The Madhya Pradesh government led by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan allotted more than 7 acres of land under the Bhopal Municipal Area in 2008 to a co-operative society formed by judges and another 17 acres to journalists at throw away prices.
Interestingly, the allotment order issued to a group of Judges in May 2006, mentioned that the land will be given as per the market rate fixed according to the Collector Guideline of Bhopal .The market price at that time according to the Collector Guideline was Rs 4500 per square metre, but actually was given away at just Rs 600 per square metre resulting in a loss of more than Rs 95 crores to the state exchequer.
By Md. Hizbullah
The Madhya Pradesh government led by the Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had allotted land to the powerful and the high and mighty people, with the sole aim of gratifying them. Serious anomalies have come to light in the case of three cooperative societies, one for judges and two for journalists. The total loss in revenue accrues to Rs 95 crores in land allotments. Interestingly, on the land allotted to the judges in 2007, a legal battle is on about its ownership in the MP High Court and a title suit is pending since 2002. Several laws were flouted by the MP government to give a four time discount on the actual land price.
According to the documents available, the registered address of the cooperative society for the judges as provided in the lease deed, does not exist. However, other documents prove that yearly audit of the society has been done at the ‘fake’ office premises.
According to an RTI reply by the government, Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led BJP state government allotted more than seven acres of land, in 2007, to a co-operative society formed by the judges. The land, which according to the Collector Guideline (a guideline made by government authorities fixing price of land in MP) was priced at Rs 4000 per square metre, was given just for Rs 600 per square metre. It resulted in a huge loss to the state exchequer, amounting to over Rs 15 crores rupees.
In 1999, some retired and sitting judges formed a co-operative society in Bhopal.
On December 29, 2003, the vice president of the society, Lala Ram Meena, who was a judge in the lower court, wrote a letter to the then Chief Minister Uma Bharti requesting her to allot eight acres of land to the co-operative society for residential purposes. At that time Uma Bharti did not heed to the request. However, in 2006-07, when Shivraj Singh Chouhan took over as the CM, he allotted around 7.39 acres of prime land, on National Highway 12, to the society named Nyayadheesh Grih Nirman Sehkari Sanstha. It is situated at a prime position, at Bawaria Kala village, under the Bhopal Municipal Corporation.
Furthermore, the title of land allotted to the society is under dispute. A legal battle is on about its ownership in the MP High Court. Its title has been under dispute from 2002. A legal case continues in the courts – first, at the lower court and subsequently, in the high court, where it is being contested, since 2008.
According to the law, a tract of disputed land, whose title is not clear, cannot be allotted, especially when the matter is subjudice.
Chouhan and his cronies not only allotted the land but also executed a lease deed in favour of the co-operative society. It even gave the possession of the land to the said society.
The co-operative society, Nyayadheesh Griha Nirman Sehkari Sanstha, Bhopal, was meant for the judges, who were posted in various courts of Madhya Pradesh and had no residential property in the state.
The society was registered in 1999 by deputy commissioner/ registrar of co-operative society, Bhopal. Its registration number is 823/99. Initially, the society’s address was Bhopal district court campus, Shahajanabad, Bhopal. However, after 2004, the society registered address was changed to Bhopal district court, Arera Hills, Bhopal. According to the available documents, there is no such society at the given address.
When registered letters were sent on this address, these were returned, with a note, ‘there is no such society or person by that name’. When the district registrar of the co-operative society was contacted on December 31, 2013, he sent a letter No. 2844. He confirmed that there is no such society at the given address. On October 17, 2013, even the district court Bhopal confirmed that no such permission had been granted for any office to function from that place.
In 2006, through a cabinet decision, the Chouhan-led MP government had allotted the disputed land for judges who did not had any residential property in Bhopal. When the land was allotted and the lease deed executed, the land cost, according to the Collector Guideline was Rs. 4500 per square meter. Through a cabinet decision, the state government had allotted the land on a minimum request rate of Rs. 600 per square meter. No reasons were cited for lowering the rate to benefit the judges.
It is worth pointing out that according to the allotment order letter No. F-6-20/04/07-2b, in May 2006, it was mentioned that the land will be given as per the market rate fixed according to the Collector Guideline. It clearly means that there would be no rebate on the land rate. But, when the land was allotted to the society, a discount of almost four times of the market rate was given.
The value of this land works out to about Rs. 14 crores. It might have been given at 60 per cent of the total value, as per the provisions of the Collector Guideline that fixes the price of land in Madhya Pradesh, according to its importance. This would have resulted in a collection of around Rs. 8.50 crores from the land leased for the state exchequer. But the land was given only for a measly sum of Rs. 1.15 crores. It resulted in a loss of more than Rs. 7 crores.
If the land had been allotted at the government proposed rate of Rs. 8.50 crores, then the state exchequer might have benefitted Rs 41 lakh per annum, for 30 years, as lease rent. Now, the society has to pay just Rs. 5 lakh per annum, resulting in a huge loss of Rs. 15 crore, in total. All this was possible due to the blessings of Chouhan.
