The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Centre to take immediate steps to recover about Rs 50 crore as penal rent arrears from top politicians, bureaucrats, journalists and artistes for unauthorised occupation of official bungalows and quarters in the capital.
A Bench headed by Justice BN Aggarwal asked the Centre to file a detailed status report in this regard within four weeks.
It asked Additional Solicitor General Amarendra Sharan that the report should mention the amount recovered and also explain why certain accommodations were re-allotted or regularised to some of the occupants.
The court issued the directions after Amicus Curiae Ranjeet Kumar pointed out that the amount was to be recovered in the form of market rent and the government was not doing much to recover the dues from the defaulters who included politicians and bureaucrats.
Terming the Centre's affidavit as vague, Kumar said that in several cases, instead of recovering the dues from the occupants the Government re-allotted or regularised the allotments.
The top defaulters included three Congress general secretaries who together owed Rs 1.03 crore to the State Exchequer. Interestingly, their names were not disclosed in the affidavit.
An amount of Rs 1.08 lakh was mentioned against the family members of former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao while Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav and senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh owed Rs 1.24 lakh and Rs 18.97 lakh respectively. Yadav, Singh and Rao's family have vacated the bungalows but the dues remained outstanding.
The states of Jharkhand, Rajasthan and J&K owed Rs 9.60 lakh, Rs 11.21 lakh and Rs 11.75 lakh respectively, the affidavit said.
The artistes from whom thousands of rupees were due included Birju Maharaj, Leela Samson, Jatin Das, F Washifuddin Dagar, Sabri Khan Gulam Sadiq Khan and Geetanjali Lal. However, the Centre said that the allotments made to the artistes had since been regularised.
Most of the accommodations were in Delhi while some related to Mumbai and Kolkata as well.
The Centre said in its affidavit that the unauthorised occupants had been issued notices in September last year requesting them to pay the damages/penal rent within a month as per the court's directions, failing which it would be recovered from their salary/pension/retirement benefits.
On October 2006, it had informed that out of the 497 unauthorisedly occupied bungalows, 418 had either been vacated or regularised. On Wednesday, the ASG said that 14 more bungalows had been vacated/regularised since then.
Sharan said that 26 cases relating to bungalows were pending in the Supreme Court/Delhi High Court while three and seven cases were pending in Delhi lower courts and various courts out of Delhi respectively.
Those illegally occupying bungalows also included 17 journalists, who obtained stay against eviction from the Delhi High Court. Twelve cases were also pending before the Estates Officer.
Out of 36 MPs, six including Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, BJP leader Balbir Punj and former Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson Najma Heptullah vacated their bungalows and the same had been allotted to other eligible persons, the Centre said.
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