Apex court frowns on key criterion in plot allotment

S. Murlidharan | Updated on June 29, 2012

Chastened by local media outcry, the Authority chose to backtrack and return the money.

The first-come, first-served criterion is not a healthy and transparent system of allotment of scarce resources, reiterated the Supreme Court in Bhubaneswar Development Authority v Adikanda Biswal.

Apart from the officials of the Authority, the three newspapers wherein the advertisement was published a day before the opening of the deposit of application money were privy to the seemingly transparent process, in addition to the officials of the lone bank that got the mandate to accept the application money (the charmed circle).

Charmed circle

The Authority had invited applications for allotment of 45 plots measuring 2,400 square feet at Rs 100 each on first-come-first-served basis, with priority to those willing to purchase the land outright in preference to those availing the instalment scheme.

Predictably, there were 58 applications on the very first day, and 45 of them would have walked away with plum plots but for an alert press. Chastened by local print media outcry against the allotment, the Authority chose to backtrack and return the money.

Writ petition

Those who were counting on allotment were naturally peeved by the belated stab of conscience on the part of the Authority and filed a writ before the Orissa High Court which upheld their claim.

The Supreme Court, however, overturned the High Court verdict and held the act of return of application money to be correct while expressing itself against the first-come-first-served criterion that often turns out to be a fig leaf for favouritism unless suitable safeguards are built into the process. The safeguards presumably would be keeping the charmed circle out of participation in the allotment process.

(The author is a New Delhi-based chartered accountant)

Published on June 29, 2012

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