Thursday, January 9, 2014

BMC gifts fire force land to builder

Without setting up the promised unit, civic body gives entire FSI to developer

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has doled out a plot reserved for the fire brigade to a private developer for commercial purposes.

While it is understood that the plot was allotted to the developer at the instance of the Shiv Sena MLA from Dahisar, the local MP from the Congress has asked the civic body to revoke the decision.

Documents with BMC’s development planning and building proposals departments show a plot on the Dahisar-Link Road near the east-west flyover — approximately 4.5 acres — as being reserved for fire brigade.

The BMC has allotted more than half the plot to a private developer for constructing two-high rises (19 storeys each, with the first two floors for stilt parking). In lieu of this, the developer promised to build the fire brigade facility free of cost.

But sources say there’s more to the deal that what meets the eye. While the builder has not constructed the promised fire brigade, the BMC has allowed the developer to ‘develop the remaining 50 per cent site to the full permissible FSI’.

This means the developer will consume all the available FSI — even from BMC’s share.

Sensing a major scam, the New Link Road Resident Forum (NLRRF) from Dahisar have taken up the case.

Residents claim the BMC commissioner himself has revoked the plan in May this year due to political pressure. The revocation order has been put on hold. “When the BMC themselves can construct a fire brigade and use the remaining land for public amenities or for providing housing to the firemen, why should it gift the land to a private developer?

“Is the civic body, with a budget of Rs29,000 crore, so cash-strapped that it could not even spend Rs50 crore to build a fire station on its own?” said Harish Pandey, a forum member. The forum is planning litigation against the BMC.

Municipal commissioner Sitaram Kunte had, on May 28, given orders to revoke the commercial exploitation in a meeting with Sanjay Nirupam MP, along with local corporators and residents.

However, it is learnt that the building proposals department has given the Intimation of Disapproval (IOD) ‘in-principle’ approval for a proposed project to start construction the same day.

Senior BMC officials said it was after Nirupam’s meeting with Kunte that the BMC revoked the decision to use the land for commercial exploitation. However, local MLA Vinod Ghosalkar met Kunte afterwards and told him that commercial exploitation was in the interest of the locals as well as the BMC. “The decision taken to revoke the proposal should be implemented without any delay,” Nirupam said.
Geeta Desai @desaigeeta
Published Date:  Dec 03, 2013

I-T dept rejects Nokia’s offer to pay `2,250 cr to unfreeze Chennai assets

Mumbai: More trouble seems to be brewing for Finnish handset maker Nokia.

In a Delhi High Court hearing on Monday, the company’s offer to pay Indian tax authorities a sum of `2,250 crore in connection with the unfreezing of the Chennai assets of Nokia India Pvt Ltd was rejected by the Income Tax department on grounds that the sum was barely a third of the `6,500 crore tax demand raised on the company.

The bench also questioned Nokia India’s intention behind sending `3,500 crore to its parent company as dividend of 18 years and asked why the amount should not be brought back to the country.

It is learnt that Nokia India, however, stuck to its offer, saying it is for the I-T department to decide whether it is better off with the proposed amount.

Nokia’s Chennai plant was frozen by the government at the end of September, in conjunction with the company’s failure to pay due taxes. However, in a bid to quickly dissolve of the case that directly impacts the Indian arm’s merger into the new Microsoft-Nokia entity – the deadline for the transfer of assets of which is December 12 -- Nokia has sought to pay some part of the tax demand.

Poonam Kaul, director- communications, Nokia IMEA, said, “Nokia will continue to cooperate with the government and the tax authorities on the ongoing tax case. Nokia reiterates that time is of the essence on the asset freeze issue. Nokia calls on the Indian government and tax authority to work with urgency so that the uncertainty about the site’s future can be dispelled before the deadline of December 12.”

Nokia also claims that the I-T department has been repeatedly changing the asking amount in the tax case – the earliest demand which stood at `10,000 crore.

Nokia shareholders have already approved of Microsoft’s takeover of Nokia, and the $7.2 billion deal has reached its final stages.

Beryl Menezes @berylmenezes
Published Date:  Dec 03, 2013

CM quota flats: HC warns state govt of contempt

The Bombay High Court Monday warned the state government of contempt proceedings if it failed to comply with its to submit a list of double allottees under the chief minister's discretionary housing quota.

The court observed the government had already taken several months to disclose the names of double allottees and sought compliance of its April 2012 order by December 6.

A division bench of Justice A S Oka and S C Gupte remarked, "You (state government) are supposed to submit a list and there's nothing secret about it. If the list is ready, show us the list."

Acting on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by former journalist Ketan Tirodkar, the court had directed the government to submit a list of all double or multiple allotments of flats under the chief minister's discretionary quota.

Additional public prosecutor Aruna Kamat Pai informed the court that the state was ready with the list of allottees under the scheme, but could not disclose the names to the petitioner (Tirodkar). She added that the state government would file an affidavit regarding its stand.

Dissatisfied with the state government's approach, the court said it wanted compliance. "You have to comply with the order, failing which we will issue a contempt notice."

"You required so many months to comply? You must comply with the order by Friday," the court said.

Another petition filed by senior citizen Manohar Bait (66) claimed he had been eligible for allotment of a flat under the CM's quota since 1989, but his name remained on the waiting list of allottees over the decades. His lawyer Uday Warunjikar informed the court that as per Right To Information replies collected by Bait, most beneficiaries are either related to an MLA or MP or are political heavyweights.

The High Court will hear Bait's petition along with Tirodkar's PIL on Monday next.

Tirodkar, who had filed an RTI application seeking the information, said he had received the names of allottees from 1989 to 2010 but no details were furnished of those who had received more than one allotments.

