The land on which former cricketer and Trinamool Congress MP Yusuf Pathan had allegedly encroached did not initially belong to the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC), the civic body told the Gujarat High Court on Thursday. This, along with the fact that VMC’s proposal to allot the land to Pathan was an exception, meant that the state government’s approval was needed.

The VMC was arguing against a petition that the cricketer moved in the High Court challenging an eviction notice from the VMC. The dispute is regarding a plot of land standing next to the family’s property in the city’s Tandalja area.

Pathan filed the petition earlier this month after the VMC issued the notice to him on June 6 — two days after the Lok Sabha election results — over the alleged encroachment.

Significantly, while the VMC’s standing committee had approved the former cricketer’s 2012 request to have the land allocated to him, the state government eventually passed an order in 2014 turning down VMC’s proposal.

In its argument before the court, the VMC said that the land was allocated to it under a town planning scheme and that it did not own the land from the beginning, which was initially a private plot of land.

Festive offer

This came after senior advocate Yatin Oza, representing Pathan, told the single-judge bench of Justice Sangeeta Vishen that according to The Gujarat Provincial Municipal Corporations Act, 1949, pertaining to disposal of municipal corporation owned properties, including land plots, VMC’s decision to forward its proposal the state government was “wrong” as the civic body had the powers to approve such allocation.

Oza also said that the state government cannot, by way of a government resolution, “assume the authority will have an effect of overriding the statute (GPMC Act provisions)”.

“The state cannot dictate (to) the corporation that ‘it is my policy, therefore, you ignore the statute and you will not exercise your powers unless we tell you to exercise’. That is not permissible… When a statute requires a particular thing to be done in a particular manner, law recognizes it to be done either in the manner prescribed or in no other manner,” he said.

In March 2012, Pathan had written to the then VMC commissioner seeking that the open plot be “allotted” to him for “security purposes” as both brothers — he and his younger sibling Irfan — were international cricket players. Pathan had offered to “pay the sum decided by the VMC as per the conditions and rules in place”. VMC land is usually auctioned, and the civic body was making an exception for Pathan.

While the VMC’s standing committee approved the proposal of valuation in 2012, it had then also forwarded it to the Gujarat government. Despite the state government’s rejection in 2014, Pathan built a boundary wall, which the VMC, in its June 6 notice, said needed to be taken down.

In his arguments, VMC’s counsel Maulik Nanavati said that in 2014 — two years after the VMC forwarded the proposal — the state government had sought some clarifications about the plot’s ownership. At that time, the civic body had clarified that the land had been given to it under the Town Planning Scheme (TPS). It was after VMC’s response that the state government rejected the proposal, Nanavati said.

Earlier this month, Pathan had once again written to the VMC asking for his request to be reconsidered. As submitted by Nanavati before the court, this request, too, has been turned down on the ground that “your proposal cannot be considered for the reason that you were never allotted the land, you were never handed over the possession, you have never been given the permission to make any construction”.

Justice Vishen directed the VMC to file an affidavit before July 3, the next date of hearing, to Pathan’s petition.