Govt to constitute JPC to probe controversial agreement with CEEPL

Govt to constitute JPC to probe controversial agreement with CEEPL

Kohima, September 21: The State Assembly was unanimous to constitute a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe into the status of agreement with Civil Engineers Enterprise Pvt. Ltd (CEEPL) Kolkata.
The Opposition Naga People’s Front (NPF) has demanded to handover the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), but Chief Minister, Neiphiu Rio suggested that it would be good if the JPC is constituted and probe into the matter to know more about what had conspired the previous government to sign such agreement which was a total betrayal of Naga people.
When the second agreement was signed in 1997, then S C Jamir was the Chief Minister and Rio was PWD Minister. The controversial agreement with the CEEPL was signed without any Naga officer. Rio yesterday denied of his involvement as he was only a PWD Minister and become Home Minister only in 1998.
The first Agreement was signed on August 6, 1982 between Development Authority Nagaland (DAN), Government of Nagaland and Shyamalendu Ghosal & Party (Civil Engineers Enterprise Pvt. Ltd.) at a monthly rental rate of Rs. 5.50 per sq. ft. subject to enhancement of the rate at 10% after every 5 years. It was signed between DAN represented by Mrityunjoy Ghosal, Secretary of DAN and Shyamalendu Ghosal, representing the Lessee Company (Tenant) under the name Engineers Enterprise. Earlier, CEEPL was known as Engineers Enterprise and Sh. S. Ghosal was a Partner then. As per the terms and conditions, this Agreement of 1982 was to be in force for a period of 21 years from the date of occupancy (as per Clause 16 of the 1982 Agreement) but surprisingly, before expiry of the said Agreement, a new Agreement was signed on December 24, 1997.
Leader of the Opposition, T R Zeliang said the 2nd Agreement of 1997 was signed between the then Chief Secretary of Nagaland, AM Ghokhale, representing the Government of Nagaland, and Managing Director of CEEPL, S. Ghosal, representing the Lessee Company (Tenant) on December 24, 1997 converting the lease (rental amount) to a lump-sum amount of Rs. 5 Lakhs per month or Rs. 60 Lakhs per year, and renewable after 20 years with an increase of 40%. S.K Chattopadhyay, who was then Assistant Resident Commissioner, Kolkata was also a signatory of the second Agreement as a Witness.
“If we follow the pattern of rent as per 1982 Agreement, the monthly rent is over Rs. 8 Lakhs per month,” he told the Assembly. But despite the fact, the rental amount was converted to a lump-sum amount of Rs. 5 Lakhs per month.
He said as per the 1997 Agreement, the yearly rent was Rs. 60 Lakhs only whereas on the other hand, as per the old Agreement of 1982, the yearly rent came to over Rs. 1 Crore
Zeliang said technically, even if the State Government receives a rent of Rs. 7 Lakhs per month as per the interim order of May 14, 2018, the total rent per year still comes to only Rs. 84 Lakhs which is way less than the yearly rental rate received as per the 1982 Agreement which was signed 36 years back from today.
“Rent of buildings in all Metropolitan Cities increases every year but in the case of Nagaland House at Shakespeare Sarani Road, Kolkata, the rent of the said Building started decreasing after the 2nd Agreement of 1997 was executed,” he said.
Further he said the second Agreement was drafted by AR Barthakur, the then Advocate General of Nagaland who was a signatory of the Agreement. He was AG, Nagaland from March 3, 1994 to March 3 2003.
Strangely, the Agreement was signed without any Naga representatives and there is no trace of any records leading to how and why the second Agreement had taken place.
“With the 2nd Agreement coming to an end on 31st December, 2017 CEEPL had applied to Home Department (a separate letter bearing the same letter no and date, with the same content, was also sent to Chief Secretary, Nagaland) for renewal of the said Agreement of 1997 with an increase of 40% which comes to Rs. 7 Lakhs per month vide letter no CEEPL/HO/472, dated 12th May, 2017” the Leader of the Opposition informed the House.
However, under the directive of the Chief Minister, the Home Department had written to CEEPL to make a fresh Agreement and the rent to be rectified as per the prevailing Market rate of that locality (Shakespeare Sarani, Kolkata) vide letter No. NGO/CAB-1/97 dated 20th February, 2015.
The prevailing rent rate in this locality (Shakespeare Sarani, Kolkata) is Rs.150 per sq. ft and the Government of Nagaland had proposed the rent at Rs. 2.22 Crores per month from January 2018 as per existing market rate of 150 per sq. ft.
The Agreement which was executed in 1997 for 20 years was due in January 2018 and in this connection, the Government had served notice to CEEPL for enhancement of rate as per prevailing market rate with a fresh Agreement to be executed between the two parties. Thereafter, CEEPL went to the Court to revalidate the old Agreement of 1997.
“The loan advance of Rs. 3 Crores along with interest taken by DAN against the construction of the building during the signing of the First Agreement of 1982 has been recovered to CEEPL from the State’s exchequer. Therefore, the State Government has every right to charge the rent as per prevailing market rate from 1997,” Zeliang said.
He said as per records, the first Agreement signed in 1982 with DAN was annulled by the second Agreement signed on December 24, 1997 with effect from January 1998 for a period of 20 years. The period between these two Agreements was 15 years. The detail of why the second Agreement was signed is unknown.
“The 2nd Agreement is the issue of contention as it is totally a one-sided Agreement in favour of Sh. S. Ghosal & Party (CEEPL.),” he lamented.
The second Agreement was signed in the office of the DRC, Kolkata.
