An officer on special duty (OSD) to the Maharashtra chief minister (CM) has been blocking the transfer of a property for over a year, even after the bidder has won and officially paid the full due amount after the formal auction of the property held by Bhandari Cooperative Bank (BCB), alleges Aam Admi Party (AAP).
In November 2011, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had cancelled the licence of BCB and declared it insolvent. The Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation (DICGC) has paid claims of Rs54.88 crore to customers of the Bank. The remaining customers/ depositors of the bank approached Bombay High Court (HC) to get back their money. Subsequently, the HC asked the Bank to auction its properties and repay its depositors. The depositors are waiting for their money while the auction process is being blatantly stalled by the CM’s OSD.
However, AAP claims that BCB failed to follow the orders of the HC.
In one case, despite the bidder paying the full auction amount, the Bank has not transferred the property, AAP claimed during a press conference. The winning bidder, one Rashmi Upadhyay, was present during the press conference called by Preeti Sharma Menon, national executive member, national spokesperson, and Mumbai Prabhari of AAP.
While sharing documents Ms Upadhyay says she won the auction for the property and has paid the full amount to the Bank.
The documents do suggest that the transfer process has been stalled without any reason but there is no proof to prove the OSD’s involvement in blocking the process. It is also not clear why the party has not approached the RBI and raised this concern with the banking regulator.
The documents shared also include the TDS (tax deducted at source) forms of the bidder which show that the property was purchased during the said period. However, the said property has not been transferred to the bidder as yet.
The Party further highlighted that this has happened in several instances; but only one of the bidders has come forward and said that she has paid the whole amount for the property, followed all due processes; and even received a favourable judgement for the property to be delivered after a hearing in front of the minister of state for cooperation.
“However, every time that the government agreed to transfer the property, the officials would get a call from the Chief Minister’s OSD - Sudhir Naik, who told them that the CM had prohibited the sale. It seems that Mr Naik is misusing his authority and preventing the High Court order from being executed,”the Party alleges.
In November 2019, Sai Data Forms represented by Ms Upadhyay responded to an advertisement in leading newspapers for the auction of a property of Bhandari Bank: Combined Units A to F, Arihant Apartments, Bearing CTS No. 42, in Goregaon East. Sai Data Forms participated in the auction, made all the due payments and was hoping to have the property to transferred to them around March 2020.
“However, there were extensive delays, initially due to the pandemic, and then due to ridiculous excuses citing technical errors. Sai Data Forms kept pursuing the transfer of the property at the highest level but were always told it has been put on hold by Mr Naik - OSD to the chief minister. In fact in February 2021, after a hearing made in front of minister of state for cooperation Dr Vishwajit Kadam they were given the go ahead in writing, but were later informed by Sampark Dhaokar OSD to the minister, that Mr Naik has blocked the sale,” the Party claimed in its release.
Ms Upadhyay then approached Cabinet minister Balasaheb Patil’s OSD Antosh Patil, who again directed her to Mr Naik.
She finally spoke to Mr Naik who told her that the order to block the transfer of the defunct BCB's properties has come from the CM!
“We find it hard to believe that our Chief Minister has any interest in preventing a rightful owner from receiving his/her property. The question is how can a chief minister’s OSD use the CM’s name to stall a legal proceeding. What is the interest of Mr Naik in the said property or any other property of Bhandari Cooperative Bank,”AAP asked while highlighting the serious issue.
It is shocking that bureaucrats can subvert legal proceedings with no checks or accountability. The Party said that this instance is one of many but the other buyers are afraid to come forward.
Ms Sharma Menon sent a letter to the CM Udhhav Thackeray on 5th July detailing these serious allegations. However, she said there has been no response to her letter so far.
Ms Upadhyay has also sent numerous letters to the government.
The Aam Aadmi Party demanded that the CM Uddhav Thackeray should investigate Mr Naik’s role in obstructing the auctions of BCB's properties.
“We request the Chief Minister to take action against Mr. Sudhir Naik for misusing his name. The beneficiaries of the auctions should be handed over their purchased properties, and compensated for their loses due to the delay. It is urgent and important that the money owed to Bhandari Cooperative Bank’s depositors, repaid as soon as possible.” said AAP leader Preeti Sharma Menon.
Ms Sharma Menon also tweeted from her Twitter account, “After Bhandari Bank folded HC ordered its properties be auctioned to pay off the depositors. This was done, monies collected from buyers. Under what authority has OSD to @OfficeofUT Sudhir Nayak blocked the transfer of properties to the buyers, and the payment to the depositors”.
However, when asked by a reporter why they had not approached the RBI regarding this issue, they claimed that cooperative banks come under the 'state government’s co-operative ministry'; hence, they were only discussing with the respective ministry in the state government.
It was pointed out by a reporter that while cooperative banks were earlier under the dual regulation of RBI as well as the state government, now cooperative banks have come under the regulation of RBI. Hence, it would have been prudent if they would have approached the banking regulator with an issue of this sort. Ms Sharma Menon acknowledged this and said they would take this suggestion and try to follow up accordingly.