Chhagan Bhujbal and his family have been using the Mumbai Educational Trust (MET) building at Bandra Reclamation as their personal property, MET founder trustee and vice-chairman Sunil Karve has alleged.
Karve has lodged a complaint with the commissioner of police alleging misappropriation of trust funds to the tune of Rs179 crore by the PWD minister, who is also a trustee.
MET was established in 1989 by Bhujbal and Karve. The complex was set up at Bandra Reclamation on a land leased from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation on the condition that it would be used for educational purposes.
According to the complaint filed by his advocate Sayaji Nangre, the trust was set up with the tacit understanding that Bhujbal would contribute in terms of arranging funds and Karve would look after the academic development.
Bhujbal got his wife Meena, son Pankaj and nephew Sameer appointed as trustees; they have also been given unconstitutional powers for signing vouchers, sanctioning payments with regard to MET, claims the complaint.
The entire eighth floor of the property measuring approximately 15,000 sq ft has been converted into ‘IDEEN furniture’ promoted by Bhujbal’s daughters-in-law Vishakha and Shefali. If leased, this area will fetch a rent of about Rs30 lakh a month. Neither the rent nor the interest, which Bhujbal had promised, has been paid, said Nangre.
The 10th floor of the building, which has a terrace garden, is being used by Bhujbal as residence since 2005.
The building is also being used for private celebrations and political conferences. “The conference and convention centres are frequently used for these purposes and the trust has to bear the expenses,” alleges the complaint. “Even the electricity bill of Bhujbal’s residence is paid from the trust funds.”
When the trust decided to expand outside Mumbai, Bhujbal insisted on setting up a campus at Nashik and not Pune, as recommended by Karve. He also rejected naming the Nashik campus after social reformer and educationist Mahatma Jyotiba Phule or after the mother of the highest donor who gave Rs25 crore to the campus. Instead, it was named Bhujbal Knowledge City, states the complaint.
Karve has also approached the charity commissioner and filed an application under section 41(d) of the Bombay Public Trust Act for revocation of the Bhujbals’ trusteeship.