Pune: Defence Estate Office Initiates Process To Take Back 16 Old Grant Bungalows In Cantonment Areas

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Mubarak Ansari

Pune, 21st February 2024: Rajendra Jagtap, Defence Estates Officer (DEO) of Pune Circle, today issued a press release about old grant bungalows (OGBs).

In the last two months, Punekar News had pointed out the violation of rules while entering into agreement to sale and construction activities at the OGBs in the Pune Cantonment.

In his press release, Jagtap stated:

For more than a month, there have been incessant, media spot-light on Old Grant Bungalows of Pune Cantt, based more on half-baked facts, and selective use of rules, to create a narrative of their misuse, with allusions, allegations etc.

Essentially, the issues raised are –
– High-value sale or agreement to sale transactions of bungalows (in a few cases of land) by Registrar, Registration & Stamps/Duties, Deptt. – Valuation running into hundreds or even thousands of crores. – Such high value will lead to higher compensation when resumed by Govt. – In a few cases, building plan Govt. sanctioned by Holder of Occupancy Rights (HOR), who has already executed sale deed or agreement to sale. – Apprehension of builders entering & making multi-storied complexes.

There are 202 OGBs/sites, in Pune Cantt & 48 in Kirkee (Khadki), under management of DEO. These are governed by GGO 179 of 1836, different land policies, as well as administrative instructions of MoD.

Land always is of the Govt, only superstructure (Building) can be transferred subject to the following conditions of GGO 179 of 1836 :-

Condition No. 3: When no objection occurs, the application is to be forwarded through the prescribed channel, by the Commanding Officer of the station, to the Quarter Master General of the Army, who, if the Commander-in-Chief approves, will submit it for the orders of Government.

Condition No. 4 All such applications are to be in the annexed form marked A.

Mutation of transfer of superstructure and occupancy rights by inheritance and will (without complications) can be approved by DEO concerned whereas the same by sale needs approval of GOI. Transfers by sale without prior approval of GOI is tantamount to violation of old grant terms which may be condoned by GOI on merits of each case as has been done in the past. Transfer, by any means, is Not alienation of land & there is no bar to transfer. In fact, there have been cases where prior or ex-post- facto permissions have been given by competent authority.

Mutation is an administrative function to correct/update the records, so as to bring occupancy holder within ambit of terms of Old Grant & also to enforce these terms. Mutation does not create title.

Transfer by sale, is done by Registrar/Sub-Registrars as per the rules of the respective State Govt. Registrar under Cantonments Act, has to intimate the DEO as & when such transaction is registered. If DEO finds
any defect / lacunae, he takes up the matter with seller/purchaser to get it
corrected/amended, including through registered admission deed upholding Govt. rights over land, trees etc. and Govt. right to resume the superstructure. DEO, time & again has taken up the matter with Registrar Office to seek details of said transactions continues & to do so.

Government has right to resume the OGBs, if there is requirement for Army or there is/are serious violations of terms of Grant. The discretion solely lies with Govt., based on merits of each case. Value of superstructure, in sale, is determined by Registrar, as per their norms. It, however, has no bearing, when Old Grant is resumed as Govt gives compensation, based only on construction cost of the structure,
assessed by MES, the Army Engineering Deptt. So even if in sale transaction, value is very high, in resumption (taking back by Govt.), valuation is quite less (at times meagre), & is no burden on Govt. In DEO Pune Circle, 16 resumption proposals have already been initiated.

Building plans of OGBs, are approved by Cantonment Board as per their bye-laws, only after seeking report from DEO, if the terms of Grant or of the land policy have not been violated. In Old Grant, views of local Army Authority are taken & in many cases of leased properties, GOC-in-Chief approves the plan. The procedure is well laid out. At any stage, during or after the plan is approved, it can be cancelled, if such violations are detected.

As for issues highlighted:
Valuation in sale / agreement to sale transactions, is assessed by Registrar Office of State Govt & is only of superstructure, not of land. DEO office has not come across case of sale transaction of land so far. Registrar Office has been reminded & is aware.

High value sale deed has no impact when it is resumed, as compensation is assessed not on sale value but cost of superstructure assessed by MES, which is quite less.

Valuation running into hundreds or thousands of crores, is not supported by any evidence /document; it is mere presumptive.

Building plans are sanctioned only when the same are applied by recorded HOR.

In case, sale transaction takes place before that & is intimated by Registrar, action is taken to cancel the plan & stop construction, which is one case as has already been done by Cantt. Board Pune.

There is no case of builders / developers, seeking permission to make multi-storied complex in OGBs; sanction is given as per FSI / FAR, which is 0.5 for OGBs/leases under DEO management; its mere apprehension.

It is reiterated that DEO (and Cantt. Board Pune) has taken action & continues to do so, to safeguard Govt. interest in OGBs.”

According to an audit report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India in 2010, Old Grant sites are a legacy of the pre­independence land policies intended to provide necessary accommodation to the military officers. The pre­independence Governments of Bengal, Madras and Bombay presidencies issued various rules and regulations between the years 1789 and 1899.

Under this, officers were granted licences of land sites, on which they could build houses. No right of property for the land was, however, ever granted to them. Later, civilians were also allowed to build such houses on lands belonging to the State, but these houses were to be hired by the Local Military Authority (LMAs). Such lands were allowed to be transferred from one military officer to another. For structures owned by the civilians, such transfer would have to have approvals of the local commanders. With the spread of urbanization, most of the Old Grant Bungalow (OGB) sites are now prime real estate.

There are 46,043 Old Grant sites in the country as of March 2009. The powers for conversion of the sites in to leaseholds or resumption of such OGBs are vested in the Ministry. As per the land policy laid down by the Ministry in 1995, to ensure appropriate returns by way of premium and rent, Old Grant sites which are in the nature of licences should be converted into leaseholds with Government sanction unless these were desired to be resumed. No activity like change of purpose, any sub­divisions by way of construction or otherwise, construction of additional storey/storeys, addition to the existing plinth area or floor area, demolition of existing construction or putting up new construction on a vacant site in Old Grant sites could be sanctioned unless the grantee was willing to take out a lease in which case proposals were to submitted to Government for considering whether a lease be granted and if so, on what terms or whether the land or any part thereof be resumed when required for Defence purposes or any other public purpose or when the bungalows are in dilapidated condition. The person who is the holder of the licence is known as the “Holder of Occupancy Rights (HOR)”.

In contravention of the Revised Land Policy of 1995 of the Ministry, in five Commands involving 29 Stations under 16 DEOs, unauthorized construction was carried out in 134 OGBs. 224 OGBs covering an area of 496.98 acres were being used unauthorizedly for educational purposes.