controversy surrounding the encroachment of public utility land in Bezonbagh area in north Nagpur by one of his ministerial colleagues Nitin Raut. On Wednesday, the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court served a notice to the chief minister for his ‘inaction’ in removing encroachments, while hearing a petition filed by Atmaram Ukey of Bezonbagh Pragatisheel Kamgar Griha Nirman Sanstha.
The petitioner levelled serious allegations against Chavan, claiming that he took "personal interest" in protecting illegal encroachments and chose to "overlook" the Maharashtra minister for employment Raut’s involvement.
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.
Documents with HT reveal that the land - allegedly usurped by Raut, senior Congress leader and ex-legislator late Nikose and others in 1998 - was reserved for garden, dispensary, public utility and construction of residential complex for economically backward classes in Bezonbagh.
In his application, Ukey stated that as per the Nagpur divisional commissioner affidavit of July 30, 2011, a meeting was held under the chairmanship of the chief minister Chavan on May 12, 2011. After perusing its minutes it seems the meeting was held "on request" of the chief minister.
The counsel of the petitioner informed the court that the divisional commissioner had filed an affidavit that contained minutes of the May 12 meeting. Citing minutes of the meeting, the petitioner’s counsel alleged that the chief minister took personal interest in protecting the encroachers.
Justifying his demand to include CM among the respondents, the petitioner argued that the chief minister is using his official position and instructing officer, contrary to law, to ‘go slow’ in the case.
The government pleader strongly objected to this, but the bench overruled all objections and issued notice to the chief minister in this regard.
Earlier, the court came down heavily on the state government officials for delaying action against encroachers in Bezonbagh.
The 80.90-acre land 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 and others. The district collector, who had enquired the matter in the wake of an order from the court in this regard, revealed that the society’s office-bearers had 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.