The Supreme Court on Friday upheld a Bombay high court order cancelling allotment of over 100 industrial plots by the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) in Ahmednagar, saying “this loot of public property” in a supposedly well-governed state was a shame.
The allotment of MIDC plots in Ahmednagar happened between 2006 and 2010, during the tenures of two chief ministers – Vilasrao Deshmukh and Ashok Chavan, who was also indicted in the Adarsh cooperative scam.
The modus operandi was familiar: Convert open spaces and amenity areas into plots and allot them to certain persons and families directly, bypassing the ‘auction route’ normally adopted by MIDC. Once allotted, further irregularities were committed by the allottees. But the state industry minister in-charge of MIDC would order their regularisation by payment of some additional amount, which the allottees gladly did
Senior advocate AM Singhvi and Jayant Bhushan argued for the allottees before a bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur and said the plots were in far-flung areas and there were no buyers. “No loss has been suffered by MIDC because of the allotments as every such allottee has been asked to pay additional amounts totalling to Rs 8.50 crore. Many have started their industries and at present employ more than 1,000 persons,” they said.
But the bench was aghast at the range of illegalities and said the HC had rightly cancelled the allotments. “We thought Maharashtra was a well-governed state. Plots are getting allotted directly without auction. It is public property. Yet, loot is going on. Public property cannot be distributed like largesse,” the bench said and rejected appeals against the June 14 judgment of the Aurangabad bench of Bombay HC.
The Aurangabad bench headed by Justice SS Shinde had voiced similar concerns. Justice Shinde had said, “Though it was always the policy (of MIDC) to allot plots in Ahmednagar Industrial Area through auction, the plots created from open spaces and amenity areas were straightaway allotted to certain persons directly. Despite all these irregularities, chairman of MIDC and cabinet minister for industries ordered regularisation of industrial and mercantile plots to allottees concerned on payment of additional amount. The cabinet minister further extended time to allottees to construct buildings and develop the plots.