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Revenue minister favoured builders in decisions on Maharashtra plots: NCP

Chandrakant Patil was on Wednesday accused by the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) of passing orders favourable to two builders for two different plots in Pune.

mumbai Updated: Jun 27, 2019 00:34 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Chandrakant Patil, revenue minister
Chandrakant Patil, revenue minister (HT)
         

Maharashtra revenue minister Chandrakant Patil was on Wednesday accused by the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) of passing orders favourable to two builders for two different plots in Pune.

The state NCP chief Jayant Patil alleged, in a media briefing outside the Assembly, that the minister’s decision led to a loss of ₹42 crore for the state exchequer in one case;and a windfall amounting to crores of rupees for a builder in the second. The NCP leader demanded the minister’s resignation and sought an inquiry by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.

Chandrakant Patil, however, denied any wrongdoing.

Jayant Patil alleged that the revenue minister, in February, overruled orders of revenue officers to grant a builder the ownership of a 23-acre land — a Devasthan Inami Class -3 land (gifted land) — in Haveli taluka that belonged to a temple trust. He said records with the revenue department and orders given by revenue officials at various levels over the past few years established the land to be a Devasthan Inam Class-3 land.

In such cases, rules dictate the owners have to pay Nazrana [an amount decided by authorities using a prescribed formula] and get the government’s permission before selling it or developing it for a purpose other than the original use.

“Despite this, the revenue minister, in his capacity as a quasi-judicial authority, ruled in favour of an applicant, who is a builder, terming it a private land,” the NCP leadersaid.

The land was allotted to the Mhatoba Temple Trust of Kesanand village, as Devasthan Inam schedule-3, in 1861, and has been in the possession of the trust’s manager for years. It was later transferred to Radhaswami Tatsang Byas, a religious trust, which applied with revenue authorities about a decade ago to make it a non-agricultural land for construction.

Stating that the land was a Devasthan Inami Class-3 land, authorities, including the divisional commissioner of Pune, asked them to pay Rs42 crore as Nazrana, before granting permission. When the applicant, who was given power of attorney by the land-holder trust, moved an appeal before Chandrakant Patil, the minister ruled it was private land and there was no need to pay Nazrana.

In reply to Jayant Patil’s allegation, Chandrakant Patil said his order was based on land records dating back to 1885. “It was a private land as per British-era records. It is true that all the revenue officers, before whom the case was heard, ruled it to be a Devasthan Inam Class-3 land. We referred to the 1885 records, which had no such statement. We found it to be private land when the issue came before me and ruled that there was no need to pay Nazrana. Had I upheld the revenue officers’ verdicts, the applicant would have moved high court (HC) against my ruling,” the minister said.

In the other allegation, Jayant Patil cited an order by the revenue minister related to a construction project at Balewadi in Pune. The NCP leader said to make the residential project feasible, the builder encroached upon a government-owned playground adjoining his 36-gunta (a unit of measurement) plot and brought it on record as part of his plot in measurements by the land-records department.

“When the encroachment was objected to by the local representative, including the BJP corporator and BJP MLA, the superintendent of land records sought an explanation from his sub-ordinate, who had conducted the measurement. The officer admitted to have committed a mistake of adding the part of the playground to the plot being developed by the builder. The housing project was stalled by the order of the superintendent of the land records. Revenue minister stayed the same order (allowing builder to go ahead with his plans) and facilitated the builders to make more than Rs300 crore out of the housing project,” said Jayant Patil, adding that the entries of the dates of the application made by the builder were fudged.

Chandrakant Patil rubbished this allegation too. “There was no question of facilitating the project, as the construction was completed before it came to me. The applicant felt the decision related to the size of the plot given by the authorities was wrong and he requested for the appointment of a new measuring officer.”

The allegations were first raised in the legislative Assembly by Jayant Patil, but the minister objected, saying it should not be discussed in the house as it was an order by him as a quasi-judicial authority. The minister also said that Jayant Patil did not give any notice to him before levelling allegations.

Assembly speaker Haribhau Bagde expunged the allegations from proceedings. Patil, later, reiterated the allegations in the media briefing. The minister, in reply, held a press conference to explain his stance.

Chandrakant Patil’s predecessor, Eknath Khadse, too, had faced similar allegations over a land-deal in Pune. He had to quit as minister over the allegations of impropriety and conflict of interest in a land deal, in which his relatives were involved. Khadse quit in June 2016 and faces a probe by a panel headed by a retired judge.

First Published: Jun 27, 2019 00:34 IST

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