Use discretion for poor, apex court tells states

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

NEW DELHI - The Supreme Court Tuesday said state governments should exercise their discretionary power for the poor and not for the rich and well-connected people with political clout.

The apex court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice A.K. Ganguly made the observation while slamming the manner in which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Madhya Pradesh allotted 20 acres of land to a trust named after former BJP president Kushabhau Thakre.

The trust has party leaders L.K. Advani and M. Venkaiah Naidu among its functionaries.

The controversial allotment was made in 2004 by the then BJP government headed by Uma Bharti.

Bhopal-based petitioner NGO Akhil Bhartiya Upbhokta Congress moved the Supreme Court challenging the allotment.

It contended that the land was given to the trust on an annual lease rent of Re.1 where as the collector had assessed the annual lease rent at Rs.58 lakh.

“Unfortunately the beneficiaries by and large have been the affluent and not the poor” and “those with access to power and the corridors of power have benefited”, observed Justice Singhvi.

When BJP’s senior counsel Ravi Shankar Prasad contended that the poor too benefited from it, the court said: “Not for charity but for political purposes ahead of elections.”

Responding to the courts observation that state governments were favouring the rich and there was an all around decline in the standards of governance, Prasad said: “Even this court is not what it was in the 50s (1950s).”

The court also took exception to the manner in which state government officials tried to hold back information from it.

“Your mischievous officers are misleading the court,” the court said.

The court said that it could summon the secretary concerned to appear before the court to explain the conduct of the officers in misleading the court.

The court said that when a file is summoned then it had to be produced as it is and should not be trimmed.

Reserving the order, the court directed the production of original file before it.

Appearing for the trust, senior counsel Ranjit Kumar said that a trust could apply for the allotment of land even if it was not registered. He said that there was no wrongdoing in the matter.

He said that a public notice was issued before the land was allotted. He pleaded that the allotment should not be cancelled and if there was some irregularity then the trust could be made to pay a fine.

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