'President misled on takeover'

NEW DELHI, SEPT. 2. The Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) president, Mr. Harcharan Singh Josh, reacting to the takeover of Sapru House by the Government, today blamed the Union Urban and Development Minister, Mr. Jagmohan, of taking a ``political revenge'' through this order.

Mr. Josh said he was already involved in a court case with the Government on affairs related to Sapru House. ``This action is a contempt of the court and it is unfortunate that even the President has been misled by the Government on the subject.''

He said the takeover had not been carried out in accordance with the due process. The authorities concerned should have served him with a notice giving him sufficient time. ``I was shocked to find armed guards outside Sapru House this morning. When I asked for the notice, the officer in-charge told me the order was now a public document and I can get it from the market''.

Spelling out his argument, Mr. Josh said the first time the Government wanted to takeover the Sapru House in 1990 and even got the Bill passed in the Rajya Sabha, the then Leader of Opposition, Rajiv Gandhi, demanded an 8-hour debate on the subject in the Lok Sabha before taking any decision.

While the Lok Sabha could not spare this time, the Chandigarh branch of the ICWA got a stay from the Chandigarh High Court in the same year. ``It was then observed that since the ICWA was run by funds raised by its members, the Government could not simply takeover the property on the grounds of malfunctioning or by citing a lease agreement on the property.''

The Government acted in 1996 by querying the rationale behind charging low tenancy rates from the Children's Film Society, the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Trust, the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis and the Press Institute of India, Mr. Josh said.

``I was then asked to pay a staggering sum of Rs. 9 crores from the tenancy charges to the Government as part of the lease agreement. All the tenants gave certificates supporting me but the Government insisted. Finally in December 1999, I went to the court''.

Since this case is pending in the court and the next hearing has been scheduled for September 7, the Government has no right to takeover the building. ``I will approach not only the court against this but also Parliament. The political motives behind this order is supported by the fact that many institutions and clubs in the Capital are fighting similar cases in the court. I have been targeted just because Mr. Jagmohan wants to shed his old Congress image.''

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