The directions laid down by the court sheds light on the illegal occupancy of legislators and ministers that overstay their accommodation, long after stepping down from their respective positions. In an attempt to observe the rights and duties of individuals, the HC’s observations intend to make a change reports SAIKEERTHI.
THE JAMMU AND KASHMIR High Court has issued directions to the Chief Secretary and the Estates Department of J&K to take “all possible steps for ensuring eviction of illegal/unauthorized occupants”. This includes former ministers and politicians as well as retired officers and legislators.
According to the judgement given in the State of KH & Anr versus Mir Saifullah, a total of 74 former ministers, legislators, retired officers, politicians and political persons are still occupying Ministerial Bungalows and Special Houses in Srinagar and Jammu beyond their allotment period.
Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey and Justice Vinod Chatterji Koul laid out the directions to point out that illegal occupancy by government authorities exploit their entitlement and is illegal. These observations came in a suo motu case put forward by the court to specifically address this issue.
The bench also expressed displeasure at ministers/legislators/retired officers who continued to occupy residential accommodation illegally.
“We wish to observe that it is unfortunate that some former Ministers/ Legislators/ Retired Officers/ Politicians/ Political persons, etc., have illegally/ unauthorizedly managed to continue to stay in the residential accommodation provided to them by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, though they are no longer entitled to such accommodation”, the bench said.
The Division Bench stated that unauthorized occupants must recognise that their rights and duties are co-relative and if ignored, would interfere with the rights and duties of another person. The bench also stated that no law can in its entirety control non-compliance and that there must be a sense of self-realization among the illegal occupants.
Directions were given to authorities to also ensure recovery of rental arrears from the occupants during their authorized or unauthorized occupation of the accommodation.
Furthermore, the court stated that natural resources and public lands and goods belong to the people of the country. It stated that the Doctrine of Equality be maintained and be used to guide the State in the distribution of lands and accommodation.
The judgement also stresses on two other Supreme Court cases namely, S.D. Bandi versus Divisional Traffic Officer (2013) and Lok Prahari versus State of Uttar Pradesh and Ors (2016). The latter dismissed an amendment made under the Uttar Pradesh state law that allowed former Chief Ministers to occupy government bungalows.
(Saikeerthi is a final year journalism student at Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication, Pune, and an intern with The Leaflet)