Friday, 13 April 2012

Clarification on President’s Post Retirement Home

Certain media have been claiming that the President of India, Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil has “grabbed” land much in excess of her entitlement to build her post retirement home in Pune. A clarification in this regard is necessary, as these news items are factually incorrect and malicious. The facts of the case are as follows:-

To say that a house is being constructed for occupation by the President on demission of office by “snatching” or “grabbing” land meant for soldiers is factually incorrect and malicious. The land belongs to the Ministry of Defence and will continue to remain with the Ministry of Defence. The title of the land is not being alienated in any manner whatsoever. The ownership of both the land and the house she will be occupying will continue to remain vested in the government and therefore there is no substance in the allegation of personal gains. 

The President is entitled to accommodation after demission of office as provided for under the President’s Emoluments and Pensions Act, 1951. It is therefore the legitimate entitlement of the President to occupy an accommodation provided by the government and all former Presidents have availed this benefit. The only variance in the present case is that the President will be occupying a government accommodation outside Delhi . 

The said rules provide that the size of the residence to be provided to the President on demission of office shall be comparable to a residence allotted to a Minister in the Union Council of Ministers. It is common knowledge that houses of Union Ministers in the Lutyens’ Zone area, though belong to Type VIII category, are not of any uniform size. Quite logically, therefore, the President’s Emoluments and Pensions Act does not specify a fixed living area for former President’s when they occupy a government accommodation. The mention of living area not exceeding 2000 sq. ft. is only indicative and applicable where a suitable government residence is not available and a residence is to be taken on lease/rent basis, which does not apply in the present case, since the President will be occupying a government accommodation. 

The present residence occupied in Pune is a house which was earlier occupied by an officer at the level of a Lt. Colonel. The house being old, needed renovation to make it suitable for residential purposes and accordingly certain additions/modifications have been taken up to suit the requirements of the President on demission of office. 

The President is not coming in the way of residential accommodation being provided to Territorial Army cadets. That only that plot of land which is to be used for accommodating the President must only be used for providing residential accommodation for soldiers lacks rationale. Merely because the President has chosen to reside in the Cantonment area cannot be viewed as being apathetic or indifferent to the welfare of the soldiers. Surely, the city of Pune and surrounding areas have enough alternative land available for their accommodation. 

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