A little more than 100 days after he assumed office, Chief Minister Ashok Chavan’s name has cropped up in a land scam in Pune.
Ravindra Barate, a real estate broker and an activist from Pune, has alleged that Chavan had illegally transferred 100 acres of government-acquired land to the original landholders when he was the Revenue Minister in January 2002.
Barate told journalists at a press conference in Mumbai on Tuesday that he had accessed documents related to the order under the Right to Information Act.
The holders of the land later sold it to a private developer—a close friend of Chavan’s is a partner in this firm, Barate alleged —at a low rate for constructing a housing complex. Barate said he would file a public interest litigation in the Bombay High Court this month.
“The land in Shivajinagar, an upmarket area in Pune, was in the name of Ramoshi vatandars [Ramoshis are a community that served royal families and were rewarded with land for their services]. But since the community did not comply with government rules the government took back the land in 1951,” Barate said.
Chavan, as Revenue Minister, ordered that the land be reinstated to the Ramoshis. Barate alleged that the decision was taken to favour Mayureshvar Developers.
“One of the partners of this firm, Jayant Shah, is Chavan’s close friend,” Barate said.
“Immediately after Chavan passed the order, the developer bought the land from the Ramoshis at a rate much below market rates.”
Chavan said the allegations were politically motivated.
“I had passed the order as a quasi judicial authority. If a party did not find it fair, they should have challenged it as per the procedure,” Chavan said.
“The decision was based on similar rulings given by revenue ministers in the past. My order is not for 102 acres but for 16 acres.”
Chavan also claimed he did not know Shah.
“Why does someone want to speak about this after eight years when I am chief minister?” Chavan asked.
“The person has every right to challenge my order in the court.”
The Supreme Court had, in 1997 [in similar case in Kerala], barred governments from transferring the land to original owners once their ownership was cancelled, said Barate.
“The court said such land should be used by the government for a public purpose or be sold in the open market through competitive bidding,” Barate said.