Supreme Court curbs on states’ land largesse to politicians, bureaucrats

NEW DELHI: State governments may not be able to allot residential plots in cities to serving and former MPs, MLAs, bureaucrats, journalists and judges of their choice by exercising their discretionary power as the Supreme Court on Wednesday decided to frame guidelines for allotting public land at subsidised rates.

Expressing concern over state governments’ decision to allocate plots to well off people while lakhs of poor people do not have a shelter and are forced to live under the open sky, a bench of Justices J Chelameswar and S Abdul Nazeer said all state government schemes on land allocation would be brought under judicial scrutiny to curb the largesse.

“We must have a more transparent system for allocating plots. Poor people cannot afford to have a house in cities and they are not able to get the most basic requirement of life but lands are being allotted to others. It has become a discretion at the hands of the government in allocation of land and we all know what discretion leads to. Proper guidelines are required and we will examine the issue,” the bench said.

Attorney general K K Venugopal also agreed with the view of the bench and said that states had been using its power to allot plots arbitrarily without following due procedure. He pleaded the SC to intervene and frame guidelines.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for one of the petitioners, contended that it was against constitutional principle to allot plots to judges, bureaucrats and politicians who were already having houses. “Can we have a scheme where the poor are being deprived of houses but well-to-do members of society are being distributed largesse by the state. How can a class of privileged people be given the subsidised land?” he said.

Bhushan said the Gujarat government had allotted plots to 27 retired and sitting judges in Ahmedabad in 2008, and the case is pending in Gujarat high court.

He said that so far, 16 judges had recused from hearing the case as they had been allotted plots. Justice Chelameswar then said in a lighter vein that there was no conflict of interest for him, adding, “I have not taken any allotment and I do not intend to take”.

The bench directed chief secretaries of all states to provide details of schemes on land allocation to the attorney general by October 5 and asked the AG to file a report after examining them. It was also of the view that some condition should be imposed on allottee not to part with the land allocated to them at least during their life time.

Source: TOI

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