The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Graft suit blocks Bypass building

Start, stop, start, stop…' The giant Silver Spring housing project, struggling to get off the ground on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass, hit yet another hurdle on Friday.

The controversy over the joint venture between the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) and Bengal Silver Spring Project Ltd snowballed with a public interest litigation (PIL) coming up for hearing before a division bench. Calcutta High Court advocate Tirthankar Das had filed the PIL, alleging irregularities on the part of the civic authorities in allotting the project.

The bench, comprising Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice A. Banerjee, adjourned hearing of the case till Friday.

Former chief minister Jyoti Basu had flagged off the city’s “largest and most expensive condominium” on June 10. A couple of days later, state environment minister Manab Mukherjee slapped a stopwork notice on the project, alleging that the promoters had filled up waterbodies adjacent to the ITC Sonar Bangla hotel. Then, in a dramatic twist to the tower-tale, Basu stepped right back in to help clear the path for the mega project.

Among the points raised by Tirthankar Das in his petition is why the civic authorities had allotted the vast plot to a builder who was ranked second in the bid line. “While the first businessman had agreed to pay Rs 40 crore for the land, the CMC allotted it against Rs 23 crore only to the second person. There must be some unholy alliance between the CMC and the second party,” the petitioner alleged.

Quoting the Calcutta Municipal Act, Das said Section 539 (d) had been violated and the land granted in deviation of the original terms of the tender. According to the original term, the land was to be transferred on outright basis on lease or sale, whereas the municipal authorities have entered into a joint-venture agreement, he argued.

In case of sale of public property, Das contended, it is the duty of the CMC commissioner to grant consideration to the highest bidder and transfer the property in “normal and fair competition”.

The petitioner listed other “deviations” by the CMC:

•The period of the lease has been enhanced.

•The property has been given to a third party on the basis of nomination by the second-highest bidder.

•The property was transferred at a consideration amount of Rs 15.73 crore against an area of 50,000 sq.ft.

•The Urban Land Ceiling and Regulation Act had been violated as the entire land was vacant without any structure and clearance was not obtained from the concerned authorities.

Appearing on behalf of the CMC, Aloke Ghosh pleaded that the tender was first offered to the highest bidder, but the firm had failed to pay up the amount within the stipulated time. “At that juncture, the CMC was left with no option but to choose the second bidder and enter into a joint venture with it,” he added.

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