Rapping the state government for laxity in probing the land scam in Pune, allegedly involving bureaucrat Yogesh Mhase, the Bombay high court on Monday directed the district administration to lodge first information reports (FIRs) in 18 cases of fake orders under the Urban Land Ceiling and Regulation Act (ULCRA), 1976, being used to grab land.
A division bench of justice BH Marlapalle and justice UD Salvi directed the additional collector and competent authorities to lodge the FIRs within a week and has asked the principal secretary of the urban development department to file an affidavit on it by January 31.
The Hindustan Times had on October 15, 2010, reported how the state had delayed arrests in the scam.
The ULCRA, repealed in 2007, puts a ceiling on the land a person can own in notified urban areas to avoid concentration of land with a few individuals’. Land in excess of this cap has to be surrendered to the government.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Madhav Bhandari alleging that bogus documents were used and orders passed to avoid surrendering excess land to the government under the ULCRA.
The scam was discovered in 2005 when the deputy collector’s office in Pune received a fabricated certificate under the Act, declaring a plot in Wakad near Pune as non-surplus.
The PIL claimed that Mhase, who was officer on special duty with RR Patil when he was deputy chief minister, was also involved in the scam.
Of the 29 files shortlisted, FIRs have already been lodged in 11 cases. Public prosecutor Pandurang Pol told the court that the government needed six weeks to scrutinise the remaining 18 files. “We are not giving you six weeks. You [government] can’t dilly-dally on this matter,” justice Marlapalle said.
Pol said the government had told the police to lodge one FIR in all the 18 cases. “The police have sent the matter back to the home department saying it can’t be done. We are awaiting a reply,” sad Pol.
Saying that the home department may take six months to reach a decision, the high court asked the police to lodge FIRs within a week.
Pol said the state will act against government officers found to be involved in the scam.
The government had appointed retired bureaucrat Sudhakar Joshi to scrutinise 235 files in which bogus orders were submitted under the Act in the Pune agglomeration. Joshi’s report recommended action against 30 officers stating that there were irregularities in 19 files and at least 45 illegal and bogus documents were used.