He refers to himself as a whistle-blower. At 70, his concern is for social justice "especially when local bodies are perpetrators".
Meet S Vasudeva, a practicing advocate in the Karnataka High Court, who has filed a number of public interest litigations (PIL) on various issues concerning Bengaluru.
"Government is meant for welfare of people. If they fail to provide basic neccessities, then who will?", he asks passionately. It is because of this that he filed a PIL with regard to the allocation of G-category sites to 66 MLAs and MLCs of Bangalore and across the state. G-category refers to BDA sites allotted at the discretion of the chief minister to eminent personalities.
His writ petition resulted in the High Court issuing a notice on February 2nd 2010 to the state government, BDA, Urban Development department and site allottees. Vasudeva says that the respondents are likely to respond within the next two weeks. He says the case itself may take six months or a year to close.
Now here’s how it all started. On February 28th 2009, the Urban Development department wrote to the BDA Commissioner, listing out the 66 MLAs and MLCs who were chosen to be given 50×80 sites and ordered the BDA to do so. The letter says that this allotment is as per Rule 5 of the BDA (Allotment of Sites) Rules, 1984 and the 1997 Revised Guidelines for allotment of stray sites by the BDA.
Vasudeva filed a petition on December 12th 2009, challenging these revised guidelines saying these MLAs are not eminent personalities and are therefore not entitled to receive these sites.
Vasudeva’s track record
- Vasudeva has filed over 70 PILs. He recently filed a petition before the High Court seeking the state government and the BBMP to protect lakes in the city. The hearing of this case was adjourned.
- It was way back in the late eighties that Vasudeva began his tryst with fighting for social justice when he filed a petition to save and protect public property in Dasarahalli in Jayanagar 6th Block. He says this is where Lakshman Rao Park in Jayanagar stands today. "Ramakrishna Hegde was the Chief Minister. He got this plot of 7.5 acres allotted for his son-in-law. It was called the Revajeethu scandal", he says. The case went up to the Supreme Court and finally ended in Vasudeva’s favour. "The 90 lakh sale deed was struck down", he says. Vasudeva says that it was after this that the Urban Land sealing Act came into being.
Vasudeva also claims that the former late Chief Minister even tried to buy him off offering him crores of rupees and even an apartment of his own.
- Vasudeva also filed a petition in 2008 when government doctors in the state went on strike demanding salary revision. The High Court then passed a judgment banning government doctors from going on strike and stated that they do not have the right to strike as they fall under essential services.
- In another case, he got the crematorium in Wilson Garden opened. This after it was shut down following complaints from nearby residents about air pollution. After Vasudeva filed a PIL, he says it was modernised and opened.
The petition says that some of the MLAs have been allotted sites for the second time. Also, as the government is allotting stray sites under G-category, Vasudeva’s petition says that the BDA Act of 1976 does not define ‘stray sites’ and therefore the BDA cannot presume that all residue sites remaining with them are stray and should be disposed off.
Through the petition, Vasudeva challenged Rule 5 of the Site Allotment Rules, 1984 which gives "absolute and unbridled power to the Chief Minister". Vasudeva also points out to the fact that 64 of the sites have been provided only to the ruling party MLAs and MLCs and not for others. He terms the allotment, "arbitrary, discriminatory, illegal and motivated by extraneous consideration".
The writ petition also refers to the two lakh people who have registered their names and deposited money for BDA sites. In spite of this, the BDA found it "convenient to overlook the applicants who are waiting in que (sic) and allotted sites to…current sitting members of the Assembly", says the petition.
"You and I will go pay money and apply for a BDA site. But we won’t get a site. These (politicians) people get so easily. 50X80 sites they are getting for 8 lakhs", Vasudeva explains. He says that the MLAs and MLCs have to pay Rs 8 lakhs deposit for 50×80 sites in the city. Going by market value, these sites could easily be sold for a price of Rs 1 crore and above today.
