Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Cuttack, May 14:
The hearing on the PIL filed jointly by Delhi-based NGO Commoncause and Jayanti Das in the Odisha High Court questioning the arbitrary allocation of plots by the Housing & Urban Development department of the Odisha government to sitting judges, IAS and IPS officers as well as other influential persons, which was listed for the day, will be taken up by the court on 26 June, the counsel of the petitioners Sunil Mathews said today.
After a brief, introductory hearing today, during which the Delhi-based lawyer Mathews apprised the court of the gravity of the matter raised in the PIL, the Chief Justice of the Odisha High Court Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel ruled that the hearing would take place at the earliest possible date after the summer vacation i.e. June 26.
The PIL was originally filed by eminent lawyer Prashant Bhushan on behalf of Commoncause in the Supreme Court. However, the court had advised the petitioners to move the Odisha High Court in the matter.
The PIL raises crucial questions about the lack of a well defined policy and guideline as well as transparency in the allotment of land and houses from the discretionary quota, Mathews said.
According to the lawyer, the petitioners have drawn the attention of the court to instances of malpractice and grossly arbitrary allocation of government plots and land to judges, senior government officials and other influential individuals on the basis of suo motu request letters written, under their hand and seal, by the beneficiaries.
They have also pointed out that the whole exercise was done in a clandestine manner without the knowledge of the people at large and in gross violation of Article 14 of the Constitution as well as relevant court judgements in the matter, he said.
” There was no policy, no advertisements were issued and everything was decided by the departmental minister’s discretion. We will present important earlier judgements of the Punjab High Court and even the Odisha High Court to bolster our argument that it was indeed a shady and highly objectionable practice,” Matthews told OST over phone.
However, there is a view that such practice has been in vogue not only in Odisha but in the other states for years because there is no established or uniform procedure or law yet that applies to the country as a whole in such matters.
In Bhubaneswar, for instance, where government is the landlord, all the plots in the residential areas of the city were allotted to people purely on the basis of discretion until the BRIT and later the BDA came into existence. Legal experts say, there is a great need for an Act which would decide once for all the law, guideline and procedures that would apply to all allotments of government land, housing plots and houses,
It may be noted here that the state government has abolished the system of discretionary quota for allotment of plots and houses in December 2012 after it kicked up a huge controversy.