The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Squatter VIPs face eviction
- Court tells Centre to throw out Buta, Surjeet

New Delhi, Oct. 24: Buta Singh may stay on at Patna Raj Bhavan, but in Delhi he is going to be shown the door.

The Supreme Court has ordered a host of political heavyweights ' from Buta and Harkishen Singh Surjeet to Mulayam Singh Yadav ' “thrown out” of the bungalows and flats they illegally occupy in Delhi, costing the taxpayer crores of rupees every year.

Former ministers George Fernandes, A.B.A. Ghani Khan Choudhury and Yashwant Sinha, too, face a similar fate over one of VVIP India’s most widespread scams, which ties the saffron politician to the Marxist and involves freedom fighters and artistes, too.

The Centre today handed the Supreme Court a list of 465 people occupying government quarters against rules and said eviction proceedings are on. Some of these quarters can fetch a monthly rent of Rs 1.75 lakh in the market.

An anguished two-judge division bench said the “unauthorised occupants should be thrown out”. Justices B.N. Agrawal and A.K. Mathur picked Buta as an example.

“He is governor of Bihar. How can he be occupying a house here in Delhi' Throw him out,” the bench said.

The Centre explained that there are two classes of illegal occupants: those not entitled to government accommodation at all, and those who are entitled to a lower grade of bungalow or flat than the one they are occupying.

The second group mainly features former ministers who are now ordinary MPs but haven’t shifted from their ministerial bungalows to MPs’ quarters. The 36 such names on the list include those of Fernandes, Arun Jaitley, Ghani Khan, Yerran Naidu, Nitish Kumar, Sharad Yadav, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Najma Heptullah and Yashwant Sinha.

The remaining 429 belong to the first group, many of whom are facing eviction proceedings in courts. The list includes three Congress general secretaries who haven’t been named.

Former minister Jaswant Singh, now an MP, has been named in the first group (sub-headed “unauthorised occupants”) rather than the second (“above entitlement”). His party, the BJP, said this was one of several “discrepancies” on the list and threatened to move a privilege motion in Parliament against the Centre for “misleading the court”.

The judges have given the Centre till November 16 ' the next date of hearing ' to come out with guidelines on who gets accommodation and what kind, when they should vacate it and, if they don’t, how they should be forced to.

The government bungalows and flats come in eight categories, with type VIII being the highest.

The Centre, represented by additional solicitor-general Gopal Subramanian, told the apex court that 182 bungalows and 338 flats had been set aside for Lok Sabha members and 81 bungalows and 135 flats for those of the Rajya Sabha. The pool for Supreme Court judges had 27 type VIII bungalows and the Delhi High Court pool had 32.

There are other pools: defence, Delhi state, post and telegraph, artistes and journalists including press photographers, writers and theatre personalities, social workers and freedom fighters, NGO activists and eminent organisations. The latter groups are allowed a stay of three years.

The issue had had a modest beginning: as a public interest litigation in Kerala, filed by a certain S.D. Bandi, against those illegally staying in Kerala State Road Transport Corporation accommodation.

It took an all-India turn when the apex court issued notices to the Centre and all state governments and Union territories on September 19, asking them to explain what action had been taken to evict illegal occupants.

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