Presenting the current status, Zeliang said in order to renew the Lease Agreement with CEEPL, the State Government had asked CEEPL to appear for signing of a fresh Agreement. However, CEEPL ignored the call of the Government and stuck to the Agreement of 1997 which states that the new rent should be enhanced by 40% of the old rent of Rs. 5 Lakhs which works out to Rs. 7 Lakhs.
“The attempt to rectify the Lease Agreement failed due to the obstinate stand of CEEPL and during the midst of further negotiation with CEEPL, the firm filed a Court case against the State Government on 19th February, 2018 when Campaign for the State General Election was in full swing,” he said.
Accordingly, the Court issued an interim order on May 14, 2018 directing the State Government to accept the monthly rent of Rs. 7 Lakhs. Based on this interim order of the Calcutta High Court, CEEPL issued a cheque of Rs. 35 Lakhs dated 16th May, 2018 as rent for 5 months (ie. Jan-May) with a validity of 3 months (i.e. till 16 August, 2018) in favour of Home Commissioner, Nagaland which was received by the Office of the DRC, Kolkata as directed by the Government.
A second Cheque of Rs. 7 Lakhs dated 2nd July, 2018 was issued by CEEPL as rent for June, 2018 and received by the Office of the DRC, Kolkata.
The NPF leader said the stand of the previous Government was clear and several rounds of meetings were held among the then Advocate General, Vikramjit Banerjee; Home Commissioner, Abhishek Singh and DRC Kolkata, Arenla Jamir to counter the claim of CEEPL. But with the change of guard, the stand of the Government suddenly took a U-turn.
He asked the Leader of the House, whether the Government already encashed the two Cheques of Rs. 35 Lakhs and Rs. 7 Lakhs or are those Cheques still kept under the custody of DRC, Kolkata.
“Why the interim order of the Calcutta High Court, dated 14th May, 2018 was not challenged by the State Government? What are the advices rendered by the AG Nagaland? What prompted the State Government to do away with Rs. 5.50 per sq. ft. and changed the monthly rate of rent into a lump-sum amount of Rs. 5 Lakhs per month? And Why was a new Agreement signed in 1997 in just 15 years when the first logic behind? Agreement of 1982 was to be in force for a period of 21 years from the date of occupancy?” he asked
In reply to supplementary question, Rio told the House that Government is preparing to file a counter affidavit and that cheques are expired. He said there was a delay in filing a counter affidavit, while the processing of compiling formalities.
Rio and Zeliang agreed that the CEEPL is sticking to West Bengal Tenancy Act.
He, however, said the second agreement was a complete betrayal of whole of Naga people by the past leaders and sought the cooperation of the Oppositions to probe into the matter.
He said the case can be handed over to the CBI if the report of the JPC is not satisfactory.
But he regretted over the manner in which the Opposition leader was trying to implicate him in the matter adding that Government is sleeping over the matter but would pursue till justice is delivered.
Rio also condemned the second agreement.
Zeliang also raised another issue where Nagaland Government had leased out 2/3rd portion of corner room on the ground floor to Ramdhar Mishra (Hind Xerox & Forex) on a monthly rent of Rs. 30 with effect from 12.8.1968. Again, the rent was revised in 1986 (record not available) after a gap of 18 years from Rs. 30 to Rs. 100 as monthly rent. Since, then the firm has been paying Rs. 100 only till date. Approximate space occupied by Hind Xerox & Forex is 154 sq. ft and the approximate amount of rent worked out as per KMC Rate comes to Rs. 11,396. The approximate amount of rent worked out as per market Commercial rate of that locality comes to Rs. 23,100, he said.
Office of the DRC, Kolkata had written to the State Government on July 15, 2017 suggesting that: (a)A clear Lease Agreement may be drafted with the Party with terms and conditions (as per KMC Tenants Act), (b)A term of 3 to 5 years (renewable after lapse of every calendar year and revise the rent rate as per prevailing market rent rate) w.e.f the date of signing of the Agreement may be followed with an increase of rent during every interval.
The existing status is Hind Xerox & Forex is still paying Rs. 100 till date and there are no documents regarding Deeds of Agreement and in the absence of such vital documents, the Audit failed to ascertain how a room at such site in the Metropolitan City was rent out at such low rate.
Another space in Nagaland House Complex at Kolkata occupied by Bano Angami, North East Handloom & Handicrafts, on the Ground Floor is also in the Court. This road-side commercial room was leased out to Bano Angami in the year 1987 @ Rs. 1000 per month. After some years, the lessee was terminated with effect from 1.5.2001 on the ground that the lessee had breached the Lease Agreement. Since then, the room rent and electricity bills were not paid but the room remains occupied by the lessee till the date of Audit in March 2001.
The Leader of the Opposition said in May, 2017 on scrutiny of the records and physical verification, it was found that the same business was found to be running under the brand name ‘Women’s wear Aurelia.’ He said Bano Angami had written a number of times to the State Government expressing her willingness for an amicable settlement of the matter. The latest letter was written on May 5, 2018 addressed to the Secretary of Home, Rovilatuo Mor in which she expressed her willingness to settle the matter amicably outside the Court.
“These 3 issues are similar to each other. If this is not corruption, what is called Corruption? Therefore, if CBI enquiry is sought by any bonafide citizens of Nagaland, whether the Cabinet of PDA will approve for such enquiry?” he asked the House.
But before the Leader of the House could answer to the supplementary questions of the last two cases, the Speaker adjourned the House for lunch break. Speaker Vikho-o Yhoshu had allotted only half an hour to discuss the issue. (Page News Service)