The petition demands Rule 5 to be struck down because it is against public interest.
BJP MLAs in Bangalore who have been allotted BDA sites under G-category
Dr C N Ashwath Narayan, Malleshwaram
S Suresh Kumar, Rajajinagar
Ravisubramanya L A, Basavanagudi
Dr D Hemachandra Sagar, Chickpet
M Krishnappa, Bangalore South
Muniraju S, Dasarahalli
Nandeesh Reddy, KR Puram
S R Vishwanath, Yelahanka
One Congress MLA from the city, N L Narendra Babu (Mahalakshmi Layout) has also been allotted a site.
According to the rules, MLAs and MLCs who have been allotted sites by the BDA also have to declare to the BDA if they or any family member owns a site or a house in the Bangalore Metropolitan Area or allotted a site or a house in the Bangalore Metropolitan Area, by the BDA or any other authority. Vasudeva’s petition says that this has also not been followed by any of the allottees or the BDA.
After the filing of this writ petition, the matter came up before the Assembly, where Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa "justifying his action admitted on the floor of the house that the S M Krishna government had allotted sites to 334 persons. The Dharam Singh government allotted such sites to 76 persons and H D Kumaraswamy government allotted such sites to 283 persons and Yeedyurappa government allotted 132 sites from April 1 2008 to December 14 2009."
Vasudeva’s petition said that this statement by Yeddyurappa proves that "he is a party to illegalities."
Following this writ petition, the High Court issued a notice to the state government, BDA and the other respondents to submit their statements with regard to the petition.
City MLAs speak up
Citizen Matters spoke to some of the Bangalore MLAs, each of who had their own take on the issue.
Mahalakshmi layout MLA Narendra Babu (Congress) says that there is nothing wrong in giving sites to MLAs under G-category. He says it becomes a problem when more than one site is given to the same person. "Not everyone of us are born rich. I come from a middle income group family", he says, explaining that it is not incorrect to give these sites as long as the power isn’t misused. Babu gives the example of a former late MLA Lakshman whose wife was left with no source of income or house after his death. "These are the kinds of criteria you need to look at", Babu says.
Malleshwaram MLA Dr C N Ashwath Narayan (BJP) also agrees with Babu saying there’s nothing wrong with allotting these sites under the discretionary quote. Narayan, however, has not decided if he will accept the site. ‘Normally, whenever a site is allotted to MLAs, it’s normal for someone to object", he says, adding that it is common that an MLA receives a BDA site during his career. Narayan further says that if proper housing was provided for all citizens, no one would make an issue of this matter.
Narayan’s colleague, S Muniraju, MLA of Dasarahalli constituency, has a different story to tell. "I have not got any BDA site. I don’t know why my name is there. I never even applied for a site", he claims. Muniraju says that he even wrote to the BDA asking them if he was allotted a site under G-category. "The BDA has told me that I haven’t been allotted a site. I don’t know how my name has come up. I will go to court", he says.
Muniraju line of thinking is also different from the other MLAs. He is quick to say that giving sites to freedom fighters and sportsmen is not in question. On the other hand, "Dr Hemachandra Sagar (BJP MLA from Chickpet) has a lot of land, Dayanandasagar college and all. He has also been allotted a site. They are taking it", he points out sharply.
Muniraju’s starting point is that the Chief Minister has powers. "S M Krishna gave land for his driver. If the Chief Minister didn’t have power then it’s ok", he says. They have been giving these sites from before. Vatal Nagaraj has three, Mallikarjun Kharge has two. I already have land in Bangalore. I don’t require any more land", he adds matter-of-factly.
A trying case for the state government
With over 70 PILs to his credit, 70-year-old Vasudeva’s fight against injustice continues. Given his track record of winning a number of key battles against the state government in the High Court, this case of doling out BDA sites to members of the state legislative assembly and council may prove to be a predicament for the Chief Minister. ⊕