Interestingly, according to the Collector Guideline 2013-14, the land now costs Rs 24,000 per square meter, an almost six-time increase over the 2007 price. What was the need for such a high valued land, at prime location, to be given away dirt cheap, to the judges?
Piquantly, the Chouhan-led BJP government has now deleted the name of Nyayadheesh Grih Nirman Sahakari Samiti from the online Collector Guideline list. It is actually the detailed list made by collector Bhopal, registrar of assurance and revenue minister, deciding the stamp duty to be paid upon the land acquired by the society.
Moreover, the chief minister’s men also failed to check the credentials of the co-operative society before allotting the said land, raising serious suspicions. When the society was registered, it had 21 founder members and all were supposed to be judges and heir family members.
Three persons among the founder members were not judges. However, they successfully managed to wangle in the list of beneficiaries. One of the members, Mukesh Kumar Lawariya, runs a private business. He was barely only 18 years old, in 1999, and had passed class 12. Rajesh Chouhan, a school dropout, was a tailor by profession. The third founder member, Ravi Tripathi, was an agriculturist. He was studying MBBS and was just 19 years old then.
In fact, Mukesh’s father is Narain Singh Lawariya, a district court judge who was then posted in Bhopal. Rajesh’s elder sister Justice Usha Gedam was a judge in MP, while Ravi father is Justice Radhey Shyam Tripathi. It’s a case of nepotism, with two sons and one brother of judges figuring in the founder member’s list.
Currently, the cooperative society, meant exclusively for the judges has 160 members. Interestingly, the president of the Judges’ society is not a judge. He is an advocate, Santosh Kumar Meena. Interestingly, Meena is the district president of the co-operative unit of the Bhartiya Janata Party. The second member, who is not from the judges’ fraternity, is Shardendu Tiwari, son of PP Tiwari, who is a retired Chief Information Commissioner of Madhya Pradesh. Shardendu is also a state secretary of Bhartiya Janata Party He contested the assembly elections, in 2013, which he lost.
Another member Justice Chandresh Bhushan was then a retired judge of MP High Court was appointed to head a Special Investigation Team overseeing an enquiry into Vyapam . His family owns a residential plot at Vidyanagar, Bhopal.
As per as the MP co-operative law, only one member of a family, can be a member in a co-operative society. But in the case until recently a legal advisor to the lokayukta and now a district court judge, as well as her husband, Akhilesh Agarwal, the chief engineer of Madhya Pradesh’s public-works Department, and has nothing to do with the beneficiary judges. Several of the 160 members have their own residential properties.
As per the present list of members of the co-operative society, the addresses of a number of judges has been shown as civil court Bhopal, including that of the society president, Santosh Kumar Meena, and Shardendu Tiwari, who are advocates. It is worthwhile to mention here that there are no residential quarters in civil court Bhopal.
The most pertinent question is that how the lease deed was executed on the address that does not exist? How was the registration of the lease deed done and how yearly audit and inspection of records were being conducted for a non- existent office? Was it the diktat of the CM that might have forced the officials to turn a blind eye to all these.
Documents available with us include the lease deed and the audit reports.
If this was not all, the MP government under Chief Minister Chouhan also allotted two societies to journalists in MP, in 2008 with 21 members each at that time. The societies, Rajhadhani Patrakar Grih Nirman Sahakari Samiti, Bhopal and Abhivyakti Grih Nirman Sahakari Samiti, Bhopal, have also been allotted land in similar fashion, flouting all rules and regulations. Presently, in total there are more than 300 beneficiaries in both the societies.
The Rajdhani Samiti was allotted 12 acres of land, on March 18, 2008, while the lease deed was executed in 2010. Just like the co-operative society for the judges, the society belonging to the journalists were also awarded plos at lowest rate of Rs 600 per square meter, while the applicable rate was Rs 6000 per square meter. Similarly, Abhivakti Samiti was awarded 6.50 acre of land, at the same minimum rate of Rs 600 per square meter, while the market rate of the land then was Rs 8000 per square meter. Land of Rs 40 crore was given for around Rs. 5 crore and if 5 per cent lease rent is calculated for 30 years the loss to the state exchequer is around Rs 80 crores.
The list of members, available with us, prove that in some cases name of the husband appears on the list of beneficiaries of one society, while the name of the wife appears in the list of the other society. In some cases, same names appear on both the lists. It clearly indicates that some persons got land through both the co-operative societies. Family members of people working in the public relation office and state government departments have also been allotted land in the societies meant only for journalists Many persons in the list own property in MP.
The CAG audit report civil for the year ended March 31, 2011, in table number 2.5 has raised objections on the allotment but no action were initiated either to make up the losses or to scrap the allotments. After all, why should anyone bother when Chouhan, the CM, gives a signal.
When the society got registered there was a law that a person can only apply for residential plot if he or she does not own a residential land in MP. Interestingly, the rule was amended later and the rule now says that a person should not have the property in the district where he or she is applying. It’s an amendment made by the BJP government, seemingly without reason. Anyone can smell a rat in these allotments.
Another amendment that was made in the Co-operative Act is that a person can now sell of the plot after three years of acquiring it. Earlier, it was 10 years.
In collaboration with Cobrapost