State industries minister Narayan Rane is in a spot after the Bombay high court issued him a notice on Thursday following allegations that an organisation his wife, Neelam, heads misused an Andheri plot leased to it and built a restaurant on it.
A public interest litigation (PIL), filed by Ashok Karangutkar, alleged that the Sindhudurg Shikshan Prasarak Mandal, of which Neelam is president, set up The Jail Restaurant & Lounge in Sindhudurg Bhavan at Four Bungalows, Andheri, on a plot given to it for educational activities.
The PIL demands that the restaurant be demolished.
A division bench of justice PB Majmudar and justice Amjad Sayed issued the notice to Rane. “These are the days of conspiracies, and political leaders will have to inspire public confidence by maintaining transparency,” justice Majmudar said.
The petition claims that the four-storey Sindhudurg Bhavan, built on a 1,500-square-metre plot was leased by the government to the mandal in 1999 when Rane was the state’s chief minister. The plot was leased for 30 years at a nominal annual rent of Rs 9,850. The petitioner’s advocate, Mihir Desai, argued that the plot, which was to be used for running a community centre, was converted into a restaurant.
The PIL says the rent charged from the Mandal is below the market rate and norms were further flouted to construct the restaurant. “If you give plot to someone at subsidised rate, can they come up with a restaurant on it?” Majmudar asked the state. Government pleader, Nitin Deshpande, sought time to file a reply.
Seeking criminal action and a high-level inquiry, the PIL seeks that the Mandal be directed to deposit the money earned from the restaurant with the court.
The Mandal had sent an application in May 1999 seeking land in the city for a community centre. Within a month, the state issued a letter of intent regarding the Four Bungalows plot.
In July 2004, Neelam Rane sought the government’s permission to use the plot for business. Permission was granted and the annual rent was revised to Rs 24,570.