Should ex-CMs pay market rent for official bungalows, SC to examine

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has averted a huge financial burden for five former chief ministers of Uttarakhand by agreeing to examine the correctness of a High Court directing them to pay up crores of rupees as market rent for the official bungalow allotted to them as ex-CMs.
The Uttarakhand HC had quashed a state legislation which permitted the ex-CMs to pay appropriate rent instead of market rent for the bungalow allotted to them. The appropriate rent was 25% more than the standard rent. However, after SC order of 2016 asking ex-CMs to vacate official accommodations, the state had got the bungalows vacated. But, arrears remained unpaid. The HC finding that the government was delaying recoveries of market rent, had initiated contempt proceedings against the chief secretary.
Appearing for the state, solicitor general Tushar Mehta and advocate Vanshaja Shukla told a bench of Justices R F Nariman, Navin Sinha and Indira Banerjee that the SC in its judgment on vacation of bungalows by ex-CMs of Uttar Pradesh had directed the state government to recover 'appropriate rent' from them. When the legislature had decided that the ex-CMs were required to pay appropriate rent given their stature and contribution to the state, it was not open for the HC to insist on recovery of market rent, Mehta argued.
The bench issued notice to the PIL petitioner, on which the HC had passed the order, and and stayed the contempt proceedings against the chief secretary.
The five chief ministers who faced the burden of 'market rent' were late N D Tiwari, B S Koshiyari, B C Khanduri, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank and Vijay Bahuguna. Tiwari owed the maximum to the government in terms of market rent calculated at Rs 1.12 crore in addition to unpaid electricity bill of Rs 15.68 lakh and water charges of Rs 6 lakh. The appropriate rent was Rs 1.8 lakh.
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