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Now, govt targets Chahalís trust in Jalandhar
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 26
After booking former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and former minister Chaudhary Jagjit Singh in the City Centre Scam, the Punjab Government's attention has turned towards the Jalandhar Improvement Trust, which had leased out a precious piece of land worth about Rs 25-30 crore for a song to an educational trust, allegedly headed by Capt Amarinder Singh's media adviser B.I.S Chahal.

The Punjab Local Bodies Department has decided to review the "shady" lease deed, executed between the Jalandhar Improvement Trust through its then chairman Tejinder Singh Bittu and Patiala- based Dashmesh Educational Trust, represented by its trustee Jaspal Singh. The deal was allegedly executed in a huff towards the fag end of the Congress government on November 20 last year.

"We are definitely going to review the lease deal and we are going to look into what has been done by them. A committee will be reviewing the lease deal thoroughly. The committee will determine what they have done against public interest," said Manoranjan Kalia, Punjab Local Bodies minister while talking to The Tribune. He said the objectionable clauses of the lease deed, including the one through which the lessee was granted the right to raise finances for construction, running and maintenance of a proposed school and other educational institutions "by creating charge" on the site, would be studied minutely by the committee. "There will, however, be no political vendetta, " said Kalia.

The said piece of precious land, measuring over three acres, is situated in the development scheme of 51.5 acres in Guru Amar Dass Nagar at Jalandhar. The land has been leased out for 99 years by then Jalandhar Improvement Trust chairman Tejinder Singh Bittu on the condition that the lessee "shall have to pay monthly lease money of Rs 1,14,783 .

The first instalment of advance lease money was paid by Dashmesh Educational Trust by DD No. 155889, dated November 18, 2006, of the State Bank of Patiala. One of the interesting clauses of the agreement between Bittu and Jaspal Singh reads:" The lease shall be for a period of 99 years and shall not be liable to be terminated for any reason whatsoever, except where the lessee fails to pay the lease money for a period of five years."

Former PPCC secretary and chairman of Jalandhar Central Cooperative Bank Anil Dutta has been taking up the matter frequently. He had been alleging that in fact, the Dashmesh Educational Trust, was "headed by Chahal and that Bittu had benefited Chahal or his trust for getting the Congress ticket from Jalandhar (Central) Assembly seat in the recent elections. Dutta had also been stating that though, in papers the site measured about 3.5 acres, but, "in reality possession of more than 5 acres of land was given to the educational trust."

Though Bittu has been maintaining that "everything was legal as far as lease deed was concerned," a major objection of Dutta and others has been that the Improvement Trust cannot give out land to any person or institution on lease without a proper resolution passed by the trust. Dutta has also been raising objections to the clause of the deed agreement which, has given right to lessee to raise funds "by creating charge on the site."

"This discreetly means that the institution or its functionaries can raise loan against the land, whereas, law pertaining to lease agreements says that no such act can be done," said Dutta and a leading lawyer of the city. He also alleged that the Improvement Trust had also given four petrol station sites in Jalandhar to people close to former Local Bodies minister Chaudhary Jagjit Singh. Bittu had been a close associate of Chaudhary Jagjit Singh.

PPCC disowns beneficiaries

Reacting to the leasing out of Improvement Trust land to Dashmesh Educational Trust, Shamsher Singh Dullo, former president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, said the lessees or beneficiaries were not Congressmen.

"The beneficiaries have nothing to do with the Congress. They are not even primary members of the party. Moreover, the Improvement Trust cannot give away its land to any person without passing a proper resolution. The chairman has no authority to do so," said Dullo, while talking to The Tribune.

Meanwhile, the Vigilance Bureau, has reportedly included the lease case in its list of cases under investigation.

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