A government task force report says that the Apollo Hospital on Bannerghatta road is built on encroached land, hence illegal. The report was authored by V Balasubramanian, Chairman of state government’s Task Force for Recovery and Protection of Public Lands. A copy of the report is with Citizen Matters. Pages 17-22 of the report are devoted to this case.
Who does the land belong to?
According to the report, the five acres, where the hospital is located now (opposite IIM-B), was originally granted by government to a certain NRI docor, A M Nisar Syed in 1991. Syed had applied for the land grant, saying that he planned to build a cancer hospital named ‘Imperial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre’ in the site. He said that the hospital would specialise in diagnosis and treatment of early stages of cancer.
The land was granted to Syed on the condition that it would not be used for any other purpose, transferred or divided. Also the hospital had to be built within two years of the grant. But after 20 years, there is no cancer hospital in the site; it is instead occupied by Apollo Hospital, a multi-disciplinary hospital.
Land was granted to Syed at the cost of Rs 10 lakh (Rs 2 lakh per acre). Today the total market value of the land is about Rs 44 cr – a 440 fold increase – as per the report.
The land lay vacant till 2005. An agreement was signed between Apollo Hospital Enterprises and Imperial Hospital in December, 2005 to build a hospital.
Apollo Hospital has refuted the allegation of encroachment and says that it has already written to the Task Force justifying its position. Dr Umapathy Panyala, COO at Apollo Hospital, Bannerghatta road, says that Apollo Hospital is a unit of Imperial Hospital. Dr Panyala also said that the cancer hospital is located inside Apollo Hospital and that it specialises only in cancer treatment. When Citizen Matters checked, there was no separate building in the name of Imperial Hospital on the site only an Oncology department.
Dr Panyala says, "Dr Syed is a promoter and Director of Imperial Cancer Hospital & Research Centre Pvt Ltd. Apollo Hospitals has invested in the equity share capital of Imperial Cancer Hospital. Imperial Hospital used this association to offer treatment in other specialities."
V Balasubramanian, author of the report, says otherwise. "Apollo Hospital recently set aside its cellar floor for storing some equipment, saying that it is for cancer treatment. But there is no cancer hospital there, and the land was not meant to be used for any other purpose," he says.
The paper trail
The company ‘Imperial Hospital and Research Centre Private Ltd’ was incorporated in 1990. An audit done for this company by Vinay and Keshava Auditors, Malleswaram, for the year 2005-06 mentions the company as located in the Bannerghatta road plot and says that the company is yet to start its commercial operations.
While the violation was going on, Syed applied for grant of another 2 acre 32 gunta of land adjoining Apollo Hospital, in 2007. He used the name of a society called Imperial Cancer Care Foundation, which was registered with an address in Old Airport Road in 2003. In this application he says that a cyberknife (a non invasive robotic radio surgery) hi-tech medical facility for treating tumours can be built on the site. MLC YSV Datta had recommended his application to the then-Chief Minister and it is now pending approval of the Special Deputy Commissioner, Bangalore Urban
Delay in questioning the illegal land use
The task force report says that it was only in 2009 – 18 years after the grant – that the land use was questioned by the government. When the Tahsildar, Bangalore South, queried about the land in 2009, Syed responded that Imperial Hospital and Apollo Hospital entered into a subscribers-cum-shareholding agreement which allows the hospital to be run in the name of Apollo Hospital while retaining the property in the name of Imperial Hospital. This contradicts with Dr Panyala’s statement to Citizen Matters that Imperial Hospital is located within Apollo Hospital.
Syed had written to the Tahsildar under the letter head of Apollo Hospital, mentioning it as a unit of Imperial Hospital and Research Centre. The word ‘cancer’ was omitted from Imperial hospital’s name.
The same year the Revenue Secretary, who is also a Member Secretary of the Task Force for Protection of Government Lands, inspected the site and found that the land was misused. He wrote to the Special Deputy Commissioner asking him to cancel the grant and to not process the new application for the remaining 2 acre 32 guntas (which Syed had asked for in 2007)
The Special Deputy Commissioner then issued a notice to the Imperial Cancer Care Foundation’s office in Airport Road. The Foundation responded saying that it has handed over the hospital to Apollo Hospital Enterprises for efficient management. There was no further action from the Special Deputy Commissioner after this.
The Task Force report finds the government ineffective in many counts here. First, land was granted to Syed without doing any background verification about him. Second, Revenue department officials inspected the site many times over the years, but none pointed out the misuse of land.
Syed transferred the land illegally to Apollo Hospital and has been benefiting from it for over 20 years by collecting rent/dividend from Apollo, hence criminal action should be taken against him, says the report.
In the case of the hospital, it recommends that government can re-grant the land to Apollo by collecting the current market value and penalty for illegal occupation. Or government can forfeit the hospital and run it as a government hospital.
Balasubramanian says that he has written to the Principal Secretary to the government recommending action and is awaiting government’s response.⊕