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PIL: Public property could not be allotted in an arbitrary and opaque manner: J&K High Court

Today, in a landmark judgement the Division Bench of the J&K High Court headed by the Chief Justice, Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Rajnesh Oswal quashed the illegal / arbitrary allotment of 8 municipal flats situated at Gandhi Nagar, Jammu which had been allotted by Jammu Municipal Corporation on pick and choose basis to its ex-officers and some private individuals.

The landmark judgment came in a PIL filed by a practising Lawyer of J&K High Court Irtiza Mushtaq Salaria in which he had challenged the illegal allotment of Municipal flats in favour of various ex-officers by virtue of various allotment orders. He had also sought the eviction of the private respondents from the Municipal flats situated at Gandhi Nagar, Jammu and prayed for the recovery of the rent at the market value. In his petition, he also prayed before the Hon’ble High Court to direct the Anti-corruption Bureau to register an FIR under section 5(2) of the J&K Prevention of Corruption Act.

Mr. Sheikh Shakeel Ahmed, counsel for the petitioner vehemently argued that the Municipal Corporation has adopted a pick and choose policy while allotting municipal flats/quarters to the blue eyed persons of the Municipality. He further argued that the Municipal assets being a public property could not have distributed in such a manner and rather the allotments were required to be made by auction by inviting the participation of the comClick here to download the Judgmentmon public so far as the allotment of private persons are concerned.

The Division Bench observed that the record produced by the respondents evidently shows that that allotments were made to its officers, other Government servants and the private persons just on their asking and there was no policy for the allotment of the flats/quarters. No advertisement was ever issued for the purpose of inviting applications for allotment of flats/quarters so as to enable other eligible persons to participate in the allotment process. Rather no procedure was followed by the respondent No. 3 in allotment of Municipal Assets.

Allotments are illegal and contrary to principle of equality as enshrined in Article 14 of the constitution of India, the Bench said.

The Division Bench while allowing the petition quashed the allotments as well as rent agreements executed in favour of the illegal allottees. The Division Bench further directed that the illegal allottees be evicted within a period of 6 months from the date of order.

With regard to 587 municipal shops, 191 municipal flats and 30 number of garages, the Division Bench further directed the JMC to proceed in this matter in accordance with law and as per the Judgements of the Apex Court referred in this case and action be initiated within a period of 6 months and further extendable by another 6 months only.

The illegal allottees whose allotments have been quashed include Jeet Lal Gupta (IAS) former Comm. / Secy. To Govt. of J&K, Housing and Urban Development Department; R.S. Jamwal (KAS) former Joint Commissioner (Adm) JMC; Madan Mohan Khajuria, Ex-P.A. to Commissioner JMC; Narender Sharma, President PEACE (NGO); Surinder Kumar, P.S.O. to former Comm. / Secy. To Govt. of J&K, Housing and Urban Development Department; Balbir Singh (Driver, SUDA); Bharat Bhushan (Driver, JMC); Chain Singh and Kharati Lal.

Counsel appearing for the parties:
Advocate Sheikh Shakeel Ahmed and Advocate Supriya Singh Chouhan, appeared for the petitioner.
Senior AAG S.S. Nanda, Senior Advocates U.K. Jalali, R.K. Gupta, Abhinav Sharma, Advocates S.K. Anand, Adarsh Sharma, Ajay Bakshi, Sachin Gupta, Uday Bhaskar and K.K. Jandial appeared for the respondents.