Guj HC refers judges' plot allotment PIL to larger bench

Guj HC refers judges' plot allotment PIL to larger bench

The row over allotment of plots in a posh locality escalated today with the Gujarat High Court referring the matter to a larger bench after framing a set of questions related to its suo motu PIL on the issue.

In an unprecedented move, the High Court had on Monday issued notices to the 27 sitting as well as former judges, including that of the Supreme Court, over allotment of residential plots to these judges by the Gujarat government in Neetibaug Co-operative Housing Society in Sola area here.

The PIL was heard today by the division bench of acting Chief Justice V M Sahai and Justice Mohinder Pal based on letters written by two former High Court judges (K R Vyas and B J Sethna) which were converted into a public interest litigation(PIL).

The letters questioned the manner in which the plots were alloted, citing alleged breach of norms and lack of transparency.

While hearing the PIL today, the judges framed questions on which further hearing would take place by the larger bench.

Some of the key questions raised by the bench are - who among the judges are not alloted plot in the society? whether the allotment is done after the formation of the co-operative housing society and how can judges be given land on individual basis when a co-operative society is formed ?

Further, the bench asked whether any falsity is done in giving land at such premium places and whether any advertisement is given in media for the sale of such land ?

Other questions include - whether a judge alloted the plot in the society is having his own house within 8 kms periphery and if it amounts to breach of any law.

The bench also asked whether the sale deed of the society has incurred loss to the state ex-chequer or not ?.

During the hearing today, Advocate General Kamal Trivedi and several lawyers of the respondents raised strong objection to High Court's stand on the matter. They pleaded that when the division bench has already decided to refer the matter to the larger bench, then there is no need to enlist these questions.The advocates pleaded that let the larger bench decide the grounds on which further proceedings would take place, not on the grounds already provided by the existing bench.

They claimed that the larger bench will get influenced and develop a particular perception. However, Sahai, who is retiring tomorrow, rejected their objections by saying that the larger bench, which will be formed in coming days, will have the powers to add or substract questions from this list and conduct hearing based on those grounds.

During the arguments, Advocate General Kamal Trivedi registered his protest by stating that this bench should not hear the matter as this bench is desirous and had been interested in having a plot at Neetibaug Cooperative Housing Society.

Yesterday, the court had issued notices to eight sitting judges of the Gujarat High Court, 15 former HC judges, one sitting judge of the Supreme Court, one retired Supreme Court judge, the Chief Justice of Orissa HC and the Chief Justice of Bombay HC. All these sitting or former judges have got plots in the Society at concessional rates.

"Serious complaint has been made in the aforesaid letters (written by two former judges) and after deliberation with heavy heart, this suo motu PIL has been taken up. It involves judges of this court who are performing constitutional duties. This is an era of transparency where everything has to be before the public and no one can claim that they are above the law," the HC order of yesterday had said.

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