The Delhi High Court Wednesday directed suspended AGMUT cadre IAS officer Udit Prakash Rai, accused of demolishing a monument and constructing a government accommodation, and his family to vacate his official bungalow in Delhi and asked the authorities to allot him an alternative accommodation.
Rai, who was allotted a bungalow in Jal Vihar when he was the CEO of the Delhi Jal Board between October 18, 2021 and May 31, 2022, is currently posted as a secretary in Mizoram.
His wife Shilpi Udit Rai, who is residing in the Delhi bungalow along with children, had approached the high court with a petition challenging a July 28 notice issued by DJB asking them to vacate the premises within 15 days.
Delhi government standing counsel Santosh Kumar Tripathi, lawyers for DJB and Delhi Chief Secretary did not contest before Justice Prateek Jalan that Rai is entitled to government accommodation in Delhi despite his posting in Mizoram.
The lawyer representing Rai’s wife, who was also present in the court, submitted they will make a representation to the principal secretary of the Public Works Department (PWD) within a week for allotment of a house in accordance with the applicable rules.
He also said the family will vacate the bungalow it is occupying within reasonable time.
Justice Jalan said, “Principal secretary, PWD, is directed to dispose of the representation within two weeks thereafter by allotting an accommodation in accordance with rules.”
The high court also asked Rai’s wife to give an undertaking, signed by the couple, before it within a week stating that they will vacate the accommodation.
It asked the petitioner’s counsel to inform the court later in the day about the date by when the bungalow will be vacated and disposed of the petition.
During the hearing, the judge asked whether the officer has a right to retain the accommodation once he has been transferred out of the city.
To this, the petitioner’s counsel said Mizoram is a “hard posting” due to which Rai, a 2007 IAS batch officer, is entitled to retain the government premises here.
The DJB’s lawyer said the eviction notice was issued on July 28 and the officer still has time to respond to it.
The judge observed the allegations against the officer are such that he will take them very seriously and will also examine them.
The high court also observed orally that in government jobs there are a lot of privileges that come and go with the office. This is how life, he said.
The judge made it clear that the petitioner has to move out of the house and added, “how a DJB house can be handed over to a person who has demitted the office of DJB. That DJB has to answer.”
During the hearing, the petitioner’s counsel sought four months to vacate the premises considering the fact that her kids were in the middle of school session, which the court said was a long time.
The court while passing the order said it has not gone into various contentions raised by the parties including allotment of the accommodation to Rai, the allegation regarding demolition of the heritage monument which existed on the said property and the construction of this bungalow, among others.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) recently suspended Rai and departmental proceedings are being contemplated against him.
“Now, therefore, the President of India, in exercise of the powers conferred under Rule 3 of the All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969, hereby places Shri Udit Prakash Rai, IAS (AGMUT: 2007) under suspension with immediate effect.
“It is further ordered that during the period for which this order shall remain in force, the headquarters of Shri Udit Prakash Rai, IAS (AGMUT: 2007) shall be Mizoram and the said Shri Udit Prakash Rai, IAS (AGMUT: 2007) shall not leave the headquarters without obtaining the prior permission of the Competent Authority,” the MHA order read.
Rai was allegedly involved in the construction of an official accommodation following the demolition of a 15th-century monument during his tenure as the DJB’s chief executive officer.
Earlier this year, the Delhi government’s vigilance department served a notice to Rai over the construction of the official accommodation following the demolition of the monument.
The monument, a “mahal” (palace) from the Pathan period and the only remnant of the Khizrabad city founded by Khizr Khan of the Sayyid dynasty, was located in the Jal Vihar area near Lajpat Nagar in southeast Delhi.