The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dues diktat on VIP squatters

New Delhi, Jan. 17: The Supreme Court today directed the government to initiate action for the recovery of over Rs 50 crore due from political parties and VVIPs overstaying in government bungalows.

In an affidavit, the ministry of urban development said there was no provision for initiating criminal proceedings against those not vacating government bungalows but it had imposed penal rent on the defaulters.

Amicus curiae Ranjit Kumar, who is assisting the court in the matter, said the unrecovered dues till December 2006 had crossed Rs 50 crore and something needed to be done.

The court then asked the government to take steps to recover the dues and file a status report by the first week of May.

Anyone legally allotted a government bungalow cannot be prosecuted for staying beyond the period of entitlement, the ministry said. The Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971 provides for imprisonment of up to six months and a fine of up to Rs 5,000 for those “unlawfully’’ occupying public premises, but not for those overstaying.

However, the dues could be recovered from the salary or other entitlements of public servants or the matter handed over to the collector for recovery as land revenue arrears. In such a case, any property owned by the defaulter can be auctioned.

About 30 MPs were staying in houses above their entitlement or occupying two houses, and this had been referred to Parliament for action, the ministry said.

Giving the present status, the ministry said out of 497 houses with unauthorised occupants, 432 had been vacated and some matters were pending before various courts. In October last year, the government had said 418 houses had been vacated.

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar had vacated his house on Akbar Road, which was then allotted to tourism minister Ambika Soni. Najma Heptullah, the former deputy chairperson of the Rajya Sabha, had also vacated her Akbar Road bungalow.

The court has been monitoring action for vacation of government bungalows by VVIPs across the country.

Bengal had submitted a long list of unauthorised occupants in response to a court directive. Upset with the state government not stating what action it had taken for eviction, the court had summoned a secretary-level official.

Enlarging the scope of a petition from Karnataka, the court had in July last year directed the government to furnish a list of all unauthorised occupants. It had, thereafter, directed the Centre to take coercive steps if the defaulters ignored gentlemanly language.

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