Why spend public funds on RSS HQ? Bombay HC notice to Bhayyaji Joshi, Nagpur Municipal Corp
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Nagpur unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seem to have landed in trouble because of the alleged misuse of public funds for the repair of Dr Hedgewar Smruti Bhavan at the RSS headquarters in Nagpur’s Reshimbaug area.
The Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court issued notices to RSS General Secretary Suresh ‘Bhayyaji’ Joshi and the BJP-ruled Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC). The notices followed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Janardan Moon, president of Nagpur-based NGO Nagari Hakka Saurakshan Manch.
The PIL questions the sanctioning of Rs 1.37 crore from public funds, by NMC for repair works to be undertaken at Dr Hedgewar Smriti Bhavan. The funds were sanctioned for construction of a compound wall and repairs of internal roads of the RSS Headquarters.
Moon's contention is that as RSS is a private organisation, public funds cannot be sanctioned for construction within the premises of its headquarters. The NMC Standing Committee’s decision to sanction Rs 1.37 crore for construction of the compound wall and the repairs of internal roads was a gross misuse of taxpayers’ money, according to him.
“The civic body is facing severe financial problems in implementing various public welfare schemes in the city. Hence the decision to spend such a huge amount on the construction of a compound wall should be cancelled,” the PIL say.
Advocate Ashwin Ingole, representing the NGO, said the civic body extended undue favours to a private organisation using taxpayers’ money.
“The details about the proposal and approval to the same by the Standing Committee, were obtained through a Right to Information Act query, which made it clear that the civic body was favouring a private organisation,” Ingole told the court.
It was pointed out that though the rules did not permit such sanctioning of funds, exceptions could be made for notified tourist and religious places such as Deekshabhoomi. However, RSS Headquarter is neither a notified tourist place nor a religious place.
The proposal to sanction funds for construction of compound wall and repairs of internal roads at RSS Headquarters was first moved in the NMC by Sandip Joshi, leader of the ruling BJP in the House and former Mayor Pravin Datke. The standing committee approved it on 12 September. As BJP has a majority in the civic body, the proposal was passed easily, despite objections by Congress corporators. During the standing committee meeting, Leader of the Opposition Tanaji Wanwe along with Congress corporators Maoj Sangole, Hairsh Gwalbanshi, Sayeeda Beghum Ansari and BSP corporator Jitendra Ghodeswar strongly opposed the proposal.
The PIL claimed that the NMC sanctioned such a huge amount to a private organisation, which is not even registered with the charity commissioner. “The office of the charity commissioner, had said that there was no such organisation named RSS. Hence the sanction of funds is unconstitutional. We had asked CM Fadnavis about the criterion under which RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat was given Z-Plus security and inquired about the source of funds of around 56000 shakhas across the globe. The letter was forwarded to the charity commissioner, who replied that there was no organisation named RSS registered with the office,” Moon said.
When contacted, a senior RSS functionary on condition of anonymity refuted the allegations. “RSS is not a Trust or Society, which are registered with Charity Commissioner. Unlike Trust and Societies, anyone can join RSS at his will. It is a public organisation, hence need not be registered with the Charity Commissioner. When the union government imposed ban on RSS after Mahatma Gandhi assassination, it asked to form a constitution for lifting the ban. The constitution of the organisation was formed in 1950 and submitted to the union government. It was accepted by the government and the ban was lifted. This means that Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is acknowledged by the union government, hence it need not be registered with Charity Commissioner.”
After hearing both the parties, the division bench comprising Justice Bhushan Dharmadhikari and Arun Upadhye issued notices to the state government, NMC and RSS. The next hearing on the matter is scheduled on 3 October.