Senior Punjab Congress leader and former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal may be under the scanner for illegally occupying government accommodation, but politicians in the neighbouring state of Haryana are no better.
A bill of Rs. 1.57 crore on account of penal rent is pending from health engineering minister Kiran Choudhry, and former ministers Savitri Jindal and OP Jain, the Haryana government told the high court here on Monday.
As per the information submitted by the Haryana government, Chaudhary (House No 68, Sector 7, Chandigarh) has to pay Rs. 29.23 lakh for overstay from November 2009 to January 2011, when she was not a minister. Rajbir Singh, secretary of the Haryana secretariat establishment, said that now Choudhry is a minister again, and thus entitled to the house.
However, Jindal and Jain, who remain illegal occupants, have been issued several notices to vacate the houses, "and action is being taken to recover penal rent from them," said the officer.
An amount of Rs. 38.08 lakh is yet to be recovered from Jain (#78, Sector 7) for overstaying from June 2011 to December 2012, while Jindal (#76, Sector 7) has to pay Rs. 89.29 lakh for overstay period from November 2009 onwards.
A bench of the Punjab and Haryana HC headed by justice Rajesh Bindal thus directed the government to inform it of the action taken regarding eviction proceedings against all illegal occupants on the next date of hearing, that is March 5.
BHATTAL'S FILE PENDING
Meanwhile, the Punjab government said the file pertaining to vacation of House No 46 in Sector 2 occupied illegally by former cabinet minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal is pending for a decision with CM Parkash Singh Badal.
Bhattal - who was entitled to the house when she was a cabinet minister and later the leader of opposition in the Vidhan Sabha -- has already been directed to pay penal rent of Rs. 66.65 lakh from March to November 2012.
The matter of overstay germinated from a petition about illegal sale of government houses and a subsequent survey by the Chandigarh administration.
'WASTE OF MONEY'
The court also raised questions on the expenditure of Rs. 72 lakh by Punjab government and Chandigarh administration on the renovation of House No 500 in Sector 16 earlier occupied by former Punjab director general of police PS Gill, and termed it "wastage of public money."
But the Punjab government said the renovation expenses had been made by the Punjab Police Housing Corporation, not by the police department as such. The expenses, it was stated, were on huts for security personnel and a camp office since Gill was a Z+ high-security category officer. Later, some of these structures were removed when he retired.
News reports had highlighted how the house, after Gill vacated it, was left in a bad shape due to removal of even some essential fittings.
After the court was informed that nearly 1,300 houses are owned by the Punjab government alone in Chandigarh, and hence gathering of information would take some time, eight weeks more were given to the two states and the UT.
The court also directed the Punjab government to file a better affidavit.