New Delhi, April 9: The Supreme Court today said “something must be done” to act as a “deterrent” against possible abuse of a chief minister’s discretionary power while it was hearing a case against allotment of plots in Salt Lake by Jyoti Basu when he ruled Bengal.
As chief minister, Basu had given land using his “discretionary” authority to his relatives, judges, politicians, bureaucrats and personal staff.
A division bench of Justices M.B. Shah and Arun Kumar also expressed anguish that a judge of Calcutta High Court, Justice Bhagabati Prosad Banerjee (now retired), who had ruled in favour of Basu continuing to enjoy this “discretionary power”, was allotted a plot in Salt Lake after he gave the order.
A retired IAS officer, Deepak Ghosh, has challenged the allotments in the Supreme Court through a writ petition, while Trinamul Congress leader Tarak Singh has appealed against an order of Calcutta High Court dismissing a similar plea.
Singh had gone to the high court in July 1997, seeking intervention in the allotment of 256 plots, alleging nepotism, in the period 1977-97.
Appearing for Deepak Ghosh, counsel Prashant Bhushan today contended that the allocations showed the “shocking state of affairs” — there was “no advertisement”, nor any guideline for allotment.
Bhushan said many of the beneficiaries were not eligible. Under rules, applicants seeking land in Salt Lake are disqualified if they already own property somewhere else in Calcutta. It was found that many who had received land had suppressed this information.
He argued that a committee should be appointed to go into the details and allotments found illegal should be cancelled.
Appearing for Basu, counsel K.K. Venugopal contended that the writ petition should be dismissed as the retired IAS officer too had tried to get an allotment and, having failed, he had moved the writ with a motive.
According to the list provided by the petitioners, the beneficiaries of allotment include Basu’s son, Chandan, brother-in-law Subimal Basu, his then confidential assistant Jaikrishna Ghosh and Nara Narayan Gooptu (advocate-general during Basu’s rule).
Politicians of all hues, including the Congress — Tarak Singh’s mother party — were given land. An array of members of Basu’s Cabinet — Asim Dasgupta, Subhas Chakraborty and Kironmoy Nanda among them — benefited, too. The list also names nine judges.