Monday, September 26, 2022

Centre mentions plea in SC against forceful eviction of government officials from Lutyens Zone

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The Central government on Friday mentioned a plea before the Supreme Court against forceful eviction of top government officials from the Lutyens zone residential complexes with the help of ‘bouncers,’ calling the whole episode as ‘unfortunate’. 

The special leave to appeal filed by the Central government mentions the property situated on North and South Sujan Park, New Delhi, constructed by the Sardar Bahadur Sir Shobha Singh and Sons Pvt Ltd (Lessee) as per the perpetual lease deed executed with the Governor General in Council (lessor) in 1945. 

The perpetual lease deed was executed for two plots measuring around 7.58 acres each, situated on North and South Sujan Park, New Delhi for the construction of residential flats in North and South of Sujan Singh Park, on the understanding that up to 50 percent of flats would be rented out to the Centre at nominal/ concessional rates.

The contractual renting out was a part of consideration for the perpetual lease itself and therefore, constituted the essential part of the completed contract. 

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta mentioned the matter today before the bench led by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana, stating that the respondents were threatening to vacate the premises with the help of bouncers.

On this, the CJI asked, “How can someone send bouncer to vacate Government land?” 

“Yes it’s unfortunate,” replied the SG. 

Actually, the eviction order was passed by the Additional Rent Controller on 14.02.2005, against the petitioner/ Union of India which is represented through Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development, Nirman Bhavan, New Delhi, on the eviction petition instituted by the respondents/ Sir Shobha Singh & Sons. Pvt. Ltd. for the unpaid arrears of rent (since 1989) with respect to 5 single bed room flats, 9 double bed room flats, 39 servant quarters and 25 garages situated on North and South Sujan Singh Park, Municipal No. III PR-I to 556 and 560 to 573, New Delhi. 

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Against the above eviction order the Union of India had filed an appeal which was dismissed as time-barred on 08.08.2005 by the ARC Tribunal. Then, Union of India filed an appeal against the said order passed by ARC Tribunal before the Delhi High Court along with quashing of the Eviction order passed by ARC. However, on 25.10.2005, the High Court dismissed the said plea on ground of Delay. Forcing the Union of India to approach the Apex Court challenging the said order of the Delhi High Court. Wherein, the Apex Court condone the delay, vide its order dated 16.10.2006 remitted matter back to the Additional Rent Controller (Tribunal). 

Thereafter, on 01.09.2007, the Tribunal affirmed the order of the ARC, however suspended the execution of the eviction order for a period of six months, provided that the Union of India pays the arrear of rent recoverable by the Sir Shobha builder with interest and costs. 

Then, Union of India challenged the said order before the Delhi High Court which was dismissed by the high court with a direction to stay execution of the order dated 01.09.2007 passed by the ARC until 31.12.2020, subject to the Union of India complied with the conditions contained in paragraph 36 thereof. Following which the Union of India made the payment of Rs 14,71,199, vide sanction order dated 25.10.2021. 

In the present petition, the UOI has raised a question as to whether the DRCA is applicable to the present case, in view of the provisions of Section 3 of the Government Grants Act, 1895 (GGA). 

The High Court had Analysed the Interpretation Of Clause 2(9) Of The Perpetual Lease Deed executed between the Union of India and Sir Shobha. The high court noted, a plain reading of Section 3 of the GGA requires, at the outset, an examination as to whether the grant in the present case is inconsistent with any rule of law, statute or enactment. 

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“Clause 2(9) of the perpetual lease deed, upon which the UOI’s case is based, entitles the Central Government to require that 50% of the flats be leased to its officials, at a fair rent as assessed by or under the orders of UOI. Doubtless, the terms of the grant thus deprive the respondent of its ordinary contractual liberty to refuse to enter into a lease with the UOI. It is also clear that the respondent is bound to accept the lease at the rent fixed in accordance with Clause 2(9). However, the question here is whether the entitlement of the UOI is absolute, in the sense that it would even survive the failure of the UOI to pay the stipulated rent. There is no express stipulation to this effect, and I do not find any indication in the terms of the grant to support such a reading. In fact, to the contrary, the payment of rent is implicit in the clause itself. There is nothing in the terms of the perpetual lease deed to suggest that the grantee would not be entitled to avail of its ordinary remedies as a landlord in the event the UOI failed to comply with the condition of payment of rent”

-said the High Court in its judgment. It had held the eviction proceedings instituted by the Sir Shobha under the DRCA were not barred by any provision, restriction, condition or limitation contained in the perpetual lease deed dated 16.04.1945. 

Against the above order the Union of India has filed an appeal before the Supreme Court seeking directions to stay the impugned order passed by the High Court. The SLP raised a various question of law as to whether the high courts has grossly erred by holding that the provisions of Government Grants Act, 1985 will not have an overriding effect in the facts and circumstances of the instant case? Secondly as to whether the high court failed to appreciate that Grant executed by the Government is not bound by the Tenancy Act, TPA or the Contract Act? 

It has also apprised the Apex Court that the Respondent/ Sir Shobha builders has not paid its unpaid dues towards ground rent amounting to Rs. 168.38 crores to the Union of India, which should raise concerns about the bonafide of the instant Respondent’s intentions. Also the fact that Union of India has paid all its dues with interests and costs, as directed by the Hon’ble High Court vide sanction order issued by the Petitioner dated 25.02.2022.

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On the other hand the Union of India has submitted that in view of the fact that it has through Directorate of Estates, needs to surrender/ vacate 5 single bed room flats, 9 double bed room flats, 39 servant quarters and 25 garages. Of these flats/ garages, there are 13 flats in which officers of higher ranks of the Central Government are presently residing. But, As on date, Directorate of Estates is facing an acute shortage of General Pool Residential Accommodation due to an ongoing re- development of seven governmental colonies. It is submitted that suitable accommodations are likely to be made available for allotment within the next 2 years. In light of the same, the Petitioner prays that an interim relief of staying effect & operation of the impugned order dated 08.01.2020 deserves to be passed in the interest of justice and prevent the Petitioner from any coercive actions with respect to the concerned property.

The matter would now be heard on 5th of April, 2022. 

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