Ex-Uttar Pradesh chief ministers, including Rajnath Singh, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati, will have to vacate their palatial Lucknow bungalows in two months with the Supreme Court on Monday quashing the state rules giving "largesse" only to former CMs without any "element of reasonableness".
The verdict may have an impact in other states where former chief ministers are occupying government bungalows for life under the local laws.
"It is held that the 1997 rules (Ex-Chief Ministers Residence Allotment Rules, 1997) so far as they are not in consonance with the provisions of the 1981 Uttar Pradesh Ministers (Salaries, Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions Act), are bad in law.
"The government bungalows allotted to the respondents is held to be bad in law and the concerned respondents shall hand over possession of the bungalows occupied by them within two months from on Monday and the respondent government shall also recover appropriate rent from the occupants of the said bungalows for the period during which they were in unauthorised occupation of the said bungalows," a three-judge bench headed by Justice A R Dave said.
The bench also comprising N V Ramana and R Banumathi, said, "In fact, the impugned 1997 rules give largesse only to former chief ministers without any element of reasonableness."
Dealing with the legality of the impugned provisions, it said, "...In our opinion, the 1997 rules, which permit the former chief ministers to occupy government bungalows for life cannot be said to be valid.
"In the circumstances, respondent no.1 (State of Uttar Pradesh) cannot permit any former chief minister to occupy any government bungalow or any government accommodation after 15 days from the date on which his term comes to an end," it said.
The judgement came on a plea filed by a UP-based NGO Lok Prahari, which had sought a direction against allotment of government bungalows to ex-CMs and other "non-eligible" organisations under the state rules.
Referring to relevant provisions of the state act, the apex court said that the former chief ministers are not entitled for an official residence for lifetime.
"The term 'minister' includes the chief minister and Section 4 (1) (a) of the act, permits a minister to retain his residence for 15 days after he/she demits his/her office.
"In view of the above special provisions made, the chief minister is not entitled to privileges and protection as are available to the President of India and the vice-president of India, who are entitled to an official residence for life," it said.
The bench trashed the plea of UP government that some former CMs have been given 'Z' plus security by the Centre and hence, it was necessary for it to provide "proper accommodation with requisite infrastructure in a secure locality".
"The contention of respondent no.1 (UP) lacks merit and deserves to be rejected for the reason that as the said security is to be provided by ministry of home affairs, UOI and provisions are already made for such persons as per Office Memorandum ...issued by the Government of India on the recommendations of the MHA, it is the obligation of the Government of India to provide accommodation to such persons in accordance with its own guidelines and it is not for the respondent state to provide any accommodation...," it said.
It noted that many of former CMs, who are in occupation of government bungalows, are "either serving as MP or Governors or Cabinet Ministers in central government and they have already been provided another accommodation. It would, therefore, not be proper, in any case, to allot permanent residence at two places to one individual."
The NGO, comprising retired civil servants, journalists and other UP residents, had alleged that despite the direction of the Allahabad high court, the UP government had framed the 1997 rules which is not "statutory" and rather "executive" in nature and meant to allot bungalows to ex-chief ministers.
The bench agreed with the contention of the NGO and said that the 1997 rules are not statutory rules and they are in the nature of administrative or executive instructions.
"They (1997 rules) would not stand the test of legality if they are not in consonance with statutory provisions. The said rules are definitely in contravention of the statutory provisions and therefore, the said rules can be said to be bad in law so far as they are in contravention of the statutory provisions," it said.
"There cannot be any dispute that when the rules and regulations or executive institutions are contrary to any statutory provision, the statutory provision would prevail and the rules or executive institutions, so far as they are contrary to the statutory provisions, would fail," the court said.
Regarding allotment of bungalow to private trusts or societies, the bench said it is not in dispute that all those accommodations were allotted to them at the time when there was no provision to allot government bungalows to them.
"... Therefore, in our opinion, the said allotment cannot be held to be justified. One should remember here that public property cannot be disposed of in favour of any one without adequate consideration.
"Allotment of government property to someone without adequate market rent, in absence of any special statutory provision, would also be bad in law because the state has no right to fritter away government property in favour of private persons or bodies without adequate consideration and therefore, all such allotments, which have been made in absence of any statutory provision cannot be upheld," it said.
If any allotment was not made in accordance with a statutory provision at the relevant time, it must be discontinued and must be treated as cancelled and the state shall take possession of such premises as soon as possible and at the same time, the state should also recover appropriate rent in respect of such premises which had been allotted without any statutory provision, it said.
On the plea that the NGO has no locus standi on the issue, the court said it was formed by retired civil servants, journalists and other UP residents and they have no malafide intention in filing this petition and none of them has any personal grudge against any of the occupants of the government premises or any of the former chief ministers.
"So far as the first issue is concerned, in our opinion, the petitioner has locus standi to file the writ petition...
"In our opinion, when the petitioner society is challenging the validity of the 1997 rules, whereby government bungalows have been allotted to former chief ministers, especially when there is an acute shortage of government premises, it cannot be said that the petitioner has no locus standi to file the present petition," it said.