A Gujarat High Court Bench headed by Chief Justice V.M. Sahai has sought replies from 27 Judges (both sitting and retired) of the Court, the state Revenue Department; and the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation among other government agencies, regarding the 2008 allotment of residential plots to sitting and retired judges.
The Court issued notices on a suo motu Public Interest Litigation initiated on the basis of two letters written by Justice B.J. Shethna, former Judge of Gujarat and Rajasthan High Court and another letter written by Justice K.R. Vyas, former Chief Justice, Bombay High Court and former Judge of Gujarat High Court.
Justice Sethna was informed by the Ahmedabad collector that as per the government resolution dated November 6, 2008, “only sitting judges of GHC, the chief justice as well as former judges of GHC who are serving as chief justice or judge in the Supreme Court would be entitled for residential plots.”
His letter reportedly says, “The way in which the resolution in 2008 is passed it speaks volumes about it. It is a big scam. (I) will be glad if the state government orders prosecution against the then collector, Ahmedabad; representatives of AUDA (Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority) and those judges of the High Court who remained present in the informal meeting, before passing of resolution…”
Advocate General for Gujarat, Mr. Kamal B. Trivedi contended before the Bench that it should not hear the matter as the Bench has “developed a perception” in the matter. The Bench was also “desirous and had been interested” in obtaining the said plots, he contended.
The Court however ruled out any such perceptions, as a short enquiry was conducted with regard to the plots. “The anxiety is that justice should be done. Serious complaint has been made in the aforesaid letters and after deliberation with heavy heart, this suo motu PIL has been taken up,” the Bench observed.
Justice R.P. Dholaria however, recused himself from the Bench and Justice Sahai ordered the court office to “take necessary steps today (Monday) so that the matter may come up tomorrow before the bench to be constituted by the Acting Chief Justice.”
One of the issues raised by the Court is whether the condition mentions that plots have to be allotted to the Judges individually though he has to be only a member of Cooperative Housing Society, or the land had to be purchased in favour of Cooperative Society.
It further asked whether the sale deed has been executed by the Government of Gujarat or Collector of Gujarat in the name of Gujarat High Court Judges, Neetibaug Cooperative Housing Society or individually in the name of a Judges. In case it is registered individually in the name of the Judges, then the rationale behind this.
Furthermore, it asked whether the internal development of the total area of land in which the Cooperative Society exists has been carried out by Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation on their expenses, and if yes, then on whose order was this done.
Advocate B.T. Rao raised an objection that the land which has been allotted to Neetibaug Cooperative Housing Society of Sola originally belongs to gauchar land and pond. The Court however refused to look into this matter, till Advocate Rao filed an affidavit.
The Court further directed Senior Counsel N.D. Nanvati to assist it as the amicus curiae.
Read the order here.