Friday 18 August 2017 News Updated at 10:08 AM IST
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Govt houses are not for keeps - Deccan Herald
Govt houses are not for keeps
DH News Service, Bengaluru,
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The Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Amendment Bill, 2017, presented in Parliament a few days ago, does not show Indians in a good light. The Bill seeks to amend the Act of 1971 which was being misused by those holding constitutional offices, public representatives and government servants who are supposed to respect the rule of law. The central and state governments provide them houses during their tenure so that they can discharge their duties. But quite a few of them have refused to vacate the houses long after their tenures have ended, using loopholes in the existing law. In the national capital, the Union government manages approximately 60,000 residential units, including several bungalows in
sprawling Lutyens Delhi that are allotted to Members of Parliament, Union ministers, Supreme Court and high court judges, senior bureaucrats and other dignitaries. Annually, about 8,000 units are due to be vacated - either because of transfer or retirement. Of these, at least 1,500 residents hold on to their accommodation even after the end of their term, retirement or transfer.

There are several instances where unauthorised occupants have moved court and continue to stay on - even more than two years after the expiry of their term. Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh is overstaying in an official bungalow for over two years. Former Union home minister and Bihar governor Buta Singh, former Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah's estranged wife Payal and former Union ministers Ambika Soni and Kumari Selja could be evicted from their bungalows only recently by the Delhi High Court after years of legal wrangling.
Even now, 70 public servants continue to occupy government houses two years after their tenure in Delhi got over or after they retired.

The amendments proposed in the Bill introduced in the Lok Sabha ensure summary proceedings for evicting unauthorised occupants. They cut short the existing prolonged procedure - of serving a notice, giving time for a show cause, issuing a vacation order, giving time for vacation, followed by an option to appeal in lower courts. The Estate Office can serve a notice and if satisfied, can expedite the process and finish the eviction within three days. Any appeal has to be made directly to the high court, instead of the current process of appealing in lower courts, from where stay orders are easily procured. The change in law is long overdue and the Bill is a welcome move in that direction. Unlike the millions of have-nots driven to India's cities in search of livelihood, these VIP squatters deserve no sympathy. A clear message must be given to them: government houses are not for keeps.