Jammu and Kashmir High Court directs govt to file report on irregularities in govt accommodation allotment

After noting the glaring irregularities in providing and allotment of government accommodation in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, the J&K High Court has directed government to file a report so as to apprise what steps it has taken to evict such persons from illegal possession of government accommodation. 

A two-judge bench headed by the Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Sanjay Dhar has passed the direction for filing a detailed report on government accommodation in possession of persons other than government employees or the persons entitled to as per Rules at places other than Jammu and Srinagar, the steps taken to evict them, recover arrears of rent, electricity and water dues.

The court has also asked the government to apprise it regarding the rules or regulations under which staff has been provided to the 72 persons (in its compliance report) at the state expenses without being entitled to the same. It also needs to be explained as to why the aforesaid amount be not recovered from those persons.

The court's directions came while it was hearing the Public Interest Litigation filed by Prof. S. K. Bhalla with regard to occupation of the Government houses by the former Chief Minister/ Ministers/MLAs/MLCs/Political Persons/MPs/Bureaucrats and certain private persons as well. The petitioner averred that the said system is going on for years despite categoric judgments of the Apex Court such as Lok Prahari through its General Secretary Vs. The State of Uttar Pradesh & Others. 

The court on the previous hearing had said, it shall consider passing the appropriate orders regarding recovery of the charges for the unauthorised occupancy, electricity, water, elaborate security services necessitated at these offices/residences; expenses incurred on the man power which had been deployed at these official accommodations. 

It had also directed the Union Territory to file a separate tabulation giving the names of the person in occupation; property and also the charges of maintenance, repairs, white-washing which have been incurred on each of these premises after these officers have demitted office. 

Following which, the compliance report was filed in the Court. After perusal of the same the Court said “it would be apt to notice certain glaring details of how the public properties and public money is being misutilized. Annexure-1 provides for statement of monthly security expenses being incurred on the properties, which are under continuous illegal occupation of political persons after demitting office. The list makes a strange reading. A ministerial bungalow has been provided to the family of Late G. M. Shah, Ex- Chief Minister at Jammu, who is stated to be the Chief Minister in Jammu and Kashmir from 1984-86. As per the statement, there is no security personnel provided. It shows that there is no security threat to his family. It was pointed out at the time of hearing by the learned counsel for the respondents that family of late G. M. Shah, ex-Chief Minister owns a house at Srinagar, where even security has been provided.”

It further noted in its order, “The question arises as to where was the need to allot house to the family of late G. M. Shah, ex-Chief Minister at Jammu, when the family owns accommodation at Srinagar and is residing there.”

“Besides this, Annexure-I contains details of monthly security expenses being incurred by the government on 72 persons who have been allotted government accommodation at Jammu and Srinagar. The details of the accommodations allotted to these types of persons in other cities in Jammu and Kashmir is not forthcoming. The aforesaid information is required to be furnished before the next date of hearing,” the court directed. 

“Some of the names, as is evident from the list, are merely mentioned as political workers. Some are even Advocates or ex-Public Prosecutors,” the Court said. “As to under what capacity they have been allotted the government accommodations is not forthcoming on record as there is no justification available,” it asked. 

It noted, “In the case of Abdul Rahim Rather, ex-minister it has been stated that a private house was hired at a monthly rent of ₹ 43,000/-, which was in his occupation, however, the same was dehired vide order dated 23.03.2018. However, he is still in possession of the house and sum of ₹15,48,000/- is due from him towards the landlord.”

The learned AAG Mr. Aseem Sawhney submitted before the Court that after the process of DDC elections are over, meeting of Security Review Committee will be held to review the security provided to the political or private persons and appropriate action shall be taken in terms of the advice received.

The Court has directed the concerned departments, who are managing the Governmental residential accommodations to upload the details of all such accommodations in the UT on the website of the department, including the details of the persons in occupation and also specifying whether the person is a serving government employee, retired or a political person.

The matter would now be heard on 18/02/2021. 

The Court had also noted on the previous hearing that “Public money has been expended in violation of any possible tenet of law by these unauthorized occupants. The accommodation is badly needed for occupation by serving officers. This is a completely intolerable situation.”

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