MIDC land scam deepens with missing documents

Published: 04 November, 2011 07:55 IST | Varun Singh |

Statuory body has no idea where the paperwork proving eligibility of slum dwellers for flat allotment is; experts say staff could face action; even an FIR could be lodged

Statuory body has no idea where the paperwork proving eligibility of slum dwellers for flat allotment is; experts say staff could face action; even an FIR could be lodged

MiD DAY's probe in the alleged discrepancies in the redevelopment of MIDC land -- and the consequent rehabilitation of slum dwellers -- in Andheri (East) by construction firm Ackruti City has thrown up another glaring lacuna. This time, crucial paperwork has gone missing. The Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation is oblivious to the whereabouts of the documents, on the basis of which nearly 3,960 slum dwellers were declared eligible for flat allotment.

ILLEGAL? A slum rehabilitation building in Andheri (East). PIC/MAHESH CHAFE

These documents are a compulsory component of the paperwork to be produced before the competent authority, which decides on the validity of a slum dweller's claims that they are entitled to a flat allotment. They include papers proving that the subject has been residing in the slum before 1995. The papers must necessarily be with the government body, experts say. 

However, MiD DAY has evidence that shows that MIDC officers lost track of the documents sometime in 1999. A letter dispatched by Ackruti to MIDC in May 2008 clearly states that after the survey to prepare Annexure II was done, the documents were collected by the executive and deputy engineers of MIDC along with staff members of Ackruti whose office was then in Sion. But since then, Ackruti has not been aware where the documents are. However, the firm does possess copies of agreements with the slum dwellers.

The same month, MIDC asked Ackruti to produce the documents on the basis of which it reached an agreement with slum dwellers.

Drawing a blank
Over the next two years, the missing documents remained where they were. However, when MIDC's deputy engineer was vacating his post, his successor asked him for the documents. The former wrote (letter copy with MiD DAY) to the latter in April 2010. The letter stated, "Regarding documents of slum dwellers declared eligible during year 1999, this is to inform you that while being handed over the charge by my predecessor, no such documents were handed over to me."

So in July 2010, MIDC dispatched another letter to Ackruti, raising two points. First, Ackruti's claim (in a letter dated May 20, 2010) that it had informed MIDC that the copies of agreements and documents of eligible slum dwellers were submitted to this office (MIDC) was incorrect. Second, Ackruti was asked to furnish the documents that were given to them by respective eligible slum dwellers based on which the builder had executed the agreement.

Subsequent to this, the correspondence ended abruptly, with no follow up. Until today, MIDC isn't aware of the whereabouts of the documents. The Annexure II was prepared in 1999, and until 2010, that is over the next 11 years, MIDC couldn't obtain the documents from Ackruti and still doesn't know where they are. 

'Authority's duty'
MiD DAY spoke with suburban collector Nirmal Kumar Deshmukh for his opinion on the issue. Deshmukh said, "The documents are public documents and anybody can get a copy under RTI. However, it's the prime duty of the authority (in this case MIDC) to keep the documents with it."

The other side
When approached for their response, Ackruti asked for three more days to articulate a reply. A senior official from the firm replied via email, "Our senior management is out of town. In wake of this, we wouldn't be able to respond to the queries," and added in another mail, "It is difficult for us to respond to your mail in the less-than-four-hours deadline provided by you. We would therefore request you to wait till Saturday afternoon for
us to appropriately answer your queries."

Said a senior MIDC official, "We do not have the documents of nearly 3,960 slum dwellers. We checked with our previous officers who were handling the matter, but none of them have the documents."

Expert's take
Advocate-activist Y P Singh explains the importance of the missing documents proving eligibility of slum
dwellers, the ramifications of their possession with a private party, and what it legally implies

Is it correct to keep such important documents in the hands of a private party?
Once the documents are submitted for the issuance of Annexure (II) they become government documents and under no circumstances can they be returned to the private party. The said documents have to be maintained and preserved as per the prescribed office procedures as contained in the Maharashtra Public Records Act, 2005. MIDC being a statutory corporation is covered under the provisions of section 2 of the Maharashtra Public Records Act, 2005.

If the MIDC doesn't possess any documents to prove eligibility of slum dwellers, what are the legal ramifications?
If MIDC does not have the said public documents, this amounts to illegally helping a private party. Under such circumstances, action for lodging FIR has to be taken under the provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and also under the Maharashtra Public Records Act, 2005. In addition the concerned staff would have to face departmental action under the provisions of Maharashtra Civil Services Conduct) Rules, 1979.

How important are the documents of eligibility, and what happens if they go missing?
Eligibility is validated on the basis of documents duly submitted to the Statutory Authority and these documents have to be preserved under the rules created under the Maharashtra Public Records Act, 2005. However, if the same disappear when incriminating facts surface, this amounts to a criminal act of shielding an accused who has committed crime under the laws of the land. As such, a full and complete investigation by police is necessary by lodging FIR.

Simultaneously statutory action of taking over or demolition of the illegally constructed building by the government would also be required. A further action of blacklisting the involved persons from getting government contracts could also be taken. Action could also be taken under the provisions of corporate law if the directors are found involved.

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