HC dismisses ex-minister Choudhary Lal Singh’s plea against eviction notice
Jammu: The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Tuesday dismissed former minister Choudhary Lal Singh’s petition against an eviction notice served on him and directed him to vacate the government residence allotted to him previously within six weeks.
Singh, the Dogra Swabhiman Sangathan Party president, was among several politicians who were served notices by the Estates department last month to vacate government accommodations at Jammu’s posh Gandhi Nagar locality.
The former minister had, however, moved the High Court against the notice on the pretext that he was covered under ‘Z-category security’.
The case came up for hearing before Justice Sanjeev Kumar Shukla, who dismissed the petition after hearing the arguments from both sides, senior Additional Advocate General Monika Kohli said.
She said the court gave six weeks’ time to the former minister to vacate the bungalow.
In its notice, the Estates department had asked Singh, who has been occupying the bungalow for the past two decades, to vacate the building by November 15.
A two-time MP and three time MLA, Singh switched from the Congress to the BJP in 2014 and was also a minister in the previous PDP-BJP government, which collapsed in June 2018.
Several months before the fall of the government, Singh had resigned from the BJP and floated his DSSP, following an uproar over his participation in a rally in support of the accused in the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua in January 2018.
Choudhary Lal Singh, however, defended his participation in the rally but claimed he was there to “defuse the situation”.
Later, he launched an agitation to press for a CBI inquiry into the incident.
Besides Singh, the government has also served a notice to PDP president and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, asking her to vacate her plush Fairview government bungalow in Srinagar.
Another former chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah vacated his official bungalow on Gupkar Road in 2020, even before the administration issued an eviction notice to him.
The change in entitlements for former chief ministers in the wake of the abrogation of Article 370 and the reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union territories meant that they could not continue to live in the official residences provided to them in the erstwhile state.
Last year, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court had directed the government to evict former ministers and legislators who were in “illegal occupation” of government bungalows.
“It is very unfortunate that some former ministers, legislators, retired officers and politicians have illegally and unauthorisedly managed to continue to stay in the residential accommodations provided to them by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, though they are no longer entitled to such accommodation,” the court had said in an order in February last year.
The Estates department, in its status report filed in the court, named 89 former ministers and ex-legislators who continue to occupy government bungalows. Some of the prominent names in the list include J&K BJP chief and former MLA Ravinder Raina and former J&K deputy chief minister Kavinder Gupta.