Illegal 'educational land' in Maharashtra: HC seeks state govt's reply

The Bombay High Court has directed the Maharashtra government to file a reply by 23 August to a public interest litigation case alleging that former ministers including Chhagan Bhujbal, Patangrao Kadam, Narayan Rane and Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, had misused their position to get land from authorities at cheap rates to set up educational institutions.

The direction was announced by Justices Naresh Patil and S B Sukare on 5 August after they heard the petition filed by by the Maharashtra coordinator of the Bahujan Samaj Party, Hemant Patil, on the basis of a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report.

The court had earlier asked the ministers concerned, along with educational institutions, to file affidavits in reply. The respondents denied in affidavits the allegations that they bought land at cheap rates from government.

The court also directed Manjra Education Trust set up by former chief minister late Vilasrao Deshmukh to reply to the PIL making a similar allegation of procuring land at a throwaway price for setting up the educational institution.

After Deshmukh's death, the HC had ordered that his name be deleted though Manjra Education Trust, floated by him, continues to be a respondent.

Former state agriculture minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil denied allegations levelled in the PIL that government land had been allotted to the educational institution 'Vikhe Pratishthan' at a price much below market rates.

 An affidavit filed by 'Vikhe Pratishthan' said Vikhe Patil was not a trustee of this institution and termed as "baseless" the allegations in the PIL. "The land was allotted to this institution in keeping with a government notification of June 21, 1988, which had offered plots at low prices for schools not having playgrounds. No rules have been violated in giving land to Vikhe Pratishthan," the affidavit said.

Another former minister Patangrao Kadam, who was among the respondents, had filed an affidavit earlier. denying favours received from Maharashtra government in getting land at cheap rates for setting up educational trusts.

He said land for his Bharati Vidyapeeth Trust in Pune was obtained from the state government as per rules and there was no illegality involved. "All rules had been strictly followed," the affidavit claimed, terming the PIL's allegations as "false".

"The PIL is politically motivated and should be dismissed with costs since the allegations were totally false," Kadam's affidavit said. Maharashtra Coordinator of BSP, Hemant Patil, on the basis of a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report.