Court directs Estates Department to upload details of Illegal Occupants of Ministerial Bungalows

Jammu, Dec 24,KNT : In a significant order a Division Bench of the Jammu Kashmir High Court comprising its Chief Justice (Acting) Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Sanjay Dhar while expressing its displeasure over the continuation of unauthorized occupation by 72 occupants over Ministerial Bungalows by several former Ministers, legislators, politicians, bureaucrats and other influential persons observed that the occupation of the Government Houses is going on for years together despite categoric Judgments of the Supreme Court delivered in the year 2018, wherein it has been held that Government Houses cannot be allotted to these persons.

The Division Bench observed that compliance report dated December, 21, 2020 has been filed by the Director, Estates J&K and the Annexures attached to the same exhibit how the public properties and public money is being mis-utilized.

The list of illegal occupants makes a strange reading.

A Ministerial Bungalow has been provided to the family of Late G.M. Shah Ex-Chief Minister at Jammu and it was pointed out by AAG B.A. Dar that family of Late G.M. Shah Ex-CM owns a house at Srinagar where even security has been provided.

The DB observed, “the question arises as to where was the need to allot house to the family of Late G.M. Shah, Ex-CM at Jammu, when the family owns accommodation at Srinagar and is residing there.”

The Division Bench referred to Annexure-I containing details of monthly security expenses being incurred by the Government on 72 persons who have been allotted Government accommodation at Jammu and Srinagar and the details of the accommodations allotted to these types of persons in other cities in J&K is not forthcoming.

The aforesaid information is required to be furnished before the next date of hearing.

The Division Bench further observed that some of the names, as is evident from the list, are merely mentioned as Political Workers. Some are even Advocates or Ex-Public Prosecutors. As to under what capacity they have been allotted the Government accommodations is not forthcoming on record as there is no justification available. The list provided shows that by providing security to Former Minsters/MLAs/ MLCs in 09 cases only monthly expenses of Rs.32,44,713/- is being made at Jammu and Srinagar.

The Division Bench also referred Annexure-RII containing details of pending arrears of electricity and water bills against the occupants.

All the 72 allottees of the Government accommodation, to which apparently they don’t have any right in view of the Judgment of the Supreme Court, there are lakhs of rupees due on account of electricity and water charges.

Total amount due from them is Rs.56,89,524.00 and few names amongst defaulters are family of Late G.M. Shah-Rs.2,39,363, Chowdary Lal Singh-Rs.1,81,155/-, Kavinder Gupta (Former DyCM)-Rs.7,69,659/-, Sunil Sharma (Ex-Minister)-Rs.3,73,463/-, K.B. Aggarwal (Ex-Chairperson)-Rs.4,31,906/-, Ghulam Nabi Lone Hanjura (Ex-MLA)-Rs.2,60,790/-, Nazir Ahmed Khan (Ex-Deputy Speaker)-Rs.2,52,706/-, Ms. Pandith Puri (Ex-MLA)-Rs.1,04,324/-, Abdul Gani Vakil (Ex-MLA)-Rs.5,88,444/-, Nazir Ahmed Malik (Political Person)-Rs.1,58,410/-, Zahid Hussain Jan (District President Congress)-Rs.3,31,624/-, S.S. Channi (Political Person)-Rs.1,13,752/-, Ajaz Ahmed Mir (Ex-MLA)-Rs.2,43,262/-, Bashir Ahmed Dar (Ex-MLA)-Rs.1,03,926/-, Yasir Reshi (Ex-MLA)-Rs.2,57,589/- and Raja Manzoor (Ex-MLA)-Rs.3,67,441.

The Division Bench also considered the status report showing the details of Servants, Gardners, Supervisors provided at the residence of these 72 persons and the monthly expenses incurred by the Government in that regard.

The total monthly expenses incurred on that account for 72 persons is Rs.7,93,049. The only explanation given for providing servants at the expense of the Government is that the Government accommodation has to be maintained by it at its expense. The argument apparently is misconceived as under Law or under any Rules, no such servants can be provided to a person who is not a Government Employee or otherwise entitled to.

The Division Bench also referred to Annexure-IV providing the information pertaining to the rent due against the occupants, besides the expenses incurred on its renovation and maintenance.

The Division Bench referred few names against whom lakhs of rupees are due on account of rent. Some of them are Sunil Sharma Ex-Minister (Rs.2,88,860/- rent and Rs.2,70,000/- incurred on repair/renovation/white wash), K.B. Aggarwal Ex-Chairperson (Rs.1,60,046/- rent and Rs.2,80,000/- incurred on repair/renovation/white wash), Ghulam Nabi Lone Hanjura Ex-MLA (Rs.2,55,349/-), Abdul Gani Vakil Ex-MLC (Rs.5,25,825/- rent), Nazir Ahmed Malik-Political Person (Rs.1,85,250/- rent), Zahid Hussain Jan-District President Congress (Rs.1,77,330/- rent), S.S. Channi-Political Person (Rs.3,01,050/- rent), Ms. Parveena Lone-Political Person (Rs.2,88,524/- rent and Rs.50,000/- incurred on repair/renovation/white wash), Mushtaq Ahmed Tantray-Political Person (Rs.2,56,600/- rent and Rs.3,30,000/- incurred on repair/renovation/white wash), Mohd. Amin Bhat (Ex-MLA) (Rs.1,33,840/- rent and Rs.1,21,000/- incurred on repair/renovation/white wash), Reyaz Ahmed Mir-Political Person (Rs.3,80,210/- rent and Rs.90,000/- incurred on repair/renovation/ white wash), Mohd. Abbas (Ex-MLA) (Rs.1,49,569/- rent), Javid Ahmed Mir-Advocate/Political Person (Rs.2,23,480/- rent) and Rafi Ahmed Mir (Ex-MLA) (Rs.1,43,238/- rent and Rs.18,000/- incurred on repair/renovation/white wash).

The Division Bench further observed that total amount due on account of rent from occupants of these houses is Rs.55,70,535/- and besides this a sum of Rs.78,71,000/- has been spent by the Government on repair and maintenance of the houses in possession of the aforementioned persons.

The Division Bench noted with concern the case of Abdul Rahim Rather (Ex-Minister) as the status report disclosed that a private house was hired at a monthly rent of Rs.43,000/- which was in his occupation, however the same was de-hired vide order dated 23-03-2018. However he is still in possession of the said house and sum of Rs.15,48,000/- is due from him towards the landlord.

The Division Bench while parting with the order observed and directed that the concerned Departments, who are managing the Governmental residential accommodations, are directed to upload the details of all such accommodations on the website of the Department including the details of the persons in occupation thereof. Further specifying whether the person is a serving Government Employee, retired or a political person.

Looking into the public interest involved, the DB directed the Registry to re-notify the instant PIL for February, 18, 2021.

Advocate Sheikh Shakeel Ahmed appeared for the petitioner whereas Additional Advocate General B.A. Dar and Aseem Sawhney represented Estates Department of Jammu and Kashmir Government.(KNT)

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