Friday, April 5, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

HC decries Union Minister’s role
Orders auction of chemist’s shop in PGI
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 4
Coming down heavily on the Minister of Health and Family Welfare, who is president of the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGI), for passing an order which promoted “only private and not public interest”, Mr Justice Jawahar Lal Gupta and Mr Justice N.K. Sud of the Punjab and Haryana High Court today ordered the allocation of a chemist’s shop through open auction after holding that it was given away for a “paltry sum of approximately Rs 60,000 per month” even though Rs 2,90,000 was being offered.

Delivering the verdict, the Judges ruled: “The cases like the present one leave a definite impression that the authorities take care of private interest more than public interest. The present case is a glaring example. A shop for which an offer of Rs 2,90,000 p.m. had been made was given away for Rs 60,000 approximately. This clearly shows a loss of about Rs 2,25,000 per month to the state exchequer. Who is responsible for this loss? Are the authorities entitled to act arbitrarily and turn a blind eye to public interest? Does a tax-payer pay for the protection of public or private interest? We hope the case would ensure that acts like the present one are not repeated”.

The Judges further ruled: “The shop was given on lease to the respondent in 1970 on yearly basis at the rate of Rs 360 per month. The rate of rent was later on raised to Rs 720 per month. The lease had expired on December 31, 1977. Thereafter, there was no renewal of lease. Despite this, the respondent failed to vacate the premises. Proceedings for his eviction were initiated. These concluded in January 2001. Ultimately on January 30, 2001, the PGI succeeded in getting the vacant possession of the premises. The respondent was evicted. The PGI, having got the possession, wanted to allot it by inviting tenders. However, on account of intervention of the president, the matter was kept in abeyance.

“The case was referred to a three member committee. Two of these had categorically recommended that the shop should be allotted by open auction. Even with regard to the rate of rent, it was pointed out that the adjoining shop, having area of 150 sq ft was fetching a monthly rent of Rs 59,000. The area of the shop in dispute being more than double, the rate of rent should be Rs 1, 20,000 p.m. Despite this recommendation, the president chose to direct the authorities that the respondent should be given the possession of the shop. That too at a monthly rent of Rs 59, 890. Why? No reason whatsoever has been disclosed from the record”.

The Judges added: “An offer was made for amount substantially higher than the rate at which the shop was given. Dr R.N. Katariya (committee member) in  his note of dissent categorically pointed out that the area of the shop was more than double compared to the adjoining shop. The monthly rental should be Rs 1,20,000. Yet, the Minister of Health and Family Welfare chose to direct that the shop be given to the respondent at the same rate which the occupant of the adjoining shop was paying? Why? There is no explanation either in the written statements or during the hearing of these cases. Apparently, the financial interests of the institute were completely overlooked by its own president”.

Speaking for the Bench, Mr Jawahar Lal Gupta asserted: “We may mention that this is not the first time that we have found that the authorities showing scant regard for public interest. Some time back, we had come across a case where a higher offer was not accepted and the chemist shop near the emergency was given on lease for Rs 4 lakh per month. Ultimately, the same party had offered Rs 7,60,000 per month. Similarly, even in the matter of allotment of cafeteria, it was noticed that higher offers were being overlooked. The respondents are dealing with public property. It is a trust which should not be betrayed”.

Mr Justice Gupta concluded: “The shop shall be allotted by open auction. The institute shall be entitled to fix a reasonable amount as security before a person is allowed to participate in the auction so that in the event of his not honouring his offer, the amount of security is forfeited. The auction would start with a reserve rate of Rs 2,90,000 per month as offered by the petitioner. If any one makes a higher offer, he shall have the right to revise his offer”.Back

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