WB: RTI activist questions land deal
As reported by Jayanta Gupta in timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 26 August 2011:
RTI activist questions land deal
KOLKATA: With the raging debate on black money going on, an RTI activist from Kolkata has written to the Chief Justice of India, praying for an inquiry into a land deal cleared by the Calcutta High Court nearly five years ago. She has furnished documents (copies of which are with TOI) to show that the court allowed a private firm with an authorized capital of Rs 25 lakh that declared a net loss of Rs 12,100 to purchase a property in the heart of the city for over Rs 1.6 crore.
In 2006, while permitting the sale, Justice Kalyan Jyoti Sengupta observed: "But this court is not convinced. How could this be done? Anyway, it is not a subject matter of this court. I desire that the Assessing Officer Ward - 1 (2) - Calcutta and/or the Commissioner shall examine the aspect of the income of this purchaser. Let this application along with a signed copy of this order be communicated by the Registrar (Original Side) of this court to the aforesaid income tax authorities."
After her RTI application revealed that no effort was made by court officials to comply with these directions by Justice Sengupta, the complainant wanted to know from the highest judicial authority in the country whether a court can allow such a deal to go through even when it is not convinced about the source of funds.
According to her complaint, the deal has been mired in a controversy from the start. It involved a nine-cottah plot at 10, Bow Street that was purchased in a court auction by Jamshed Navroz Guzdar on September 2, 1967. The property consisted of a two-storied house. On March 11, 1968, Guzdar handed over the property to the trustees of the Calcutta Zoroastrian Community's Religious and Charitable Fund (CZCRCF)
In 2001, the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) ordered demolition of part of the two-storeyed structure. The remaining portion and debris from the demolished part remained within the premises though. In 2005, trustees of the CZCRCF, including Bahadur Savaksha Postwalla, Cyrus Jamshed Madan and Russi Ardeshir Jeejeebhoy sought permission from the high court to sell the property to fulfil the objectives of the P E Guzdar Fund.
Justice Soumitra Sen heard the matter and directed the trustees to place appropriate advertisements in newspapers, inviting objections from members of CZCRCF. In his order, Justice Sen clearly mentioned that the property comprised of land, part of two-storied building and debris from the demolished portion. In November, 2005, the matter came up before Justice Sengupta and he directed the appointment of a valuer to ascertain the sale price of the property. Just like Justice Sen before him, Justice Sengupta stated that the property comprised of land, part of a two-storied building and debris from the demolished portion. The trustees appointed Ashok Nain as the valuer who ascertained that the rate should be Rs 16,00,000 per cottah.
In his report, Nain made no reference of any structure on the plot or how much extra a buyer should pay for it. In fact, he stated that the plot was vacant. The private firm which purchased the property subsequently, made an offer of Rs 18,20,000 per cottah. This was accepted and the property finally changed hands for Rs 1,60,52,400. The purchaser paid for only 8.82 cottahs while the advertisement published was for 'nine cottahs more or less'.
The complainant has prayed for an inquiry into why the old building and debris - comprising of wooden beams, doors and windows for which contractors pay lakhs - were not taken into account while calculating the value of the building. She has also prayed that it should be found out whether the plot measured nine cottahs or 8.82 cottahs, as any loss made in the bargain would affect the Zoroastrian community as a whole, as the property belonged to a trust.