Govt bungalow allocation row: Raghav Chadha victim of selective targeting, HC told

AAP MP Raghav Chadha Wednesday contended before the Delhi High Court that he was a victim of “selective targeting” as he was a vocal opposition member of Parliament. and the only sitting lawmaker in the Rajya Sabha ever to have been sought to be evicted from the bungalow allotted to him.

Chadha has approached the high court challenging a trial court’s October 5 decision of vacating an interim order which stopped the Rajya Sabha secretariat from evicting him from the government bungalow allotted to him.

He said the allotment of accommodation is an exercise of guided discretion and is made after taking into account the circumstances peculiar to the MP concerned, and in exercise of this discretion, out of 245 sitting MPs in the Rajya Sabha, 115 have been granted accommodation above their default’ entitlement.

Senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi, representing Chadha, told Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani that the MP has been provided Z+ security in view of threats, and a large contingent of security personnel was required to be deployed at his residence. The personnel cannot be accommodated in the bungalow earlier allotted to him at Pandara Park. Punjab’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government has accorded Z+ security to Chadha who is a Rajya Sabha MP from there.

Due to Chadha’s close association with the Punjab-Delhi region, and as he is an incumbent MP and a former MLA, a lot of people visit him regularly, he said.

The facts above indicate the “selective targeting of a vocal MP of the opposition”, and Chadha is the only sitting MP ever in the history of the Rajya Sabha to have been sought to be evicted from his allotted accommodation after he accepted it, conducted CPWD renovations, took technical possession and started inhabiting it with his family, he said in the plea.

The petition said the Rajya Sabha secretariat had shown great haste in sending notices to him within a couple hours of the trial court’s order.

The Rajya Sabha secretariat, represented by Additional Solicitor General Vikramjit, opposed the plea, saying the MP cannot seek negative equality over holding government property. The negative equality principle implies if the State has wrongly granted a benefit to one person, another cannot claim similar benefit just because of that.

The lawyer said there was no urgency for the trial court to grant Chadha any interim relief. He said RS secretariat was not heard when the trial court passed the interim order on April 18.

The high court, which heard the matter on Wednesday for nearly 4 hours, will continue with the hearing on Thursday.

The plea said, “Combined with this (eviction notice), the fact that the appellant has also been suspended by the Rajya Sabha at the behest of the Treasury Benches leaves no manner of doubt that every attempt is being made to silence the appellant. While this is a case about the illegality in de-housing the appellant, it is equally a case about silencing vocal parliamentarians which goes to the very root of the effective functioning of a democracy.”

The trial court had said in an October 5 order that Chadha cannot claim he has an absolute right to continue to occupy the government bungalow during his entire tenure as a Rajya Sabha MP even after the cancellation of allotment.

The trial court had made the observation while vacating an interim order passed on April 18 which directed the Rajya Sabha Secretariat not to oust Chadha from the government bungalow. It had noted Chadha was granted the interim relief without the due process of law.

The trial court had rejected the argument that the accommodation once allotted to an MP cannot be cancelled under any circumstances during the member’s entire tenure.

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“It may also be added that plaintiff (Chadha) has no vested right in the accommodation and his status is akin to that of a licensee, which can be revoked by the competent authority at any time. Plaintiff cannot claim that he has an absolute right to continue to occupy the accommodation during his entire tenure as a Member of Rajya Sabha,” it had said, adding the allotment of government bungalow is “only a privilege given to the plaintiff “.

Chadha was on July 6 last year allotted a ‘Type 6’ bungalow at Pandara Park but he made a representation to the chairman of the Rajya Sabha on August 29 requesting for a ‘Type 7’ accommodation. He was then allotted another bungalow on Pandara Road from the Rajya Sabha pool.

However, in March this year, the allotment was cancelled.

As a first-time MP, Chadha is entitled to a Type-5 accommodation in the normal course, according to the Rajya Sabha Members Handbook released in April 2022.

The handbook says MPs who are former Union Cabinet Ministers, former Governors or former Chief Ministers, and former Lok Sabha Speakers, are entitled to Type-7 bungalows, the second largest category available to Rajya Sabha MPs.

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