Vice-presidential election: Congress digs up old land scam against Venkaiah Naidu, puts BJP in bad light
A recount of the political saga involved in allocating land to a trust headed by M Venkaiah Naidu in 2004 shows how BJP almost succeeded in grabbing 20 acres of premium land through manipulations
The Congress has dug up a six-year-old Supreme Court verdict invalidating land allocation to a BJP trust to shovel dirt on NDA vice-presidential candidate M Venkaiah Naidu. Is the Congress’ counter charge any stickier than Shiv Sena’s Yakub Memon slur on UPA candidate Gopal Krishna Gandhi?
On 6 April, 2011 the apex court had quashed the BJP government’s decision to allot land to Kushabhau Thakre Trust in September 2004. Naidu, as president of the BJP headed the trust. The other trustees were: former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kailash Joshi, LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and RSS representatives Balwant P Apte and Sanjay Joshi.
The Supreme Court had indicted the government for its act of favouritism and for gross violation of Article 14 of the Constitution. The court also voided the changes in the land use of the plot and instructed the town planning authorities to take back the possession of the 20-acre land. The case caused a storm as the government sought to gratify the party from chief minister’s discretionary quota. The extent of Naidu’s involvement in the deal is debatable but as BJP president he was a party to the wrongdoing. Regardless of Naidu’s prospects in the poll, a recount of the saga of allocating the land would show how the party almost succeeded in grabbing 20 acres of premium land through manipulations.
On 18 June, 2004, Kailash Joshi, as convenor of the Thakre Memorial Trust, applied for reservation of 30 acres land in Bhopal’s prospering Bawadiya Kalan area to establish an All India Training Institute.
Babu Lal Gaur, then housing minister, ordered an immediate action simultaneously asking Town and Country Planning (T&CP) commissioner and collector to report on the matter. The T&CP commissioner objected saying the land was reserved for residential and plantation purposes and part of it did not belong to the government. The principal secretary then rejected the trust’s application.
The trust was also not registered when it applied for the land. Joshi applied for registration of the trust mentioning Naidu as its first president. The registration cleared in October and was formalised on 24 December, 2004, six months after the land was sought.
The collector pointed out that the land use could not be changed after being notified through state gazette. The government steamrolled all objections and reserved 30 acres of the land for the trust in anticipation of approval by the land reservation committee that was duly granted.
The collector, however, reminded the government that the land could not be allotted below a minimum price. The cost was quoted at Rs 7,84,80000 of which 10 percent needed to be deposited before allotment. The Trust didn’t deposit the amount.
Joshi promised to pay soon after the allotment. About eight months later Joshi wrote to the collector saying the institute would need only 20 acres. The government then sought Rs 5,22,72,000 as premium and asked for Rs 52,27,200 as earnest money. The trust deposited only Rs 25,00,000 and kept haggling for another seven months by when Babu Lal Gaur became the chief minister. The revenue secretary suggested that in view of the financial crunch, the government should auction the land. The cabinet rejected his call and decided to allot 20 acres of the land to the trust at Rs 40 lakhs per hectare.
Now the Trust was told to pay Rs 55,94,000. However, Joshi sought a waiver of the premium as the institute was being established "in public interest". The government readily obliged. It settled for a premium of Rs 25,00,000 and now the Trust needed to pay a lease rent of Re 1 per year for 30 years.
Before notifying a change in the land use, the government invited objections from public and promptly got them from the realtors. After the government overruled their objections, the final notification was issued on 5 September, 2008.
The Akhil Bharatiya Upabhokta Congress moved high court against the allotment. The high court summarily rejected the petition saying the land belongs to the government and it is for the government to decide to whom it should be allotted as per its policy and no case of violation of any legal or constitutional right has been made out by the petitioner.
The petitioner then moved Supreme Court which set aside the high court order saying: "Unfortunately, the division bench of the high court overlooked that the entire process of reservation of land and allotment thereof was fraught with grave illegality and was nothing but a blatant act of favouritism on the part of functionaries of the State."
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