No one's above law: HC fines Sourav Ganguly, Bengal govt over land allotment
The Calcutta High Court on Monday penalised the Mamata Banerjee-led Bengal government and Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Sourav Ganguly for an out-of-turn allotment of land to the latter for setting up a school in New Town near Kolkata.
A division bench, comprising Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Arijit Banerjee, imposed a token cost of ₹10,000 on Ganguly and ₹50,000 each on the West Bengal government and a state-owned corporation over the issue.
Stating that no one was above the law and should claim to be exclusive to seek benefits from the State, the court said there was a need to have a defined policy to guide on all issues so that there was no arbitrary exercise of power by applying pick and choose formula.
The bench, in its order, said though the plot of land had been returned by the allottees, for the conduct of the state in generating litigation by an arbitrary exercise of power which ran contrary to the law laid down by the Supreme Court, a cost of ₹50,000 each was imposed on the state and West Bengal Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation (WBHIDCO).
"The country always stands by sportspersons, especially who represent the country in international events. It is also a fact that Sourav Ganguly has brought laurels for the country in cricket. But when it comes to law, our Constitutional Scheme is that all are equal and no one can claim to be exclusive, above the law and seek benefits from the State, especially when question arises for allotment of plots for commercial ventures," the bench said.
“No one ever raises a finger when the government showers awards and benefits to sportspersons when they win any tournament, "but this system is not to continue in perpetuity", it said.
The bench imposed the "token cost of 10,000" on the former India cricket captain and the Ganguly Education and Welfare Society "for the reason that even they should have acted in accordance with law especially considering the earlier judgment whereby arbitrary allotment of plot in their favour was set aside by the Hon’ble the Supreme Court".
The bench said the fines be deposited with the West Bengal State Legal Services Authority within four weeks from the date of receipt of the copy of the order.
The state government and WBHIDCO would be at liberty to recover the amount from the employees responsible for the decisions of allotment, the bench added.
The bench passed the order on a PIL questioning the allotment of two acres of land to Ganguly and the said society for setting up a school in New Town. The plot of land was surrendered to WBHIDCO in August 2020.
The bench said if Ganguly is interested in development of sports, especially cricket, in which he has many achievements to his credit, there may already be many such state establishments, he can associate himself with them and motivate budding cricketers.
Nothing was placed before the court as regards any rules, regulations which permit HIDCO to accept surrender of the plot and refund the amount deposited, but still the procedure was followed, the bench said.
The allotment was made to Ganguly and the society vide a letter dated September 27, 2013.
The petitioners claimed that in an earlier round of litigation, allotment of a plot of land to Ganguly in Salt Lake in 2009 was set aside by the Supreme Court in 2011.
(With agency inputs)