New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Thursday dismissed the pleas of Congress members of parliament Ambika Soni and Kumari Selja with Rs.25,000 cost each on challenging government orders to vacate their official bungalows here.
Justice R.S. Endlaw, asking the leaders to deposit the Rs.25,000 cost each with the Directorate of Estate within three months, dismissed their pleas and said: “looked at from whatever angle, there is no merit in the petitions, which are dismissed.”
Soni and Selja are staying at 22, Akbar Road, and 7, Motilal Nehru Marg, respectively. The government, cancelling these Type-VIII bungalows, allotted them Type-VII bungalows at 84, Lodhi Estate and AB-14 Mathura Road respectively.
These Type VIII government bungalows were allotted to them when they were ministers in the previous UPA government.
Soni and Selja, who are now Rajya Sabha members, accused the BJP-led central government of “mala fide intentions against members of the opposition” for asking them to shift from Type VIII to Type VII accommodation.
The court, however, dismissed the allegations saying: “I am also sad to note that the petitioners, merely for the sake of retaining a house to which they are not entitled, have attempted to give political overtones to the matter and have insisted on the said argument.”
The court further added: “… In my view, no action of the government which has its foundation in law, can be said to be vindictive.
“Even though the petitioners have made only vague allegations and have failed to give particulars of any other person in unauthorized occupation against whom no action has been taken but I may add that it has been repeatedly held that Article 14 of the Constitution does not permit negative equality.”
The two ex-ministers had said senior parliamentarians, who have held office as union cabinet ministers or chief ministers or governors or speakers of the Lok Sabha, amongst others, are eligible according to the policy published on the Rajya Sabha website and have been allowed to continue in Type VIII houses under the respective house pool.
They claimed that if the ministry cancels the bungalows allotted to the Rajya Sabha members, then the whole purpose of house pool is defeated.
Justice Endlaw, however, said the action of DoE was not wrong and the ex-ministers are entitled to Type-VII bungalows.
“I may however hurry to add that in the present case, I am unable to find the action of the DoE to be wrongful. It has, as aforesaid, stood established that the petitioners in their capacity, as former union ministers and now members of Rajya Sabha, are entitled to a Type-VII accommodation and not Type-VIII accommodation,” said the order.
Soni and Selja have also not been able to disclose any rights higher than that of, as licensee, in the said accommodation, said the court, adding: “The DoE, as licensor of the accommodation thus remained fully entitled to terminate the said license.”
The 26-page judgment also added: “Citizens choose a member of Parliament to represent themselves in the making of laws and for keeping a watch over the governmental affairs and for ensuring that the government is run in accordance with the laws, rules and procedures framed.
“It does not behoove such representatives of people to say that though the others are bound by the laws, rules and regulations framed by them but they themselves are not.”
The DoE on May 5 issued notices to the two ex-ministers, asking them to vacate the government bungalows by June 10 and shift to the alternate accommodations allotted to them, which they refused to accept.
The central government had submitted to the court that there was acute “shortage of accommodation” in the general pool and these MPs were not entitled to Type VIII houses.