Court orders inquiry into Urban Development principal secy’s role
A special Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) court said on Tuesday that there appeared to be sufficient evidence against developer Niranjan Hiranandani and Thomas C Benjamin, Principal Secretary, Urban Development Department (UDD), in the alleged Powai housing scam where the developer did not hand over a specified number of houses for the economically weaker section as agreed in an agreement signed with the state.
Benjamin refuted all allegations levelled against him in a private complaint filed by Santosh Daundkar, a close associate of social activist Medha Patkar, with the court. "There was no favouritism or partiality shown by me or anyone from the department," he told Newsline.
In a detailed five-page order, Special ACB judge V A Daulatabadkar stated, "In view of the observations and after going through the documents, prima facie it appears that sufficient material is available on record that leads to reasonable suspicion about commission of cognisable offences by respondent numbers 1 (Hiranandani) and 2 (Benjamin) as well as public servants concerned under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code and Prevention of Corruption Act."
The Bombay High Court had earlier heard a public interest litigation filed by Patkar on the alleged housing scam in 2010. It observed in February this year that the case should be dealt by the ACB.
In his private complaint, Daundkar had alleged that Hiranandani flouted an agreement signed between the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority, the state and the developer. In 1977, the state had announced the Powai Housing Development Scheme — to be implemented over 140 hectares in the villages of Powai, Kopri and Tirandaz — for the economically weaker section.
In 1986, the state had signed an agreement with Hiranandani and handed over 230 acres at the rate of Re 1 per hectare for land acquired from landholders. In return, the developer was to construct affordable flats. "However, the developer flouted the tripartite agreement with the state and MMRDA, which required him to construct affordable houses and hand over a part to the state over 230 acres in Powai," Daundkar alleged.
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