Statesman News Service
KOLKATA, Feb. 4. – In the first discernible sign of concrete action following the exposure of a land scandal in Salt Lake City, the house of the former Calcutta High Court judge, Mr Justice Bhagabati Prasad Banerjee, in the township’s FD-429 Block, was today auctioned in accordance with a Supreme Court directive.
The leasehold will pass on to a city businessman, Mr Pradip Kumar Murarka, for 982 years. He paid Rs 51 lakh for the land and the building to the urban development department. Mr Justice Banerjee will have to vacate the house in a month. The government will give him the money within a week. The auction was held in a packed BD Block auditorium around 12.30 pm with eight bidders vying for the 4.10061-cottah plot on which stands the two-storey house. Only three of the bidders were present.
The Salt Lake City estates officer, Mr Dipak Gupta, and the urban development department’s joint secretary, Mr P K Bagchi, were present. Mr Murarka’s bid was the highest. The auction began with estate officer bringing the property under the hammer at a government-estimated price of Rs 38.50 lakh: Rs 18.50 lakh for the land and Rs 20 lakh for the building. The judge had heard a public interest litigation in Calcutta High Court on conversion of forest land into non-forest plots in Salt Lake City. He stayed allotments. Later, when the Advocate-General intervened, he modified his order partially to let the chief minister make allotments in terms of his discretionary quota so the judge could become the first recipient in the next round.
In its judgment on 19 November, 2004, the Supreme Court had observed: “The facts speak volumes… that the learned judge has misused his judicial function… There is undoubtedly an unholy nexus in between the passing of the judicial order and granting the order of allotment.” A case was filed in 1999 by the Congress MLA, Mr Tarak Singh. Mr Justice Banerjee said: “I am the victim of a conspiracy hatched by the state government