Special Correspondent

A.T. Ramaswamy panel says 23 guntas of land near Belandur tank belongs to the Government

BANGALORE: The Joint Legislature Committee to probe into the encroachment of government lands in and around Bangalore on Tuesday discovered encroachment of 23 guntas of prime land in a tank bed by Azim Premji of Wipro, who had raised a palm grove for his guesthouse in it.

A.T. Ramaswamy, who heads the committee, inspected the encroachments in Krishnaraja Puram hobli along with other members and said he was “shocked” to learn about it. In his second interim report which was tabled in the two Houses of the legislature, Mr. Ramaswamy had said that he would come out with the names of the encroachers later.

The Chairman said the guesthouse was built on the land that was in the name of Mr. Premji and lay adjacent to the Kempapura tankbed, near Belandur tank.

Perhaps in anticipation of legal action by the State Government, the encroached land was vacated and a wall built separating the tank land from his private property, said Mr. Ramaswamy.

Charge denied

A source close to Mr. Premji told The Hindu that the guesthouse was built on land that was privately owned by him. “This “encroached” land was bought by Mr. Premji after due diligence 15 years ago from persons who claimed to own the land. As soon as he learnt that the 23 guntas belonged to the Government, Mr. Premji vacated it,” the source said.

Mr. Ramaswamy said there had been orders from the Supreme Court that land belonging to the lakes anywhere in the country could not be allowed to be encroached upon, and such encroachment in Bangalore could attract action under the law.

Mr. Ramaswamy, who appeared upset over the failure of the officers of the Revenue Department and the Minor Irrigation in initiating criminal cases against Mr. Premji for encroaching tank land in violation of the Supreme Court rulings, commented on how the “rule of law did not apply to big people”.

Turning towards the officials present, the Chairman said: “You will not lose time in punishing the poor, but the long arm of the law should also touch the big people.”

He directed them to initiate criminal proceedings against the IT major for encroaching the tank land, although he had now vacated the encroached land. He said this was part of 4.09 acres of land in the tank which had an area of more than 900 acres and one company by name United Builders and Developers had encroached 3.13 acres and 13 acres were encroached by Raju, a farmer.

Some workers were seen demolishing a few small houses under orders of the Revenue Department.