The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Govt building sold for peanuts

Jamshedpur, April 30: In a dramatic sell-off, the state government today lost the ownership of a guesthouse and the plot on which it stood. PWD guesthouse of the National Highway division here was today auctioned for Rs 3.76 crore by the court of the sub-judge I, .P. Srivastava. The market value of the plot in the prime circuit house area is estimated to be three times higher.

The highest bidder was a city-based builder, Kamlesh Singh while the second-highest builder was Anoop Choudhary, who offered a lakh less. The builders appeared to have formed a cartel and had initially been successful in preventing others from bidding. The cartel still managed to keep the highest bid confined to less than Rs 4 crore.

The auction was conducted after the state government lost its appeal in the Supreme Court against the high court order to settle the dues of a contractor, Ravi Prakash Singh. The contractor had presented a bill of Rs 10.25 lakh for re-laying a stretch near Bahragora in 1999.

The executive engineer of the NH division today informed the court that the department was willing to pay the contractor his dues along with interest.

The total amount with interest for the last six years would have come to less than Rs 15 lakh. But the court turned down the plea, ostensibly because it came too late. It was not clear if the department would prefer an appeal or a review petition.

R.P. Singh had filed a money suit in the court of the then sub judge B.K. Choudhary in March, 2000. The court ruled in favour of the contractor in January, 2001, and ordered the department to pay up within two months, failing which the property was directed to be auctioned. An interest of six per cent per annum was also allowed to the petitioner.

When the NH division failed to clear the dues within the stipulated time, the contractor went in appeal to the high court, which upheld the ruling.

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