‘Deal violated Cantonment property rules, broke original lease terms, went against the intent of a court direction’
Calling for a serious view to be taken on “transgressions” by local military authorities, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), in its latest report, has compared the 8 A Lothian Road case in Pune Camp with the Adarsh scam.
“This is a case similar to Adarsh... demonstrating a pattern whereby persons holding fiduciary responsibility in the Ministry of Defence have betrayed it. The Ministry needs to view such transgressions by local military authorities seriously and take...action,” the report says.
The Indian Express has been extensively reporting on Bungalow No 8A, Lothian Road on 0.96 acres in Pune Cantonment. The row relates to an ‘out of court deal’ struck with a private developer.
The report says the deal violated rules pertaining to Cantonment property, broke the original lease terms as also the intent of a court direction. The report also points out it compromised the interest of the Army.
The land was in 1946 leased to Merwanji Rustom Master and Baimai Rustom Master on renewable terms up to 90 years. The lease plan earmarked 56 per cent of the land for commercial purpose and 44 per cent for residential purpose.
The original lessees sold their rights to Kalpataru Builders in March 1988, who in August the same year sought PCB nod to construct 67 shops and a small residential apartment. PCB referred it to the Defence Estates Office (DEO) which struck down the proposal saying it involved commercial exploitation beyond what the original lease permitted. The DEO decision was seconded by the Director Defence Estates Southern Command, HQSC as well as Army HQ.
The builder moved the Bombay High Court, which dismissed the petition in September 2005, but gave an option to apply to the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GOC-in-C) for permission, but only as per the original lease plan, thereby retaining 44 per cent of the land for residential purposes (for the Army).
Based on the builder’s revised application and after obtaining GOC-in-C approval, the PCB permitted the builder in January 2006 to go ahead with the construction with the condition that 44 per cent of the land be reserved for accommodation of married Army officers. The builder challenged this condition in the Supreme Court, which dismissed his petition in September 2006. In July 2008, Station Commander, HQ Pune Sub Area recommended the GOC-in-C to revoke the approval given in January 2006 to the plan submitted by the builder. In December 2008, HQ Pune Sub Area, however, reversed its own recommendation and suggested that an amicable “out of court” settlement could be arrived at, to withdraw the condition of reservation of 44 per cent area for accommodation for officers.
“The GOC-in-C accepted the suggestion and agreed (December 2008) to withdraw the condition in lieu of three flats, each of minimum area of 1200 sq ft, in Magarpatta city, 7.9 km from the bungalow. Southern Command, by authorising this deal, not only operated outside the framework of CLA Rules, the original terms of lease and the intent of the court’s direction but also seriously compromised the interest of the Army by accepting an inferior property for an incredibly short period in lieu of right to exploit a highly valuable piece of land in prime area of Pune with virtually no limitations on usage,” the report says.
Southern Command officials refused to comment on the report.