Maharashtra govt orders probe into "commercial" use of National Herald land

Nagpur: The Maharashtra government has ordered an inquiry into alleged "commercial use" of land allotted to Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), publisher of National Herald, for setting up Nehru Memorial Library and Rsearch Centre in Mumbai, according to BJP Mumbai unit president Ashish Shelar.

Congress, however, refuted the allegation and dubbed the probe ordered by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis as a "political stunt."

Shelar, a BJP legislator, told reporters here that he had raised the issue on December 10 during the winter session  of the state Assembly.

According to him, the state government had in 1983 alloted to AJL 3478 sq meter of land in Bandra on the Western Express Highway for setting up Nehru Memorial Library and Research Centre. But, no construction was taken up on the plot till 2013. That year, however, permission for "commercial construction" was accquired from the Mumbai Municipal Corporation and an 11-storeyed "Congress Bhavan" is being built there, he said.

Shelar told reporters he had raised the issue during the winter session of the Assembly on December 10 as it involved violation of land allotment rules and demanded that the government take back the land following which Fadnavis had ordered an inquiry.

Rubbishing the charge of wrongdoing, Mumbai Congress unit president Sanjay Nirupam dubbed the announcement of the probe  as a "political stunt".

He said the municipal corporation gives two kinds of permission--residential and commercial-- and commercial permission had been obtained by AJL.

Maintaining that the Congress does not want to use the land for residential purposes, he said only after construction work is complete one can say whether it is being used commercially or not.

"It is too premature to allege that commercial activity is being undertaken on the land and the building coming up there," he said.

A library and research centre as well as the facility for publication of the National Herald will be set up there, he added. Meanwhile, a Bhopal report said the building owned by AJL in the Madhya Pradesh capital is also facing legal trouble as the lease of the land on which it stands has not been renewed.

In 2011, the Bhopal Development Authority (BDA) had issued a notice to AJL, which owns the building in the name of National Herald in Maharana Pratap Nagar Zone 1 area, asking it to vacate the land allotted to it as its lease had not been renewed.

"A notice was served to AJL Bhopal in 2011 to vacate the land allotted to it as it was not renewd at that time," BDA CEO, Neeraj Vashishta said.

The AJL allegedly sold portions of the building to a number of private persons who moved a local court demanding that they be made party to the case as they owned properties on the land.
 
The civil court turned down their appeal following which they moved MP High Court, where the matter is pending, Vashistha added.

The official clarified that the BDA has not issued any fresh notice to the AJL in the matter.

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