“It is a serious issue… even a minister has fabricated records,” said justice BH Marlapalle at a hearing of the Pune land scam case on Thursday.
The Bombay high court expressed concern over the gravity of offence where bogus orders were passed under the Urban Land Ceiling and Regulation Act (ULCRA), 1976, to grab land in Pune urban agglomeration.
Stressing on the need for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe the scam, the court asked advocate general Ravi Kadam to go through the report submitted by retired IAS officer Sudhakar Joshi.
Kadam replied: “If it is a former minister then that would not be an issue [to take action, if required, for alleged fabrication of orders], but if it is a sitting minister, it would be a different thing.” To take action against a sitting minister, permission has to be taken from the governor.
The court was hearing the public interest litigation filed by BJP 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.
Giving an instance from the report, the court said the government had lost 25,000sqm of land because of interference by an additional divisional commissioner at Pune, also the appellate authority, who had opened three files on his own.
At the prevailing market rate, 25,000 sqm of land in Pune costs more than Rs 43.5 crore.
The court also pointed out that the government has the power to revise its earlier orders.
“There may be bonafide purchasers, but you [government] will have to calculate and get back [surplus] land,” said justice Marlapalle.
Regarding the government’s stand on transferring the probe to the CBI, Kadam said he would go through the report and convey his opinion to the government, who would take the final decision.
A division bench of justice Marlapalle and justice US Salvi asked Kadam to provide a copy of Joshi’s report to additional solicitor general Darius Khambata so that even the CBI could understand “the magnitude of the issue”.