BHUBANESWAR: The state-owned Odisha Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (Idco) has spent over Rs 20 lakh towards legal expenses to defend its decision to allot a plot for Rs 8 lakh to a small-scale industry in Rourkela, according to a disclosure under Right to Information (RTI) Act.
According to Idco, Satyanarayan Mohanty had in 1996 sought a shed on rent at Rs 2,500 a month to run a saree polishing and dyeing of garments and fabrics unit in Rourkela. He filed a petition in the Orissa high court in 2008, alleging that Idco did not consider his application. In February 2008, the HC asked Idco to take a decision on the application (either to entertain or reject his request). In September 2008, the corporation allotted 0.145 acre as a 'special case' to Mohanty by charging Rs 7.89 lakh for regularizing a plot 'encroached' by him.
In 2009, Pitabasa Mishra moved the HC, challenging the allotment at Raghunathpalli. The HC, in December 2010, quashed the allotment and asked Idco to conduct public auction of the land. The court cancelled the lease, observing that Idco can't regularize or grant lease in favour of an encroacher as it would affect public interest. "The Idco's decision to regularize the unauthorized occupation of land and allotment by regularization without public auction is patently illegal," a bench of Justices V Gopala Gowda and I Mahanty observed.
Idco, however, challenged the order in the Supreme Court in 2013. The RTI figures showed Idco spent around Rs 10 lakh in 2013 to defend its decision. "Since the case is still pending, if one considers similar average for this year, the corporation must have spent another Rs 10 lakh," said RTI campaigner Pradeep Pradhan.
Addressing a news conference, Pradhan expressed surprise at Idco spending lakhs of rupees to defend its illegalities in court. "When the Orissa Prevention of Land Encroachment Act, 1972, clearly bans regularization of encroachment, Idco must answer why it is spending lakhs to give land to an individual illegally," he said.