“You have adopted policy of pick and choose on the basis of colour of skin,” Bench tells Centre

Staying its own order to issue notice to those occupying government accommodation in the national capital unauthorised, the Supreme Court on Thursday questioned regularisation of accommodation granted to the former Bihar Governor, Buta Singh, even after he demitted office as Chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes Commission in 2010 .

During the hearing of a petition on lack of accommodation for members of the National Green Tribunal, a Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and S.J. Mukhopadaya asked the Centre to direct Mr. Buta Singh to vacate the house on Teen Murti Marg by July 1. But Additional Solicitor-General P.P. Malhotra said he had been given accommodation till June 2014.

The Bench told the Centre: “You have adopted a policy of pick and choose on the basis of the colour of the skin. Some persons are being targeted for overstaying, and damage charges are collected. They are being evicted. You did not follow the rule of law. The government can’t do like this. It is not your [the Centre’s] personal property.”

Counsel for Mr. Buta Singh said the house was allotted on a specific policy and on the basis of security threat, after the Prime Minister wrote to the Urban Development Ministry. He could not be victimised as it was not unauthorised occupation.

‘Don’t put words in PM’s mouth’

At this, the Bench said: “Because you wrote a letter to the PM, he replied. Don’t put words into the mouth of the PM. Security threat is different and allotment of government accommodation is different.”

The Bench told Mr. Malhotra: “Please treat all persons [unauthorised occupants] on a par. You are not following the rule of law. We want to know whether an ineligible person [Mr. Buta Singh] can be allotted accommodation. Under which provision of law was he given accommodation? His tenure came to an end in 2010, and what steps did you take thereafter? All others to whom notice had been issued are evicted and grave injustice has been done to them. We feel our order has been abused by the government. Let others also stay and pay the market rent. Allow them to stay till this gentleman [Mr. Buta Singh] leaves. Either you ask all to vacate or do not discriminate. Security threat is altogether a different thing. A person can be provided protection at the place of living. There is no nexus between the security threat and accommodation.”

In October last, the court issued notices to Mr. Buta Singh, many serving and retired bureaucrats, journalists and IPS officers, asking why they should not be evicted from illegal occupation of government bungalows.

Now, in a brief order, the Bench said: “Notice issued pursuant to the court order, irrespective of pendency of proceedings under the Public Premises Act, shall remain stayed. Till the matter is heard in detail, the government shall not vacate them and take suo motu action as well.”

The Bench also threatened to stay the National Green Tribunal Act if the Tribunal members were not given residential houses by the government.

Further hearing is posted to April 8.