“Occupants have been directed to vacate the premises in their respective occupation within a period of six months from the date of this order”
Division Bench of Jammu and Kashmir High Court today rapped the Lieutenant Governor’s administration over ‘illegal’ allotment of Municipal Flats/Quarters located at posh locality of Gandhi Nagar Jammu and termed it ‘contrary to principle of equality’. The court also directed the ‘illegal’ occupants to vacate the premises within a period of six months from the date of this order.
Division bench of the Chief Justice-Pankaj Mithal and Justice Rajnesh Oswal assert, “We are at pains to observe and take note of the manner in which allotments have been made by the concerned authorities at JMC and subsequent inaction on their part.”
Earlier, a Public Interest Litigation was filed, wherein a challenge was thrown to the allotments made by the Jammu Municipal Corporation by virtue of various allotment orders spanning from the year 1993 till 2015 and simultaneously, it was prayed for the eviction of the occupants from the Municipals Flats situated at Gandhi Nagar Jammu and also for recovery of rent at the market value from them.
“It was stated that the Jammu Municipal Corporation has adopted a pick and choose policy for the purpose of allotment of Municipal Flats/Quarters located at posh locality of Gandhi Nagar Jammu in favour of its officers, who had served its senior positions and later superannuated and the allotments have been extended for a further period of 40 years at a meager rent of Rs. 600/- to Rs. 900/- per month,” reads the petition, adding that the Municipal Corporation has allotted the Municipal Flats/Quarters at Gandhi Nagar, Jammu to some private persons as well at a meager rent arbitrarily just on the basis of ‘pick and choose policy’ without adopting any rational criteria.
Submitting instances of the ‘pick and choose’ policy of the JMC, it was pleaded in the petition that vide order No. ME/Estt/6466-67 dated 08.10.1993, a Municipal Flat at Gandhi Nagar, Jammu was allotted in favour of a person, without mentioning the status of the beneficiary who at that point of time was a senior KAS Officer and later remained as Municipal Commissioner, Jammu and also served as Commissioner/Secretary to Government of Jammu and Kashmir, Housing and Urban Development Department.
“As per the Rent Deed dated 20.12.2012, the lease of the aforesaid Municipal Flat has been executed for a term of 40 years with effect from 20.12.2012 at a monthly rent of Rs. 1000/- only with escalation of rent by at least 15% for a further period of 2 years,” reads the petition, adding that the said Officer has succeeded in inducting his nephew, as one of the beneficiaries of the above mentioned property as lessee along with him.
The petition maintained that vide order No. JMC/RB/1053-55 dated 10.02.2016, the Jammu Municipal Corporation, allotted a cattle pound illegally numbered as Municipal Quarter No. 10 in favour of a retired officer of the Jammu Municipal Corporation in August, 2017. “Then Municipal Commissioner, Mandeep Kour gifted the above stated Quarter, originally a cattle pound, in favour of her subordinate and before handing over the possession, JMC spent lakhs of rupees on repair/renovation”, reads the petition.
It further stated that vide order No. MJ/Estt/8880-84 dated 16.02.1993 the then Executive Officer, Jammu Municipality Jeet Lal Gupta allotted a Municipal Quarter in favour of Madan Mohan Khajuria (then PA to Administrator, Jammu Municipality).
“Vide order No. JMC/RB/4995-96 dated 26.03.2013, JMC allotted a Municipal Quarter in favour of PSO to then Commissioner/Secretary to Government, Housing and Urban Development Department and the rent was fixed at the rate of Rs. 200/- per month,” reads the petition, adding “Vide order No. JMC/RB/19050-54 dated 16.11.2015, JMC allotted a Municipal Quarter at Gandhi Nagar, Jammu in favour of Driver, SUDA(H&UDD).
The petition maintained that vide order No. JMC/RB/293-95 dated 20.04.2013, the Jammu Municipal Corporation allotted a Municipal Quarter to Narinder Sharma at Gandhi Nagar, Jammu, President of an NGO, namely, “PEACE”. The rent was fixed in this regard at the rate of Rs. 600/- per month.
“Vide order No. MJ/RB/879-82 dated 27.11.2002 the then Administrator, Municipality Jammu allotted a Municipal Quarter in favour of Chain Singh, a private person at the rate of Rs. 100/- per month,” reads the petition, adding that vide order No. JMC/RB/240-42 dated 20.05.2014, a Municipal Flat at Gandhi Nagar, Jammu which was originally allotted to Arjun Singh, was allotted and transferred to Kharati Lal, at the rate of Rs. 1025/- per month.
In response to the petition, the Jammu Municipal Corporation admitted that they did not have any policy or procedure for allotment/cancellation/transfer etc, of assets of the Municipal Corporation. It was further stated that the Commissioner of Jammu Municipal Corporation has constituted a committee for framing a policy with regard to cancellation/allotment/transfer of the Municipal assets/properties.
“State Vigilance Organization in its response has reiterated the statement of the JMC and has additionally submitted that the probe is still under progress and some more documents and particulars of the officers/officials who remained associated with the constructions of the flats and allotments thereof, are being scrutinized to ascertain the criminal liabilities of the public servant, if any, and as soon as the records and particulars are received, the verification shall be finalized on merits,” reads the court orders, adding that in absence of the policy, the Municipal Corporation has adopted a pick and choose policy in allotting the flats/quarters to the blue eyed persons and the Municipal assets being a public property could not have been distributed in a manner as has been done by the JMC.
The court order reads that it is evident from the record produced by the JMC and beneficiaries that allotments were made to its officers, other Government servants and the private persons just on their asking and there was no policy for the allotment of the flats/quarters.
The Division Bench stated that they have reached to an inescapable conclusion that impugned allotments are illegal and contrary to principle of equality as enshrined in Article 14 of the constitution of India.
“Vide status report filed by JMC pursuant to order dated 02.03.2020, the Corporation has submitted the details of the Municipal Shops, flats, and garages, those are in occupation of the different allottees. It is further submitted in the said status report that a team of officers was constituted by the Corporation vide order dated 27.01.2020 to submit a physical verification of the each property in tabulated form. The said committee till date has not furnished the report,” court observed, adding “We are at pains to observe and take note of the manner in which allotments have been made by the JMC and subsequent inaction on its part.”
The allotments as well as consequential rent deeds/ rent agreements made in favour of the beneficiaries stands quashed. “The occupants are directed to vacate the premises in their respective occupation within a period of six months from the date of this order,” court order reads, adding, “So far as other Municipal shops, flats and garages are concerned, the government and JMC are directed to examine the individual case and proceed in accordance with the law laid down by the Apex Court in numerous decisions mentioned above and take appropriate actions within a period of six months, extendable by another period of six months only.