In the order, the division bench comprising chief justice N Kotiswar Singh and justice Rajesh Sekhri directed the petitioner’s counsel Sheikh Shakeel Ahmed and senior additional advocate general (AAG) SS Nanda appearing for the estates department to furnish a list of the politicians who own houses in Jammu or Kashmir as mentioned in a status report filed on March 28
A division bench of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh high court on Friday sought details of 48 politicians, who despite having personal houses, continue to occupy ministerial bungalows in twin capital cities of Jammu and Srinagar.
In the order, the division bench comprising chief justice N Kotiswar Singh and justice Rajesh Sekhri directed the petitioner’s counsel Sheikh Shakeel Ahmed and senior additional advocate general (AAG) SS Nanda appearing for the estates department to furnish a list of the politicians who own houses in Jammu or Kashmir as mentioned in a status report filed on March 28.
The estates department, in its status report, had given a list of 48 politicians who were allowed to utilise government accommodation in Jammu and Srinagar . While 23 of these were in Jammu, 25 were in Srinagar.
These directions were passed in the public interest litigation filed by activist SK Bhalla, who flagged unauthorised retention of bungalows by former legislators.
The PIL also seeks appropriate directions to the estates department to ensure the eviction of illegal occupants from the government accommodation in view of the dissolution of the then state assembly in June 2018.
Despite dissolution of the state assembly, the politicians, mostly from the Bharatiya Janata Party, continue to occupy government accommodation.
Sheikh Ahmed, appearing for the petitioner, drew the bench’s attention towards the laws pertaining to the occupancy of government accommodation, particularly the provisions about persons not eligible for allotment of residential accommodation, such as those who own or possess a house in the concerned city or are in default of payment of license fee etc.
On a specific query, advocate SS Ahmed submitted that there are several politicians who have their own houses in Jammu and Srinagar cities and have been allowed to retain the government accommodation.
From the compliance report dated March 28, advocate Ahmed read the names of 48 politicians which included Ghulam Nabi Azad (former CM), Shamsher Singh Manhas (ex-MP), Muzzaffar Hussain Beigh (ex-MP), Chander Mohan Gupta (ex-mayor), Kavinder Gupta (ex-deputy CM), Sunil Sharma (former minister), Ravinder Raina (BJP state president), GM Saroori (ex-MLA), Neelam Langeh (ex-MLA), Daleep Singh Parihar (ex-MLA), Bali Bhagat (former minister), Sat Sharma (former minister), Ravinder Sharma (ex-MLC), Shilpy Verma, Sajjad Gani Lone (ex-MLA), Hakim Mohammad Yaseen (ex-MLA), Sofi Yousaf (ex-MLC), Abdul Majid Paddar (ex-MLA), Vikram Randhawa (ex-MLC), Mohammad Amin Bhat (ex-MLA) and Zafar Iqbal Manhas (ex-MLC).
Advocate SS Ahmed argued that the estates department is adopting dual standards as 200 leaders, including two former CMs, Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah, were evicted in a similar situation.
Advocate SS Ahmed submitted that the bench, vide its judgment on December 26, 2022, held that security assessment and entitlement to government accommodation are two different issues and cannot be intermingled to defeat the process of law.
The division bench while dismissing the application filed by Lal Singh had relied upon a judgment passed by Delhi HC.
The bench after considering the submissions and directed that, “To have a clear picture, the counsel for the petitioner may furnish a list of those politicians, who possess houses in as mentioned in the status report filed on March 28”.
The Division Bench also directed senior AAG SS Nanda to furnish as to whether any of the persons in the aforesaid list has an alternative accommodation in Jammu or in Kashmir.
Advocate SS Ahmed further submitted that many of these persons ex-legislators who have been given accommodation are otherwise not entitled even if they are deemed to be holding the offices.
The next hearing is scheduled for September 25.