The high-powered committee (HPC) appointed by the state government to probe irregularities in the Slum Rehabilitation Scheme (SRA) can stop, regulate or even cancel development schemes if it finds that they do not benefit genuine slumdwellers.
The high court on Thursday asked the HPC to conduct inquiries into cases against SRA schemes. An officer not below the rank of additional commissioner, nominated by the director general of police, will assist the HPC.
Hindustan Times had carried a series of reports in 2007 about the alleged corruption and builder-bureaucrat nexus in slum rehabilitation schemes.
Activist and now Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi had filed a petition in 2006 alleging corruption in SRA schemes. The petition said signatures of slumdwellers were forged to show their consent for the projects. A provision of the SRA scheme is that the developer must obtain consent from at least 70 per cent of slumdwellers for a project.
The petition claimed that developers built houses for non-existent slumdwellers and sold them for huge profits. They also usurped public land by declaring slums under areas larger than there actually were.
The division bench of Chief Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice S.C. Dharmadhikari decided on the matter. “If committee finds illegalities or irregularities with the element of criminality justify passing of certain interim directions to stop, regulate or cancel the development schemes,” the bench observed, “to achieve the settlement of genuine slumdwellers ... it would be free to do so, subject to the orders that may be passed by the Courts of Competent Jurisdiction”.
The court ruled that the SRA, MHADA and BMC will take action against their officers, wherever the HPC recommends. In cases of fraud, impersonation or similar offences, the investigation would be handed over to an appropriate agency, said the bench.
Eighty-seven complaints were lodged with the Anti-Corruption Bureau. Twenty-two of these have been disposed of by the HPC. Eleven cases are pending in various courts.