Overstaying in official bungalows by former ministers, ex-MPS and retired bureaucrats has again come under judicial scrutiny with Supreme Court on Friday seeking Centre's response on the issue which was brought to its notice by former CAG Vinod Rai.
A bench headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha took suo motu cognisance of a letter written by Rai who annexed a news report of a national daily alleging that 22 former Union ministers and retired bureaucrats are illegally occupying government accommodation. The bench also appointed senior advocate Shyam Divan as amicus curiae to assist the court in the matter.The news report published on May 8 named former ministers Lalu Prasad, A Raja, S M Krishna, Mukul Roy, Pawan Kumar Bansal, Subodh Kant Sahai, Mukul Wasnik, Harish Rawat and others as illegal occupiers of ministerial bungalows.
The list of illegal occupiers was given by government in response to a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by an activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal.
The reply under RTI said Raja resigned as minister in November 2010 but retained bungalow 2-A, Moti Lal Nehru Marg. The report said Maran relinquished the post of Union minister in July 2011, Bansal resigned in May 2013, and Krishna has not been in the Union Cabinet since October 2012 - but all occupied Type VII or Type VII category houses.
The unauthorised occupation of government accommodation is in violation of apex court's last year verdict delivered on July 7 in which it had allowed authorities to use "reasonable force" for their eviction. It had also set a time-frame--up to two months-- for the people concerned to vacate the official accommodation after the end of their entitlement period. "If as per the Estate officer the occupant's case is not genuine not more than 15 days time should be granted and thereafter reasonable force as per Section(5)(@) of the Act may be used," the court had said.
"It is unfortunate that the employees, officers, representatives of people and other high dignitaries continue to stay in the residential accommodation provided by the Government of India though they are no longer entitled to such accommodation," it had said. It had said that MPs, ministers and bureaucrats should immediately leave their premises after demiting office but the occupant can be given a extension of not more than 30 days if his reason to occupy the premises is genuine. In case of member of judiciary, a judge has to leave the premises within 30 days after retirement which can be extended for another month.