SC gives timeframe for vacating government accommodation

New Delhi, July 5 (IANS) Expressing concern over government officials and lawmakers overstaying in their official accommodations, the Supreme Court Friday issued guidelines giving a timeframe for vacating government accommodation by judges and officials upon their retirement or on ceasing to hold office.

This also applies to former members of parliament, it said.

The court also barred converting government accommodations into memorials to eminent political leaders. "Henceforth, no memorials should be allowed in future in any government houses earmarked for residential accommodation," the court said.

"It is unfortunate that the employees, officers, representatives of people and other high dignitaries continue to stay in the residential accommodation provided by the government of India though they are no longer entitled to such accommodation," said a bench of Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi in their judgment.

Observing that rights and duties are correlative, Justice Sathasivam, pronouncing the order, said: "...the unauthorized occupants must appreciate that their act of overstaying in the premise directly infringes the right of another."

"No law or directions can entirely control this act of disobedience but for the self-realization among the unauthorized occupants."

The unauthorized occupants, the judgment said, "must recollect that rights and duties are correlative as the rights of one person entail the duties of another person and similarly the duty of one person entails the rights of another person."

Among its 20 suggestions, the court said that the estate department would inform the government officials - three months prior to their retirement - of the date their official premises should be vacated.

Judges upon their retirement or on expiry of their term in commission or tribunal would vacate their official accommodation within one month.

"Judges of any forum shall vacate the official residence within a period of one month from the date of superannuation/retirement. However, after recording sufficient reason(s), the time may be extended by another one month," the court suggested.

The court said that the allotment of government accommodation to the ministers and MPs was a privilege and in the event of unauthorised retention that the matter should be referred to speaker of the Lok Sabha or the chairman of the Rajya Sabha as the case may be.

After the matter is brought to the notice of the presiding officers, action should be initiated by the House committee for the breach of the privileges which a member/minister enjoys. The appropriate committee should recommend action/eviction within a time-bound period, the court said.

In respect of government officials, the court said that notice be sent to an officer or an employee, three months prior their retirement, giving advance intimation to vacate the premises and it would be the responsibility of the department from where the officer or employee is to retire to complete these formalities.

The court said that the damages or arrears of rent for overstaying should be recovered as arrears of land revenue with a provision for compound interest, instead of simple interest.

The court stressed that to make recovery of damages or arrears more stringent, "there must be some provision for stoppage or reduction in the monthly pension till the date of vacation of the premises".

It asked the central and the state governments to frame guidelines in addition to existing statutory provisions. "We are of the view that in addition to the statutory provisions, there is need to frame guidelines for the benefit of both Union of India/States and Union Territories for better utilization of their premises."

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