The Bombay High Court on Thursday dismissed a PIL challenging the allotment of land to two societies — Nyay Sagar and Siddhant — reserved for housing judges of the higher judiciary. The court observed the state government had followed the norms and procedures laid down in the allotment of land to the societies in Bandra (East). The court had reserved its judgment in the PIL filed by activist Nitin Deshpande on October 10. Deshpande had alleged that the government extended undue favours to Nyay Sagar and Siddhant Housing Societies formed by sitting judges of the Bombay High Court. “The plot was reserved for dishoused (sic) persons but the revenue department illegally issued a resolution changing the reservation,” he stated in his PIL.
The court was not convinced by Deshpande’s contentions. Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice R V More observed, “There was no haste in allotment of land to the societies. We reject the contention of the petitioner. The allotment was in accordance with rules.”
The court said it is not illegal for sitting judges to lease the flats allotted to them in the society. Chief Justice Shah said contrary to the perception, judges work much beyond court hours. A judge has to read case papers and law books to understand a matter before him, he said, adding that the official quarters are allotted to sitting judges in the vicinity of the High Court so that a judge does not waste time traveling from his suburban home to south Mumbai, where the HC is located. Deshpande had claimed that the state favoured the judges’ housing societies and the then Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh used his discretionary power in granting more than 700 sq m of FSI, which is not justified by any rules or guidelines framed by the government.
In the Nyay Sagar society comprising 16 flats, he claimed that some of the four-bedroom flats have an area of up to 2,000 sq ft, while the area of flats on government land is restricted to 1,076 sq ft. If the area, Deshpande’s affidavit states, was used for housing the dishoused as per the original sanction plan, 97 flats of 225 sq ft could have been constructed.
He added that the government also relaxed the condition of 15 years of residence in Mumbai, mandatory for allotment on government land, for judges who hail from other states.