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The Decline of Pune Cantonment Board’s Historic Grant Bungalows Due to Suspected Sales – ET RealEstate

PUNE: A survey by Defence Estates Office (DEO), Pune circle has found several irregularities in at least 20 old grant bungalows (OGBs) and leased properties in the Pune Cantonment Board’s limits. Discrepancies like use of residential properties for commercial activities, unauthorized constructions and in some cases sale of bungalows to builders violating clear orders for an NOC from the competent authority have come to the fore.Amitkumar Mane, Defence Estates Officer, Pune circle, said, “The survey is going on in Pune cantonment limits. A team of officials is visiting all the OGBs. We will compile a report and submit it to the Principal Directorate, Defence Estates of the Southern Command for action against violators.”Pune cantonment has 290 OGBs and Khadki Cantonment Board has 60 such properties in prime locations, and their sizes vary from one acre to four acres worth hundreds of crores of rupees at current market rates.Property GrabbingAn OGB can pass hands from one person to another as a succession, but the land on which it stands belongs to the Ministry of Defence and can be taken back. Often, occupants of OGBs claim they have no successors and sell the bungalow to a builder or a private party, a top DEO official said. The realtor then turns the OGB into a restaurant, a hotel or some other commercial property. In Pune and Khadki cantonment, DEO sources said some of their own officials have colluded with builders and politicians to acquire OGBs. A top Director General Defence Estates (DGDE) in Delhi said builders approach occupants with a lucrative deal who first get a no-objection certificate for repairs from the Defence Estates Office and LMA, then submit a building plan to the cantonment office for sanction, and when this process is on, sell the property and apply for a change in the ownership (mutation) title to the MoD. Principal director of Defence Estates (Southern Command) Saurav Ray has written to Inspector General of Registration (IGR) officials to refrain from registering defence properties that exchange hands in violation of rules.The letter signed on December 6 said, “It has been noticed with serious concern that in many cases, bungalows, house properties on defence land (Class B-3 lease and old grant sites) have been transferred and sold unauthorizedly by lessees/occupiers of old grant bungalows to individuals/private individuals and builders without approval of competent authority, Government of India. It is for your kind information that lease and old grant properties cannot be sold/transferred without approval of government authority.”Ray told TOI, “These matters are highly sensitive. The DEO is already inspecting the OGBs. I cannot comment any further.” Cantonment officials said that he has directed the CEOs of Pune and Khadki to issue a public notice and write to the IGR to flag such registrations.IGR Hiralal Sonawane said that his department does not register any defence property without appropriate documents and no objection certificates (NOCs) from competent authorities. “If the Defence Estates Office and cantonment authorities want to stop such registrations, they should not give no-objection certificates at their levels,” Sonawane said.A defence official said that in the past, if the DEO or the Local Military Authority raised objections to any such sale, the owner went to court. Over 20 such matters and cases are pending in courts for decades, they added.Lasting SolutionsEarlier, the DGDE was empowered to sanction the mutation of OGBs. Since 2016, the Ministry of Defence has handled such matters.“The ministry hardly permits change in ownership of the property to create Holder of Occupancy Rights. As a result, many current HORs resort to selling their properties to make easy money,” a citizen who lives in an OGB in Pune cantonment said. A DGDE official said hundreds of applicants across the country are waiting for the ministry’s sanction to mutate their properties. “The long wait has prompted HORs and occupants to get into illegal agreements with private parties for lucrative deals,” the official added. MoD spokesperson Bharat Bhushan Babu on Thursday told TOI, “I am outside Delhi, I cannot comment on the (OGB) mutation cases.” Another senior MoD official said that mutation cases are complex and they have to scrutinise every document and check the requirements of the local military authority. “These are century-old land properties currently valued at several crores. Each matter or application for mutation is investigated thoroughly before giving the sanction. Besides, we also check the background of the applicant. These are sensitive defence land matters. We need significant time to complete this process before making a final decision,” he added.‘Investigate Sales’Some defence officials said all OGBs are prime real estate and cases of unauthorized construction in them or their sale should be investigated.“Defence estates officials or local military officers may not be able to conduct a fair investigation as the possibility of collusion, corruption and malpractices cannot be ruled out. OGBs are being sold as a result of illegal practices,” a senior defence official said. NOCs issued by lower level officials to private parties for use of defence land must stop and should be done by the defence ministry to prevent misuse of delegated powers, the official added.

Published On Jan 6, 2024 at 12:00 PM IST

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