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Maha CM Shinde Denies Wrongdoing, Says Allotment Cancelled After HC Order

Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde on Tuesday refuted allegations of any wrongdoing as the urban development minister in the previous dispensation while allotting government land in Nagpur as the Opposition sought to corner him over the issue after a Bombay High Court order.

Speaking in the Assembly, Shinde said when the matter came to him as an appellate authority, he did not pass any order to reduce or increase the rate of the land in question and insisted that the price be charged as per existing government rules.

Shinde said when the last week’s HC order was brought to his notice, he cancelled his land allotment order dated April 20, 2021 (when he was urban development minister in the MVA government).

“I did not misuse my power as the urban development minister (in the erstwhile Maha Vikas Aghadi govermnent). I have also not interfered in any court order,” he said.

The chief minister currently handles the urban development department among several other portfolios.

The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court has ordered status quo on a decision taken by Shinde, when he was the urban development minister, allotting land meant for slum dwellers to private persons.

A division bench of Justices Sunil Shukre and M W Chandwani, in its order passed on December 14, noted that the court since 2004 has been monitoring the land allotments made by the Nagpur Improvement Trust (NIT) to politicians and other i influential individuals.

This was after a petition was filed by Nagpur-based social activist Anil Wadpalliwar, alleging the NIT, which comes under the urban development department, gave away land to politicians and others at meagre rates.

Elaborating further in the Assembly, Shinde said when the matter was brought to him, neither the NIT nor the person who appealed to him in the case apprised that there was a court order pending.

He said the matter pertains to 49 layouts in Nagpur and they were regularised in 2007 as per a government decision. In 2009, a decision was taken whether people should be asked to pay as per ready reckoner rate or ‘guntha’ (a land measuring parameter).

In 2015, 34 layouts were approved. The 35th layout had 16 plots which is currently the bone of contention, said the chief minister.

When an allottee approached the NIT with regards to the 35th layout, the chairman of the local planning authority asked him (the allotte) to pay as per ‘guntha’, but the next chairman told him to pay as per ready reckoner rates, he said.

Ready reckoner rates are standard prices of residential property, land or commercial property for a given area.

“When the matter came to me as an appeal, I passed an order that the norm applied to the 34 (previous) layouts as per a 2007 order of the government should also be applied to the appealing party (for the 35th layout),” Shinde said.

He said 3,000 people have built their houses in these 34 layouts.

Shinde said on December 14, his office received a communication that the High Court had passed an order asking the state government to submit a response in this matter.

The chief minister said the court in 2017 had appointed a committee under Justice Gilani to look into plot allotments by NIT, which later submitted its report.

“When I took a decision (on land allotment), there was no stay from any court. Neither the NIT nor the one (allottee) who was appealing did not bring it to my notice. So I was not aware of it (the committee),” Shinde said.

“So my order was to take a decision as per the government order of 2007 which was applied to 34 layouts,” he added.

After the High Court order was brought to his notice, Shinde said he cancelled his order dated April 20, 2021 (taken as urban development minister).

“We have not interfered in any court order,” he asserted.

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