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HC irked over waste of taxpayers money to remove encroachers from govt land

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Press Trust of India New Delhi
Displeased over "wastage" of nearly Rs 83 crore of "taxpayers money" to remove squatters from government flats at Sanjay Basti here, the Delhi High Court Wednesday directed the Centre to initiate prosecution against the CPWD officers who have allowed the encroachment to go on since 1977.
A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar pulled up the Urban Development Ministry and the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) for not being able to protect government land from encroachers, saying it has led to taxpayers money being paid to squatters as compensation for removing them.
"You could not protect your own land and now you are paying nearly Rs 83 crore to remove encroachers. It is not a small amount. This is how taxpayers money is being used? Your officers closed their eyes to the encroachment. Why should the amount be not deducted from their salary," the court said, adding that "prima facie connivance of CPWD officers was indicated".
It ordered that departmental enquiry be initiated against the erring CPWD officials and directed the ministry to file an affidavit indicating the action taken before the next date of hearing on August 30.
The court was hearing a plea which has claimed that the encroached flats at Sanjay Basti in north east Delhi were initially constructed for class 4 government employees, but in 1977 they were to be demolished as they were in a dilapidated state.
However, the contractor who was given the work of demolishing them, set up shop there and allowed squatters to reside in the flats which were also rebuilt, the petition has said.
Noting the submission made in the petition, the bench said encroachers were residing in the flats meant for class 4 government employees.
"What if someone comes and lives in your (CPWD) director's bungalow? You would immediately throw their belongings on the road. But since it is class 4 employees accommodation, it is allowed to be used by encroachers. This is too much. The petitioner is right, it is going on with your (CPWD) connivance. Are the encroachers paying rent to your department," the court said.
The bench further said that had the dilapidated flats collapsed, the ministry would have been paying much more than Rs 83 crore as compensation to the victims.
It also told the CPWD and the ministry, represented by central government standing counsel Ripudaman Bhardwaj and advocate T P Singh, that a status report filed by them stated that the flats were sealed in December 2017. "So how did the encroachers come there," the court asked.
In response, Bhardwaj said the seals were broken by the squatters, to which the bench said, "Then why pay compensation of Rs 83 crore?

"You withhold small increments to your employees, but you are willing to pay such huge amounts to encroachers. You should pay the Rs 83 crore to your class 4 employees," the court said and added that the CPWD officials should "start doing their work or go home".

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First Published: Jul 31 2019 | 6:20 PM IST

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