PATNA: Taking suo moto cognisance of a law in Bihar that allows former chief ministers to occupy official bungalows for lifetime, Patna High Court on Tuesday issued a notice to the state government, asking it to reply in four weeks.
Observing that the rules guiding the allotment of government bungalows to former chief ministers did not appear transparent enough, the court also expressed surprise on how two bungalows were allotted to one person – Chief Minister Nitish Kumar – in Patna.
Taking up the matter for a hearing, a division bench of Chief Justice AP Shahi and Justice Anjana Mishra asked why the former chief ministers do not live in their private bungalows when they have been provided security there.
The bench referred to how former chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh had to vacate the government bungalows allotted to them for lifetime following a Supreme Court order in May last year and sought responses from the former chief ministers of Bihar. The Chief Justice expressed surprise that the Bihar government, though it was represented in the SC in the UP case, did not apprise the apex court of the prevalence of a similar practice in the state. The case was posted for the next hearing on February 11.
Former Bihar CMs Satish Prasad Singh (CM for three days in 1968), Dr Jagannath Mishra (1975-77, 1980-83 and 1989-90), Jitan Ram Manjhi (CM for nine months in 2014-15), Rabri Devi and her husband Lalu Prasad Yadav (1990-2005) have been allotted plush government bungalows for life in Patna. Rabri Devi and Lalu live in one bungalow at 10, Circular road.
Current CM Nitish Kumar, who is serving his third term in the post, has been living in the official residence at 1, Anne Marg since 2005. He also has in his possession a luxurious bungalow at 7, Circular Road that was allotted to him for lifetime as a former CM in March 2016. His close aide and JD(U) national vice-president Prashant Kishor has been functioning from this second residence.
The issue of the former CMs’ residence came up unexpectedly on Monday when the court was hearing a petition filed by Opposition leader Tejashwi Yadav of RJD challenging the government’s order asking him to vacate the bungalow allotted to him when he was deputy chief minister.
A counter-affidavit filed by the state building construction department apprising the court of the provisions of allotment of bungalows prompted the bench to order registration of a suo moto PIL on the issue. Bungalows are allotted to former CMs for lifetime under the Bihar Special Security Group (Amendment) Act, 2010.
“We will not intervene in the matter. Whatever the court decides after getting the government’s response would be complied with,” said Jagannath Mishra’s son and former minister Nitish Mishra.