It’s not just educational trusts and housing societies run by politicians that have benefited from the misuse of discretionary powers by ministers and bureaucrats. The yet-to-be tabled report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has rapped the state government for its largesse to two city gymkhanas the Khar Gymkhana and Otters Club, which has cost the state exchequer Rs 92 lakh.
The revenue lost is not huge in comparison, but both these cases provide more evidence on how power is abused.
In the case of Otters Club, located on Carter Road, the suburban Mumbai collector in 2001 wrongly okayed the conversion of leasehold land into outright purchase, the report has alleged. This was not permissible as government norms allow such conversion only for educational institutes and not clubs. In exchange, the club paid the collectorate Rs 2 crore. The suburban collector sought the state’s consent after concluding the transaction, but the state refused permission.
However, instead of returning the Rs2 crore immediately, the collector waited for five years before paying it back in 2006. The club dragged the state to court, after which the high court ruled that the government should pay interest at 6% from 2001 to 2006. The interest payment added up to Rs 57.82 lakh.
The CAG raises questions on what the collector did with the money for five years.
In the case of Khar Gymkhana, in 2009, the revenue minister used his discretionary powers and overruled a suburban collector’s notice charging the Gymkhana a licence fee of Rs 18.5 lakh for renting out its premises for weddings.
Instead, the minister asked it to pay only Rs 4.57 lakh. The collector told the CAG team that this decision was taken on the basis of “merit of the case”.
Going by the rules laid down, the Gymkhana owed the state Rs 19.5 lakh as fee and another Rs 19.5 lakh as penalty, the report stated.
“As long as we have blanket discretionary powers for the revenue minister or collector or chief minister for land allotments, these irregularities and scams will happen. It is time to lay down rules governing discretionary powers,” said BJP legislator Devendra Fadnavis.
“These powers must be curtailed to the bare minimum and the process made completely transparent.” Some portions of the CAG report were presented to speaker Dilip Walse-Patil by BJP legislator Devendra Fadnavis on Wednesday.
The report was also leaked to the media and was discussed in the state legislative council.
The government is likely to table the report in the legislature on April 16.