Ex-ministers, ex-legislators, ex-bureaucrats unauthorizedly occupy Govt bungalows in J&K

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J&K High Court’s division bench Saturday expressed serious concern over the approach of the Estates department for not vacating the ministerial bungalows and government accommodations from ex-ministers, ex-legislatures and ex-bureaucrats in Jammu and Kashmir.

The division bench has directed the registry to re-notify the instant Public Interest Litigation on December 22, 2020.

Expressing displeasure over the “slackness” over the part of the Estate department in not getting ministerial bungalows and government bungalows vacated from ex-ministers and ex-legislators, the High Court termed “the situation intolerable”. The court directed the Estates department to file a comprehensive affidavit indicating the arrears of rent and electricity charges, water charges, white wash charges, repair and maintenance charges of the government accommodations particularly after demitting their offices within two weeks.

The directions were passed by a division bench comprising Chief Justice Gita Mittal, First Puisne Judge Justice Rajesh Bindal in a PIL filed by Prof S K Bhalla seeking eviction of ex-ministers, ex-MLAs and ex-bureaucrats who were overstaying in the government accommodations.

Lawyer Sheikh Shakeel Ahmad invited the attention of the division bench towards the compliance report filed by Additional Advocate General (AAG) Asim Sawhney wherein in annexure one and two, the Estates department diverted the names of the ex-ministers, ex-MLAs and political activities.

The division bench headed by Chief Justice Gita Mittal in the open court through video conferencing termed the situation “intolerable” and directed the AAGs B A Dar and Aseem Sawhney appearing for the Government of J&K and Estate department to file a comprehensive affidavit indicating the arrears of rent, water, electricity and also amounts spent on renovation, repairs and maintenance particularly for the period of illegal occupation by the ex-Ministers, ex-Legislatures and ex-bureaucrats.

When this PIL came-up for hearing, lawyer Ahmad appearing for the petitioner Prof S K Bhalla submitted that since June 2018, the ex-ministers and ex-legislatures were overstaying in the ministerial bungalows and A-type kothies and that the Estates department had selectively got the accommodations vacated but had not taken serious steps in ensuring the illegal occupants belonging to a particular political party.

Lawyer Ahmad specifically referred to the list of unauthorised occupants furnished by AAG Aseem Sawhney with the status report filed by the Estates Department pursuant to the directions of the division bench dated July 8, 2020.

He referred to sorrel judgments of the apex court wherein it had ruled that after demitting the office, ex-ministers and ex-bureaucrats were not entitled to government accommodation.

He said, “Time-bound directions are required to be issued to the Estates department to ensure the vacation of ministerial bungalows, government accommodations from ex-ministers and ex-bureaucrats.”