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Tribune Exclusive
Vadra-DLF land deal: Govt panel rejects Khemka claims
Geetanjali Gayatri/TNS

Chandigarh, April 21
Entrepreneur Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, can breathe easy, months after the din over his “shady land deal” with DLF in Haryana’s Shikohpur village. A three-member committee formed in October last to go into the land deal has virtually “demolished” the then Director-General, Holdings and Consolidation, Ashok Khemka’s orders of cancellation of the mutation, brick-by-brick.

The committee, which was formed by the Haryana Government under Additional Chief Secretary (ACS) Krishna Mohan, stopped short of spelling out a “clean chit” to the deal, while leaving Khemka to stew in his own soup. A copy of the committee’s report is with The Tribune.

The mutation of the sale deed of a 3.531 acre plot in Gurgaon’s Shikohpur village in June 2008 became a national “controversy” in October last when Khemka cancelled it. Vadra-owned Sky Light Hospitality had entered into a sale agreement with real estate giant DLF for the sale of the land for Rs 58 crore.

The then DGCH entered the scene in the backdrop of allegations of heavy bargains on land from DLF in exchange for political favours, made by India Against Corruption. Khemka questioned the sale of this property without sanction of the Consolidation Officer even as consolidation proceedings were still in progress, alleged undervaluation of other properties and questioned the renewal of licence to Sky Light Hospitality when 86 per cent of the sale payment had already been made by DLF.

The committee has limited itself to clearing the air on Khemka’s “substantial” allegations, keeping the “politician-bureaucrat nexus” and Khemka’s “abrupt transfers” for exposing “scams” out of its preview for being “too sweeping”.

With references drawn from the High court and Supreme Court orders, practices, rules and provisions under various Acts to lend credence to its derivations and support its arguments, the committee, after culling out the issues raised by Khemka in his orders on the Shikohpur deal and from his letter to the Chief Secretary, has classified these into six heads.

The “big revelation” of the report is that Khemka, wittingly or unwittingly, may have “misused” the revisionary powers of the state government. He could have called for examining the record of any order, even reversing it, if it pertained to land consolidation of land under powers vested in him under Section 42 of the Consolidation Act, 1948. However, the report finds that he applied these powers to the Punjab Land Revenue Act, 1883, under which he had no authority to do so.

Mincing no words while severely indicting the officer, the report also pertinently points out that the officer’s October 15 order cancelling the mutation without so much as giving a notice to the party as mandated by Section 42 itself, is “illegal” while being “administratively improper” since Khemka stood transferred on October 11.

Stating that he should have abstained from passing “such an important quasi-judicial order”, it castigates him for being “selective” in singling out one particular mutation. The report not only nullifies his contention that the Assistant Consolidation Officer (ACO) could not have sanctioned the mutation but also reaffirms that the Town and Country Planning Department was well within its rights to grant an LOI or licence.

What Khemka says

"I received a copy of the report on March 2 and have sought various documents pertaining to the case, including Robert Vadra's licence file from the TCP, Department, the Revenue Department as also the Industries Department."

"Two departments maintained a studied silence and the third one engaged in a war of words. The latest is that the Chief Secretary has asked me to reply to the report without the documents I have asked for. I have asked for a month's time to do so. My reply will be with the government by May 20."





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