Barely a month after being appointed Karnataka's anti-corruption ombudsman, Lokayukta Shivaraj V. Patil finds himself embroiled in allegations of impropriety in acquiring valuable sites in Bangalore.
He was allotted a 9,600-sq.ft. plot at Allasandra in the Karnataka State Judicial Department Employees' House Building Cooperative Society in September 1994 and his wife was allotted a 4,012-sq.ft. plot at Nagawara in the Vyalikaval House Building Cooperative Society in October 2006.
Documents available with The Hindu show that Mr. Patil was not eligible for the allotment of the Allasandra site on several counts. In response, Mr. Patil told The Hindu that he was not the only judge to be allotted the plots by this society.
“Almost all the judges of the High Court and the Supreme Court [from Karnataka] were given sites similarly,” he said.
Mr. Patil's ineligibility for the allotment arises from the following facts. First, he had already purchased a 2,400-sq.ft. plot at Vasanthnagar in 1982, which automatically disqualified him (and his family) for allotment of a site in any house building cooperative society (HBCS). (Allotment prices for members are generally at very concessional rates.)
Conceding that every member of a housing cooperative society is required to file an affidavit stating that he or she does not own any other residential property, Mr. Patil said, “But in the case of judges, we were not required to file any affidavit. Neither were we asked nor did we give an affidavit. I did not file any affidavit for the Nagawara site also.”
Section 10 (b) of the bylaws of the Judicial Employees Society states that the allottee must be “an employee of the judicial department” and should have “put in a minimum continuous or intermittent service of five years in Karnataka.”
Extreme as it may seem, this legal requirement would disqualify all High Court judges from acquiring plots. Judges of the High Court are strictly not “employees” of the judicial department, which is a fundamental prerequisite for their eligibility. They draw their salaries directly from the Consolidated Fund of India and hold constitutional posts. Asked about this, Mr. Patil said that a 1995 High Court judgment had settled the matter in favour of the judges.
In fact, Mr. Patil's name was listed 13th among 84 judges of the High Court and the Supreme Court, whose allotments in the Judicial Employees' layout were found to be in violation of its bylaws, in a report submitted by the Joint Legislature Committee headed by A.T. Ramaswamy in July 2007.
Significantly, house building cooperatives, by their very definition, are meant to provide cost-effective housing to those who cannot afford to buy plots/houses at market-determined rates. In fact, the Supreme Court, in a ruling of November 15, 2010, observed that house building cooperative societies are meant for “the poor and needy.”
Significantly, in his declaration of assets on the Lokayukta website, Mr. Patil lists these two plots, but fails to mention that they are part of house building cooperative societies and provides incomplete addresses.