The decision of the Latur municipal council to shift a school for disabled children and instead use it for commercial purposes has come under court’s scanner.
The municipal corporation had allotted the premises to the Jeevan Vikas Prathistan Trust (JVPT), owned by former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, to run a school for deaf and mute children in 1981, but later allowed it to be used for commercial purposes during Deshmukh’s tenure as chief minister in 2005.
The Bombay high court on Tuesday heard a public interest litigation filed by activist Vishal Yadav, who alleged that during Deshmukh’s tenure as CM, the general body of the municipal council passed a resolution permitting commercial construction of shops on the plot measuring 5,130 sq feet and in 2006, the government allowed two floors for commercial use.
However, the JVPT, stated in its affidavit that the premises allotted to them to run a school for deaf and mute children was converted into commercial premises owing to paucity of funds for the trust’s activities.
Senior counsel Mahesh Jethmalani, appearing for the petitioner, argued that the trust did so on the basis that the area is noisy and therefore the deaf and mute school should not be constructed there which was “absurd”.
Jethmalani also pointed out that the second floor of the building was leased out to Deshmukh’s son Amit, who was running the Vikas Co-operative Bank from the premises.
The affidavits filed by both Amit and Ramanuj Randad, secretary of the JVPT, state that the bank had bid for the premises after they were advertised in leading newspapers and the relationship between Deshmukh and his son had been raked for “oblique motives”.
The trust’s affidavit further states that under the lease deed between the municipal council and the trust, the council had the right to relax the condition in the lease deed with the approval of the state government.
The council had imposed a condition that the premises be used for a special school, the condition was, however, relaxed in accordance with the Maharashtra Municipalities (Transfer of Immovable Properties) Rules, 1983.
Randad states that there is nothing shocking about the request to the municipal council to relax the condition.
Stating that there was no question of using Deshmukh’s influence, the affidavit has cited an audit report, which shows that it is due to inadequacy of funds that the JVPT was compelled to request the Latur municipal council to relax the condition of the lease deed dated October 25, 1994.