Delhi’s Sujan Singh Park estate firm asked to pay ₹168 crore dues
On March 4, senior government officials living in 11 flats leased to the central government were asked to immediately vacate their homes by court officials, accompanied by the staff of Sir Sobha Singh and Sons, pursuant to a Delhi high court order.
The land and development office (L&DO) under the Union ministry of housing and urban affairs (MoHUA) has issued a demand notice to Sir Sobha Singh and Sons Private Limited asking it to clear dues amounting to ₹168 crore related to the Sujan Singh Park residential complex near Khan Market in central Delhi, said three senior ministry officials in the know of the matter.
On March 4, senior government officials living in 11 flats leased to the central government were asked to immediately vacate their homes by court officials, accompanied by the staff of Sir Sobha Singh and Sons, pursuant to a Delhi high court order. According to the residents, the firm put up notices on the main doors of two flats after it was sealed by court officials, causing residents of the other flats to panic. They were later given time by the firm to vacate the flats.
The colonial-era residential colony was constructed by late Sir Sobha Singh, a prominent civil contractor and real estate developer, who constructed several buildings in Lutyens’ Delhi, in the 1940s. There are 84 flats in the neighbourhood of which 14 are with the central government.
While the L&DO has initiated the process to calculate the total dues, which ministry officials said could be close to ₹400 crore, Sir Sobha Singh and Sons on Tuesday issued notices (seen by Hindustan Times) to government officials living in the complex asking them to vacate the property before the next action by court officials.
A senior housing ministry official said on condition of anonymity, “The L&DO has issued a demand notice amounting to ₹168 crore on March 7. While the total pending amount is being worked out, it could be around ₹400 crore. The land (for Sujan Singh Park) was given to the firm on a perpetual lease against which the firm was supposed to pay an annual ground rent to the government. We are in the process of filing a petition before the Supreme Court, challenging the lower court order asking government officials to vacate all the flats.”
The March 7, the L&DO notice also asked Sir Sobha Singh and Sons to provide details of the total number of flats at the complex. “A request has been received from directorate of estates (DoE), Mohua, that keeping in view the shortage of general pool residential accommodations (GPRAs) in Sujan Singh Park locality, 50% of all residential accommodation of the premises….may be placed on the disposal of DoE…,” said L&DO in the notice, while asking that the details be furnished by March 11.
“The firm has asked for 15 days to reply,” said the official quoted above.
When contacted, Kabir Singh, director of Sir Sobha Singh and Sons, said, “L&DO has issued us a provisional demand notice for ₹168 crore. We have heard that they are preparing another notice for an even higher amount. The government approached the lower court (Patiala House courts) asking for a stay on the execution of the high court order of January 2020, but the court ruled in our favour. The firm’s ground rent is up to date. They (the government) are making this demand in a vengeful manner and not based on facts.”
A second senior ministry official refuted the allegation and said, “This is a routine government process to collect the dues.”
Singh also said L&DO has information about the number of flats at Sujan Singh Park, as these were with the government till 1963. He said, “According to the agreement to lease of 8/10/1945, the DoE /L&DO was supposed to “retain not more than 50% of the flats till one year after the end of the 2nd War (1946) at a fair rent and return 50% to the landlord”. They neither returned 50% flats nor ever paid the fair rent.”
On March 15, the firm issued a notice to government officials living in the complex to vacate the property before the next visit by court officials. The notice has once again agitated residents.
A senior government official, who lives at Sujan Singh Park but didn’t want to be named, said, “Today, we have been served the notice by the firm asking us to vacate the flats before the next action, which is likely before April 1. We don’t know what to do, as we have not been allotted an alternative place. We are caught in this tussle between the government and the firm due to which we are not even able to get basic repair works done.”
There are 84 flats in Sujan Singh Park (north and south) spread over two land parcels, measuring 7.5 acres each, near Khan Market. According to MoHUA, the land was given to the firm on perpetual lease and in return, the government got a few flats in the developed complex on a concessional rent. The government also collected ground rent as per the land lease agreement.
The problem started in 1989 when the central government stopped paying rent to the company, according to the firm. “The government used to pay ₹2,400 per month for the 13 flats, 41 staff quarters and 21 garages. But it stopped paying the rent after 1989, following which the company filed a case in the lower court in 1991 against the government,”said Singh.
The firm filed a case in the lower court and then in Delhi high court, which ruled in the firm’s favour in January 2020.
The action on March 4 came on the directions of the lower court to execute the Delhi high court order of 2020 in the nearly three-decade-old dispute between the central government and the firm.
Singh said, “The lower courts and the Delhi high court have ruled in our favour. We have followed all due legal process to get our property vacated.”