The decision on allotment of land by Nagpur Improvement Trust (NIT) meant for slum dwellers to private persons by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde when he was a minister in a previous Maha Vikas Aghadi government rocked the proceedings of the state council and assembly on Tuesday. As the opposition took an aggressive stand demanding CM’s resignation and objected to the statement by the Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in this regard, the Deputy Chairperson Neelam Gorhe adjourned the house for the day. In the state assembly, the opposition expressed dissatisfaction over Shinde’s clarification while demanding that they should be allowed to put up their argument. However, after Speaker Mr Rahul Narwekar ruled that there cannot be debate they staged a walk out.
The opposition in both the houses alleged that Mr Shinde had issued an order to hand over the land parcel to 16 persons at the cost of Rs 2 crore against its current ready reckoner value of Rs 83 crore.
CM Shinde provides clarification
However, CM Shinde in the state assembly denied opposition’s charges saying he has not misused his powers and there were no irregularities in the NIT land allotment case. After the issue was raised by NCP legislator Mr Chhagan Bhujbal, CM Shinde clarified in his response that he had not violated the high court order, but acted in the spirit of equal justice to all.
‘’When the applicant came to me in April 2020 with a demand to regularise a layout with 16 plots as per the 2007 order, the reason was that he was to first pay as per Gunthewari and later as per ready reckoner. He came to me in appeal. My order only said to charge as per 2007 order. I did not recommend any reduction of charges,” he said. He further added that at the time of his order, there was no court stay.
He claimed that when the NIT informed his office about the December 14 order, he came to know about the Gilani committee formed in 2017-18 on this land. “I was not made aware about the Gilani committee either by NIT or the applicant. After coming to know about this, I passed an order saying the observations of the Gilani committee were brought to my attention after the December 14 court order. Considering this April 20, 2021, directions have been cancelled,” said Shinde, adding that he has not interfered with any court order.
High court had ordered status quo
On December 14, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court was informed by amicus curiae (appointed by court to assist) advocate Anand Parchure that Shinde, during his tenure as the urban development minister of the MVA government, directed the Nagpur Improvement Trust (NIT) to give away land acquired for housing scheme for slum dwellers to 16 private persons. The court said if any such order as claimed is really passed, then a status quo be maintained on it.
Opposition points finger at Shinde
When the Upper House proceedings began on Tuesday, Gorhe asked for questions to be taken up, but the leader of opposition Ambadas Danve, under the Point of Information, stood up and raised the issue of land allotment by Shinde. Danve said, “The Nagpur Improvement Trust had reserved a plot of 4.5 acres in the city for the construction of houses for the rehabilitation of slum dwellers. However, former urban development minister Eknath Shinde, who is now the chief minister of the state, had issued an order to hand over the land parcel to 16 persons at the cost of Rs 1.5 crore. The current ready reckoner rates calculate the cost of the land to be Rs 83 crore.’’
Intense exchange between government and opposition leads to adjournment
However, Minister Chandrakant Patil objected to Danve's statement saying when the Council’s deputy chairperson had announced the Question Hour, the LoP should not have raised this issue and could have made his point at some other time.
Objecting to Patil’s argument, Shiv Sena leader (UBT) Anil Parab said Danve raised the issue under the Point of Information, which has no such restrictions.
As both the sides argued, Gorhe adjourned the House proceedings twice for 15 minutes each.
DCM Fadnavis comes to Shinde's rescue
When the House reassembled, Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis said 16 persons had requested then urban development minister Eknath Shinde that as per the 2007 government orders, their layouts were not approved by the government. ‘’The court has not issued strictures but some claims have been made by amicus curiae Anand Parchure before the court. However, the court only requested the state government to submit its response and also asked the state government not to involve any third party in this case. It also asked that status quo be maintained in the land case,” he said.
The urban development department took cognisance of it and asked the NIT about it, he said.
‘’There would have been wrongdoing had Shinde given the plot regularisation orders despite the Justice Gilani committee report being in place. This government does not give costly plots at lower rates to anyone,” Fadnavis said. He added that the case should not be discussed in the House as it is still going on and the court has not given its orders in it.
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