New Delhi: Rebuking the Housing Ministry for permitting 576 government accommodation units to be illegally occupied by retired officials and ex-MPs, the Delhi High Court directed Wednesday the Centre to get them vacated within two weeks and to initiate proceedings to recover dues from such occupants.
A bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar also rapped the ministry for not initiating recovery proceedings against the illegal occupants, some of whom have overstayed for over a decade and have racked up dues of over Rs 95 lakh till date.
“If someone is overstaying in government accommodation, you do not need a five year plan to vacate them. Have you given them notices for recovery of dues? Nearly 600 government accommodations are not vacated. Some are overstaying since 1998. Almost every one of them has to pay dues of lakhs of rupees. Why have (you) not vacated them? Why no notice for recovery issued to them?” the bench asked.
“People are paying taxes and you are giving free housing, electricity and water to them (illegal occupants) for years. In some cases, original allottee has died and their legal heirs are in occupation of the residence. This is nothing but your (ministry’s) inefficiency. This casual and lethargic approach indicates connivance by your officials and connivance for such a long period amounts to conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code,” the bench said while warning about the possibility of FIRs being lodged against the officials concerned.
The directions and observations by the bench came after perusing an affidavit filed by the ministry indicating that 11 government residences were illegally occupied by ex-MPs, who had together racked up dues of around Rs 35 lakh, and 565 units were under unauthorised occupation by retired officials and bureaucrats.
The ex-MPs named in the affidavit included former BJP MP and now Congress leader Dr Udit Raj, former TDP MP Murali Mohan Maganti and former BJP MP Manohar Utawal.
The ministry’s lawyer, during the hearing, told the court that eight of the MPs have vacated the accommodation, but he did not have details of the same.
Furthermore, neither the lawyer nor the ministry official in court had details of whether recovery notices were issued to the MPs and other illegal occupants, which drew the ire of the bench leading to a direction to impose cost of Rs 10,000 on the Secretary, Ministry of Housing.
The court also directed that one-day’s salary of the official present in court be deducted as he was not prepared with the facts to answer simple queries of the bench.
According to the figures in the affidavit, 244 out of the 565 units that were illegally occupied by retired government employees were type-II accommodations. Of the 565 units, some were unauthorisedly occupied since as late as 1998.
However, the huge amount of dues – ranging from a few lakhs to around Rs 95 lakh – were owed by occupants of type-III, IV and VA accommodations, which together numbered around 200.
Referring to the huge amount of unrecovered dues, the bench said, “Prima facie the impression is you (ministry/officials) are making money from this. Someone is happy with this. Someone is increasing his funds. Else why would you allow such persons to continue in occupation? If they are occupying the accommodations for over a decade, it is obvious you have not given them a notice.”
The bench added: “Illegal occupants being tolerated for more than one decade. These things by itself show you are negligent and lethargic. FIRs should be filed against your errant officials.”
The bench also directed the ministry to evict within two weeks all those illegal occupants who have not obtained a stay from a court or tribunal against their eviction.