The Patna High Court Tuesday struck down provisions whereby former chief ministers of Bihar were allotted government bungalows for lifetime, holding that extension of benefits after demitting office reflects a government by the lawmakers "unto themselves".
A division bench comprising Chief Justice A P Sahi and Justice Anjana Mishra passed the order with the direction that all the allottees under the aforesaid provisions vacate the premises allotted to them, unless they are otherwise entitled to retain the same under any other law of allotment in force in the state.
"The apostle of modern India Mahatma Gandhi and one of his apostles, Lal Bahadur Shastri are examples who believed that democracy meant a government of the people, by the people and for the people. In the present case, the extension of benefits after demitting office reflects a government by the lawmakers unto themselves," the court remarked.
"There is no provision in the Constitution that... an elected representative can claim or ask for a price after he demits office. A claim of this nature reflects as if it is something parasitical. It is a legacy of a continued red carpet treatment riding rough shod over law," it observed.
The court had taken suo motu cognizance of the impugned provisions last month, while dismissing a petition filed by Leader of Opposition in the state assembly Tejashwi Yadav, who had challenged the state government's order for vacating the bungalow he had been allotted as the deputy CM, a post he ceased to hold since August 2017.
Yadav went on to challenge the high court order before the Supreme Court, which directed him to vacate the bungalow and slapped a fine of Rs 50,000, reprimanding the RJD leader for indulging in a "luxury of litigation".
The high court, meanwhile, treated the matter of allotment of bungalows to former CMs, to which its attention was drawn in the course of hearing on Yadav's petition, as a public interest litigation, and delivered its verdict in the light of the apex court judgement of 2018 on a similar facility extended to former chief ministers in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh.
Earlier last month, following the court's intervention in the matter, a bungalow that had been occupied by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar since the brief period in 2014-15 when he had stepped down as the CM, was allotted to the chief secretary.
Meanwhile, former chief minister and Hindustani Awam Morcha founder Jitan Ram Manjhi, during whose 10-month tenure the provision was introduced, reacted to the court order, saying, "I hail from a poor family and would have no great trouble in vacating a bungalow allotted by the government. However, I have been an MLA for several terms and the government may, if it deems it proper, provide me with an accommodation."
Another prominent leader affected by Tuesday's order is Tejashwi Yadav's mother Rabri Devi, who, however, currently is also the leader of the opposition in the state legislative council.
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