On Monday, the Bombay High Court said that a land scam in Pune - that began in 1976 - is allegedly bigger than the 2G scam. If that leaves you feeling sucker-punched, it should. The 2G scam is worth upto 1.76 lakh crores according to the government's auditor. So what a group of government officials, politicians and real estate builders allegedly pulled off in Pune is no mean feat. That - and the painfully slow inquiry conducted so far by the state police - could be why the court indicate that it's likely to ask for a CBI inquiry into the matter.
The case is being heard on the basis of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) which alleges that land that should have been used by the government to benefit weaker sections of society was granted instead to developers for commercial exploitation.
Individuals or trusts were allowed to own upto 500 square metres of land under the Urban Land Ceiling (Regulation) Act (ULCA). Owners had been given this land decades ago - most owners were industrialists or real estate developers.
According to the Act, any land above 500 square metres had to be declared in returns filed by the owners, so that it could be used by the government for public projects. However, the PIL alleges that till as recently as 2005, government officials colluded with land-owners and developers to show there was no surplus land. ULCA has recently been repealed. The petition alleges that most of these violations took place before that.
"This is more serious than any other scam in the country. This is a mini-2G scam. Lakhs of square feet land has been released on fake and bogus orders under the ULCA," one of the judges hearing the case was reported to have said on Monday.