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Centre refuses to budge on bungalow row

The Centre says to SC that it will not give the bungalow allotted to Defence Minister AK Antony, reports Satya Prakash .

india Updated: Dec 08, 2006 20:20 IST
Satya Prakash
Satya Prakash

The Centre has categorically told the Supreme Court that it will not give 9, Krishna Menon Marg, the bungalow allotted to Defence Minister AK Antony, to TDSAT Chairman Justice Arun Kumar, as it would violate the existing rules and policy on allotment of Type-VIII accommodation.

Taking strong exception to the TDSAT not surrendering the 9, Krishna Menon Marg Bungalow after the retirement of Justice Kumar's predecessor Justice Santosh N Hegde, the Centre termed it as unlawful.

In an affidavit filed in the apex court, Director of Estates Department Suresh said, "The petitioner (TDSAT) on its own decided that it was entitled to retain the bungalow though the same should have been surrendered. TDSAT had no right whatsoever to continue to hold onto the bungalow."

It also objected to the TDSAT claiming allotment of the said bungalow on the ground that it has incurred some expenditure on certain constructions at 9, Krishna Menon Marg. The Government said that the TDSAT could not have done it as the bungalow fell in the Lutyen's Zone where only CPWD was authorised to do it.

It said that an out of turn allotment to Justice Kumar would be contrary to the rules and policy and "it would encourage, similar other statutory and constitutional bodies to retain bungalows unauthorisedly…"

The affidavit has been filed in response to the TDSAT's petition seeking to retain 9, Krishna Menon Marg, which was earlier allotted to Justice Hegde.

As the TDSAT has not handed over the possession of the bungalow to the government, the Defence Minister is forced to live in a flat.

On the other hand, the TDSAT said there had been communication with the government on retaining 9, Krishna Menon Marg and that its Chairman was entitled to a Type-VIII Bungalow. It also said that the changes in the bungalow were made by the CPWD.

A Bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhan would hear the matter on Friday. Earlier, the court had issued notice to the Government and asked it to maintain status quo on the issue.

The Government said that on his appointment as the Defence Minister in October 2006, Antony was placed at serial number 7 in the waiting list while Justice Kumar was at serial number 13 and it was done on the basis of Warrant of Precedence issued by the Union Home Ministry.

The Centre, however, said "every step would be taken to ensure that Justice Kumar is allotted residential accommodation as per his entitlement once his turn matures."

On TDSAT's argument that Antony entered the waiting list at a later point in time, the Centre said, "if this method of seniority is followed, the Justice Kumar (appointed as TDSAT Chairman in September 2006) would be placed at serial number 160 in the waiting list of Type-VIII bungalow."

The Centre said, "When Justice Hegde vacated office, the allotment in his name was cancelled with effect from September two 2006 and the bungalow should have been handed over to the government of India for fresh allotment as per rules/policy.

"However, for reasons best known to the petitioner (TDSAT), the bungalow has yet not been handed over to the Government… Strictly speaking, in law, the possession of the bungalow with the petitioner…may not be lawful, as the bungalow was never allotted to the petitioner in the first place.

The Government understands that the allottee i.e., Justice Hegde is no more occupying the said bungalow," the Centre said.

Justifying the allotment made to Antony on November 14, the Government said "it cannot be doubted that from the duties assigned to his Office as a Defence Minister of India, it was specifically incumbent that a safe and appropriate accommodation be made available to him at the earliest."

Maintaining that Centre has not earmarked any Type-VIII bungalow for TDSAT Chairman, it said giving 9, Krishna Menon Marg to Justice Kumar would also violate the court's judgment in Shiv Sagar Tiwary case wherein it was held that out of turn allotment should be done only in very exceptional cases.

Maintaining, "there is severe dearth of suitable accommodation to accommodate all dignitaries, officers who are eligible for accommodation," the government said, "at present there are 179 persons waiting for allotment of Type-VIII bungalows."

The Government requested the court to dismiss TDSAT's petition saying the petitioner did not have any vested right for allotment of 9, Krishna Menon Marg.

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First Published: Dec 07, 2006 23:44 IST