In his PIL, Tirodkar stated that Public Works Department Minister Chhagan Bhujbal was allotted a 825-sq ft tenement in Pune in 1992 under the MLA quota, his nephew Sameer Bhujbal was awarded a 1,040-sq ft tenement in Sangamwadi, Pune, under the "intense need for space" quota that comprises 3.10 per cent of the 10 per cent discretionary quota of the CM.

Others named in Tirodkar's PIL include Pratap Pawar, brother of Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Bhagvati Sharma, mother-in-law of former CM Ashok Chavan who was allotted a 800 sq m flat in Powai, son and daughter of BJP leader Prakash Jawdekar who were allotted separate flats in Mumbai, Tushar Khadse, son of Opposition leader Eknath Khadse, and Abid Hasan Mushrif, son of NCP leader Hasan Mushrif.

Names in PIL
*Sameer Bhujbal, nephew of Chhagan Bhujbal
* Pratap Pawar, brother of Sharad Pawar
* Bhagvati Sharma, mother-in-law of Ashok Chavan
* Son, daughter of Prakash Jawdekar
* Tushar Khadse, son of Eknath Khadse
* Abid Hasan Mushrif, son of Hasan Mushrif
Tue Dec 03 2013, 00:12 hrs

Orissa orders attachment of Saradha Group assets

The Naveen Patnaik government has ordered attachment of properties of Kolkata-based chit fund company Saradha Group under investigation in West Bengal and Orissa for allegedly defrauding investors of Rs 20,000 crore.

Two days ago, the Orissa finance department passed an interim order for attachment of over 14 acres of land, and freeze Rs 2,740 crore of the group in IDBI account in Balasore district.

The finance department on November 30 passed an ad-interim order (The Indian Express has a copy of the order) attaching properties of the group under section 3 of Orissa Protection of Interests of Depositors (in Financial Establishments) Act, 2013 and transferred properties in the said schedule to additional district magistrate (ADM) Balasore, the competent authority under the Act.

The ADM would apply within 30 days to the designated court for making an ad-interim order of attachment absolute and for a direction to sell property attached by public auction and realize sale proceeds within 180 days.

"It is revealed that financial establishments are acting in a calculated manner with an intention to defraud investors of their legitimate dues. The properties are alleged to have been procured either in the name of the said financial establishments or in the names of other persons from and out of deposits collected by it...", the order said.

As per the ad-interim order, land was purchased in the name of Saradha Realty India Ltd by its managing director Sudipta Sen and director Debika Dasgupta in Balasore 5-6 km from the DRDO Interim Test Range.

The Economic Offences Wing of Orissa's Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has not put a value to the attached land. In Orissa, the loss is about Rs 70 crore. The CID registered two cases against Sen and group director Debjani Mukherjee.

Two employees of the Balasore branch have been arrested. CID is planning to get Sen and Mukherjee to Orissa for interrogation. The Patnaik government in July constituted an inquiry by retired HC judge R K Patra to look into involvement of influential persons in protecting or promoting fraudulent chit funds. The Commission received over 8 lakh envelopes, each containing one or more affidavits that are now being registered. Though the Commission was supposed to submit a report within three months of its constitution, it looks unlikely as it has to go through huge number of affidavits.

Kolkata, Tue Dec 03 2013, 02:40 hrs

Reveal source of Rs 22k cr paid to investors: SC to Sahara

Sahara's two real estate companies have been given two weeks to respond

While the restraint on Sahara boss Subrata Roy from going abroad was retained, the Supreme Court today asked his two real estate companies to disclose in two weeks the source of funds if they had repaid  Rs 20,000 crore to its investors in bonds, as they claimed. 

The companies have maintained that they have repaid 90% of the investors. If that was so, the judges said, the source should have been reflected in the balance sheet. The court order to return the investment is two years old, but it has not been done according to Sebi.

The bench headed by Justice K S Radhakrishan told Sahara counsels that the companies will definitely  have to return the money. “Now we will call the Registrar of Companies to find out the source of money and even order a CBI inquiry into the whole affair,” the judge said.

“The court is not helpless; we will see that that our order is fully complied with,” the judges observed in a fusillade of observations against the companies. They pointed out that the order to return the money to the investors was passed two years ago, and subsequently Sebi had moved the court for contempt action. That was nine months ago. “We don’t want to burden the Sebi anymore,” the judges said threatening to take the fight to the Registrar of Companies who they said was not doing anything in the matter.

“We have given maximum indulgence. We are driven to call the Registrar,” the court remarked. “If you take the history of the case, there is inconsistency in every affidavit filed by the Sahara companies. We have been most generous in this matter, but you don’t appreciate our indulgence.”

Though the court expected the Sahara firms to provide sufficient securities in the nature of title deeds of assets which could guarantee the refund to the investors, Sebi counsel Arvind Datar today pointed out that all the property titles are shaky. Amby Valley project in Maharashtra is riddled with litigation and false power of attorney transactions for which one key person has been arrested. Moreover, the entire project is without environment clearance for which litigation is pending.

Some other properties in other parts of the country also have been valued exhorbitantly to meet the court’s demand for adequate security. In several cases, the property was bought for a sum and the valuation showed more than 50 times appreciation in ten years. Some deeds are not traceable, Datar said.

In view of the objections of Sebi about the title deeds, there was no arguments about Roy going out on business as the permission was conditional on sufficient security to the satisfaction  of Sebi.

Sebi had raised contempt action with regard to Sahara’s advertisements in all leading papers about the pending cases.  The court had at last hearing ordered publication  of apology in all the papers with equal prominence. The judges said in a lighter vein that they read all the newspapers and they have not been able to spot any apology so far. It should be done before Janauray 28, when the case will be heard again, after the production of title deeds with adequate security.
M J Antony  |  New Delhi
January 9, 2014 Last Updated at 16:42 IST