The Maharashtra government told the Bombay High Court today that it was considering a policy under which one person, including bureaucrats and judges, will be allotted only one flat in the state under any state-sponsored scheme. “The government is open to consider a policy by which one person would be allotted only one flat in the entire state at the same time under any government scheme,” advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhkoni told the court. Kumbhkoni was responding to a suggestion made by a division bench of Justices B R Gavai and Bharati Dangre yesterday that bureaucrats and judicial officers should be allotted only one flat in the state. Appreciating the government’s statement, Justice Gavai said, “No government office, including high court office, should be used for personal profiteering. There should not be any misuse.”
“We understand one flat is required. Everyone is answerable to their family. Everyone cannot be Mahatma Gandhi,” Justice Gavai said. Whether the individual is a judge or a bureaucrat, if he or she has already procured a flat under a government scheme, then they cannot be entitled to another flat in the same city or any other city in the state, the court said. “A person cannot go on profiteering himself using his official position,” Justice Gavai said. Kumbhkoni added that if the person surrenders his or her flat, then they can apply for another flat under a government scheme. “It will not apply when the person sells the flat or transfers the ownership of the flat to any family member. (It will be applicable) only when they surrender the flat to the government or the authority concerned,” he said.
The bench was hearing a public interest litigation filed by activist Ketan Tirodkar questioning the state government’s decision to construct a high-rise residential building in suburban Oshiwara for sitting high court judges. The court has posted the petition in June for passing the order. Tirodkar argued that apart from sitting judges, the government also allots flats to those judges who retire from the Bombay High Court or those, who were earlier here and were later promoted to the Supreme Court.
According to Tirodkar’s petition, in August 2015, the government had sanctioned a housing scheme for serving judges on a 32,300 sq ft public plot in Oshiwara, following a request made in this regard by the proposed cooperative housing society of judges. While the construction is yet to be carried out, the government has offered 84 homes, each of 1,076 sq ft, on ownership basis to judicial officers. While the government has sanctioned the membership of 39 judges so far, two serving judges have since surrendered their claim.