Nilima Rane, the wife of state revenue minister Narayan Rane, has been restrained by the Bombay High Court, from developing a plot in Mahabaleshwar that belongs to a temple trust. Nilima Rane has allegedly acquired the plot illegally.
Acting on a petition filed by the trust — Shri Mahabaleshwar Devasthan Trust — the court also stayed the operation of the order issued by PS Kamble, a desk officer from the Revenue and Forest Department, in March 2008. Under the order, the trust-owned land measuring 76 acres was alienated and later transferred in the name of one Mahesh Babulal Panchal, without any warning.
On Friday, counsel for the trust, Nitin Jamdar, argued that the desk officer had no authority whatsoever to deal with any land belonging to a temple trust, and alienate it in favour of a private person.
The trust – headed by district judge, Satara, with sub-divisional officer (SDO), executive magistrate, Wai, and president of Mahabaleshwar Municipal Council as its ex-officio trustees – learnt of the changes in revenue records in October 2008.
The petition states that the search undertaken by trustees revealed that the desk officer had called for reports from sub-divisional officer, Wai, and the Collector, Satara, before alienating the trust property.
However, the property was alienated and later transferred to Mahesh Panchal though the SDO had clearly stated it could not be done without the approval of the Charity Commissioner's office.
The trust has alleged that it appeared the whole exercise was undertaken to regularise and ratify the sale transaction between Panchal and Nilima, who, according to the trust, was the beneficiary of the desk officer's order.
The trust has also alleged the order was passed by the desk officer to favour Rane's wife, and therefore the order was vitiated by mala fides.
The petition further states that the trust had owned the property for more than 400 years, ever since Chhatrapati Shivaji donated the land for the devasthan.
According to the trust, its properties have been classified as Inam III Devasthan land, which cannot be transferred to any private person.