The Bombay high court has directed the Maharashtra government to file a reply by August 23 to a PIL alleging that former ministers including Chhagan Bhujbal, Patangrao Kadam, Narayan Rane and Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, had misused their position to get land from authorities at cheap rates to set up educational institutions.
The direction was given by justice Naresh Patil and justice SB Sukare on August 5 after they heard the petition filed by Maharashtra coordinator of BSP, Hemant Patil, on the basis of a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report.
The court had earlier asked the concerned ministers, along with educational institutions, to file affidavits in reply. The respondents denied in affidavits the allegations that they bought land at cheap rates from government.
The court also directed Manjra Education Trust set up by former CM late Vilasrao Deshmukh to reply to the PIL making a similar allegation of procuring land at a throwaway price for setting up the educational institution.
After Deshmukh's death, the HC had ordered that his name be deleted though Manjra Education Trust, floated by him, continues to be a respondent.
Former state agriculture minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil denied allegations levelled in the PIL that government land had been allotted to the educational institution 'Vikhe Pratishthan' at a price much below market rates.
An affidavit filed by 'Vikhe Pratishthan' said Vikhe Patil was not a trustee of this institution and termed as "baseless" the allegations in the PIL.
"The land was allotted to this institution in keeping with a government notification of June 21, 1988, which had offered plots at low prices for schools not having playgrounds. No rules have been violated in giving land to Vikhe Pratishthan," the affidavit said.
Another former minister Patangrao Kadam, who was among the respondents, had filed an affidavit earlier denying favours received from Maharashtra government in getting land at cheap rates for setting up educational trusts. He said land for his Bharati Vidyapeeth Trust in Pune was obtained from the state government as per rules and there was no illegality involved.
"All rules had been strictly followed," the affidavit claimed, terming the PIL's allegations as "false".
"The PIL is politically motivated and should be dismissed with costs since the allegations were totally false," Kadam's affidavit said.
According to the PIL, a CAG report had alleged that Vilasrao Deshmukh had approved transfer of 24,000 square metres land to his Manjra Education Trust while Patangrao Kadam was allotted nearly 20,000 square metres of land in Pune free of cost for Bharati Vidyapeeth.
The PIL alleged that the CAG report had mentioned that Chhagan Bhujbal had been gifted 50,000 square metres of land in Nashik for his educational institute Mumbai Education Trust (MET).