Jammu and Kashmir High Court: The Division Bench of Vinod Chatterji Koul and Ali Mohammad Magrey, JJ., had heard the instant PIL, directed to be registered by the Court on its own motion in terms State of J&K v. Mir Saifullah, CM No.4613 of 2020. The instant petition was regarding unauthorized/ illegal occupation of Government accommodation by the erstwhile allottees in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Court had issued a notice to State directing it to file the details of properties/ official accommodations which were under illegal occupation of the erstwhile allottees including ex-Ministers/ ex-Legislators/ Bureaucrats in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Pursuant to which the Estates Department, had filed the action taken report on 26-11-2020. According to the report:
“5. Many former ministers/ legislators/ retired officers/ politicians/political persons vacated Government accommodation after department served them notices, however, 74 of them are still occupying the Ministerial Bungalows/ Special Houses beyond the period of their allotment.
- That the respondents have already given final eviction notices/ orders to all the illegal occupants.
- That besides above the Department has recovered rent of rupees 47,65,906 from illegal occupants w.e.f. February, 2020 to till date.”
Noticing that the government of Jammu and Kashmir was in the process of evicting the illegal/ unauthorized occupants in tune with the mandate of law and the rules governing the field the Bench expressed,
“It is unfortunate that some former Ministers/ Legislators/ Retired Officers/ Politicians/ Political persons, etc., have illegally managed to continue to stay in the residential accommodation provided to them by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, though they are no longer entitled to such accommodation.”
The Bench stated that the unauthorized occupants must realize that rights and duties go correlative to each other. Occupants must appreciate that their act of overstaying in the premise directly had infringed the right of another. The Bench further stated,
“Natural resources, public lands and the public goods, like Government bungalows/ official residence are public property that belongs to the people of the country.”
Any former Minister/ Legislator/ Retired Officer/ Politician/ Political person, once demitted from office, stand on a par with the common citizen, though by virtue of the office held, he/ she may be entitled to security and other protocols as per the assessment of the concerned filed agency. But allotment of government bungalow, to be occupied during the lifetime of such persons, would not be guided by the constitutional principle of equality.
While relying on the judgments of the Supreme Court in S. D. Bandi v. Divisional Traffic Officer, Karnataka: (2013) 12 SCC 631’; and Lok Prahari v. State of U.P. (2016) 8 SCC 389, the Bench reiterated that such illegal and unauthorized occupation was bad in law, and directed the authorities concerned to recover appropriate rent from the occupants of the said government accommodation for the period during which they were in unauthorized occupation of the said accommodation. The Bench stated,
“No law or direction could entirely control this act of disobedience, but for self-realization among the unauthorized occupants.”
Accordingly, the case was disposed of with the following directions:
- The directions passed by this Court from time to time in the matter of eviction of unauthorized/ illegal occupants should be strictly implemented by the authorities concerned in the same spirit in which they were meant to be;
- The Chief Secretary of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir and the Secretary to Government of Jammu and Kashmir, Estates Department, should take all possible steps for ensuring eviction of the illegal/unauthorized occupants in tune with the mandate of law provided by the Supreme Court in the two judgments referred to hereinabove;
- The Chief Secretary of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir and the Secretary to Government of Jammu and Kashmir, Estates Department, should ensure recovery of rent/ arrears of rent from the occupants of Government accommodation for the period for which they were in authorized/ unauthorized occupation of the said accommodation as Land Revenue.
[Union Territory of J&K v. Sumeera Jan, 2021 SCC OnLine J&K 85, decided on 18-02-2021]
Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant ahs put this story together.