The Calcutta High Court on Monday quashed a land allotment made to Board of Control for Cricket in India chief Sourav Ganguly by the West Bengal Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation, reported Live Law. The land was allotted in the New Town area in North 24 Parganas district for setting up an educational institution.
A division bench of Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Arijit Banerjee also fined the West Bengal government and state-run Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation Rs 50,000 each.
The BCCI chief and his Ganguly Education and Welfare Society were also fined Rs 10,000 with the High Court observing that they should have acted in accordance with the law.
The directive came on a public interest litigation that alleged the land was allotted by violating rules, regulations and policies.
The petitioners pointed out that in 2011, the Supreme Court had set aside the allotment of a land to Ganguly, reported Bar and Bench. They said that Ganguly had immediately approached the Bengal government following the court’s order for allotment of a plot for building a school meeting international standards.
The government complied with Ganguly’s request and allotted the land without following the due procedure, the petitioners claimed. They also claimed that there was favouritism in the case as the lease premium payable for the land was reduced from Rs 10.98 crore to Rs 5.27 crore.
They said that there was no record of Ganguly lawfully applying for the plot and claimed that the former cricketer directly contacted the government since he had access to the people in power. The petitioners also claimed that this allotment was not limited to the case being heard but was routine.
The allotment was made to Ganguly on September 27, 2013, reported The Indian Express.
The counsels for Ganguly and the Bengal government had said that the former cricketer surrendered the land to the housing department in August last year as he could not implement the project.
They had also argued that the state had the power to allot lands at its own discretion and could also relax the criteria for the process.
During Monday’s hearing, the High Court said that Ganguly was able to dictate terms during the land allotment procedure and that a fair and transparent process was not followed when it was done.
“It was a case in which the respondent No. 9 [Ganguly] was able to play with the system,” the High Court said. “It was not for the first time that he was able to do it. This time also plot was allotted to him without any advertisement.”
The High Court added: “They with closed eyes had decided to allot a plot as if it was not a state property but a private limited company, which was permitted to deal with its property, as per its own wish without following due process of law.”
The High Court said that if Ganguly was interested in the development of sports, especially cricket, he could have associated himself with existing establishments.
The bench directed that the fine should be deposited with the West Bengal State Legal Services Authority within four weeks. It said that the government was at liberty to recover the amount from the employees responsible.
The court acknowledged that Ganguly had brought praise for the country as a sportsperson but said that everyone was equal in the eyes of the law.
“No one ever raises a finger when the government showers awards and benefits to the sportspersons, when they win any tournament, but this system is not to continue in perpetuity,” it added.