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Supreme Court quashes land allotment to Sourav Ganguly

J. Venkatesan



Sourav Ganguly

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday set aside the allotment of 63.04 kathas of land by the West Bengal government in 2009 to the former Indian cricket captain, Sourav Ganguly, in Kolkata's Salt Lake City for setting up an integrated school.

Allowing a batch of appeals against the allotment, a Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and A.K. Ganguly said: “Admittedly, no advertisement was issued and no offer was sought … from the members of the public in respect of the new allotment of a much bigger plot. The impugned allotment is clearly in breach of the principles of Article 14 [equality] of the Constitution.”

“In consequence thereof, the lease deed, dated April 1, 2009, pursuant to such [an] allotment stands quashed. The allottee must, within two weeks from date, hand over the peaceful and vacant possession of plot no. CA-222, measuring 63.04 kathas (One katha equals 67 square metre), in Sector-V, Salt Lake City (Bidhannagar), Kolkata, to the department concerned of the State government,” it said.

The Bench directed the State government to refund the entire money Mr. Sourav Ganguly had paid for the allotment within two weeks thereafter.

Initially, Mr. Ganguly was allotted a smaller plot. After he offered to surrender it in lieu of a bigger plot, he was allotted 63.04 kathas, and this allotment was challenged in the Calcutta High Court by Humanity, a non-governmental organisation, and others. The High Court upheld the allotment.

Writing the judgment, Justice A.K. Ganguly said: “We are sorry to hold that in making the impugned allotment in favour of the allottee, the State has failed to discharge its constitutional role. The second allotment is not only about a change in the location of the land, but … also of a much larger plot of land, brought about in terms of the request of the allottee for a bigger plot. The government was so anxious to oblige the allottee by giving [him] a bigger plot, that too with no loss of time.”

The Bench pointed out that admittedly, the government made the allotment without verifying whether the allottee had surrendered the previous plot. “It is, therefore, clear that the government made the allotment of the new plot to the allottee on terms which were even more generous than the ones suggested by the allottee in his letter dated January 19, 2009. Such [an] action of the government definitely smacks of arbitrariness and falls foul of Article 14.”

“This court has not been able to get any answer from the State why, on a request by the allottee to the then Minister for Urban Development, the government granted the allotment with remarkable speed and without considering all aspects of the matter. This court does not find any legitimacy in the action of the government, which has to act within the discipline of the constitutional law, explained by this court in a catena of cases.”

Justice Ganguly said: “Before I conclude, I make it clear that I am aware that the allottee is a cricketer of great repute and has led this country to victory in many tournaments, both in India and abroad. I have watched him on the television on many occasions, and was delighted to see his glorious cover drives and effortlessly lofted shots over the fence. But as a judge, I have different duties to discharge. Here, I must be objective and eschew my likes and dislikes and render justice to a cause.”

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