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Madhya Pradesh govt launches probe against National Herald for selling plot allotted at concessional rate on lease in Bhopal

When the lease of a plot to the National Herald ended in 2011, Bhopal Development Authority found that the newspaper had stopped publishing, and the plot was sold to different businesses

After the Enforcement Directorate sealed the Young Indian office in the National Herald building in New Delhi in the ongoing investigation against the Gandhi family, another building owned by the Congress mouthpiece is facing trouble. Madhya Pradesh govt has started an investigation into allegations that land allotted to National Herald in Bhopal is being used for commercial purposes after it was to private businesses.

Bhuppendra Siingh, the Udban Development Minister in the Madhya Pradesh informed on Twitter that he has issued orders to form a committee to probe commercial construction on the land allotted to National Herald at press complex in Bhopal by violating the conditions of the allotment. The committee will find out who had changed the use of the allotted land, who had sold the plots, who did the commercial construction, and who is responsible for taking concrete action in the case which is pending in the court for a long time.

The matter of the plot allotted to National Herald in Bhopal is pending in a district court after it was found that commercial establishments have come up in the plot allotted to the newspaper. Minister Bhuppendra Siingh said that the govt is monitoring the case in the court very closely, and parallelly the govt has also ordered a probe.

He said that if required, the complex will be sealed after the probe is over.

The case

Associated Journals Limited was allotted 1.14 acre of land at the Press Complex in Bhopal for just Rs 1 lakh in 1982 on a lease basis. AJL had published English daily National Herald, Hindi daily Navjeevan and Urdu daily Kaumi Awaz at that time. When the lease expired in 2011, officials of the Bhopal Development Authority (BDA) went to the site and found that it was being used for commercial purposes instead of publication of newspapers. The publication of newspapers had already stopped in 1992, and commercial establishments had started to take its place after that.

BDL also found that AJL had sold parts of the allotted to different buyers, and the ownership of those plots also changed several times. AJL had allegedly transferred power of attorney to different people over a period of years. BDL says AJL has no right to sale land that was allotted to in on lease at a nominal rate.

As a result, the Bhopal Development Authority refused to renew the lease. A report from 2016 says that the site has a unit of Vishal Mega Mart, and outlets of retail brands including Mangalam and Lotus. BDA cancelled the lease in 2012, and sent notices to take possession of the land.

AJL has filed a suit against the cancellation of the lease in a district court, but the court had rejected its plea. After that, they appealed at the High Court. A separate PIL was also filed at the High Court against the Gandhi family for misuse of the allotted land.

High Court had also dismissed petitions filed by several private businesses that bought plots at the land, asking to be included in the suit filed by BDL to evict the commercial establishments at the site. The court had said that they were not the original allotee, and therefore they can’t be heard in the case.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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