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    Allocation of govt bungalows to ex-CMs: HC junks review pleas of Koshiyari, Bahuguna

    Synopsis

    The high court earlier in December last year had declared illegal the allocation of government accommodations to all former chief ministers after their tenures were over.

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    DEHRADUN: The Uttarakhand High Court on Wednesday dismissed a plea by two former chief ministers of the state to review its order asking them to pay rents at market rates for the entire period of their stay in the government accommodations allocated to them after their chief ministership.

    A bench of Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan and Justice R C Khulbe turned down the pleas by former Uttarakhand chief ministers Bhagat Singh Koshiyari and Vijay Bahuguna, saying their pleas were "devoid of merit" and "not legally sustainable".

    The high court earlier in December last year had declared illegal the allocation of government accommodations to all former chief ministers after their tenures were over.

    The high court December order had followed on a "public interest litigation" by a Dehradun-based NGO.

    Following the high court's December order, all former chief ministers of the state had vacated the government's accommodations allocated to them in their capacities as the former head of the state's executive.

    But the NGO had later moved the court insisting upon recovery of rent from all chief ministers at the market rate for the entire period of their stay in the government -allocated bungalows after their chief ministership.

    Acceding to the NGO's plea, the court in May this year had ordered recovery of rents from all former chief ministers at the market rate.

    The order was effective retrospectively, making all former chief ministers liable to pay rents at the market rate for the entire period that they had stayed in the government -allocated bungalows after their chief ministership.

    It was against this order that Koshiyari and Bahuguna had approached the court.

    “The time taken in the review proceedings will not affect the duration of six months from the date of the order (May 3, 2019) within which the respondents were directed to pay rent dues as per market rate," said Kartikeya Hari Gupta, the counsel for the NGO.

    Both of the former chief ministers had argued before the court that before computing the rent dues, they should have been heard by the state.

    Countering their argument, Gupta told the court that this ground was completely false and baseless as their counsel were not only heard but specifically asked during the arguments if they wanted to reply on the computation of rent.

    None of the counsel disputed the amount of rent at that time, argued Gupta, adding this make them ineligible to take up this argument in review pleas.

    The counsel for Vijay Bahuguna sought to justify his client's stay in the government-allocated bungalows after his chief ministership, arguing that he had been a judge of the Bombay High Court, besides being a former MLA and MP.

    The court, however, said past services as a high court judge or an MLA or MP cannot be a ground for allotment of palatial bungalows as former chief minister.

    Some of the former chief ministers of the state affected by the court order include late N D Tiwari, Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, B C Khanduri, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank and Vijay Bahuguna.
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