Tribune News Service
Shimla, July 3
The Congress-led Himachal government may have last year turned down an RTI plea seeking information on Priyanka Gandhi’s under-construction house at Charabra, but the previous BJP regime under Prem Kumar Dhumal had provided entire details to another applicant around four years ago.
The Deputy Commissioner’s office had, citing security reasons as Priyanka was an SPG-protectee, declined information about the property, 15 km from here, to RTI activist Dev Ashish Bhattacharya on July 2, 2014.
Bhattacharya had to move the State Information Commission which, on June 29, directed the state government to provide the sought information within 10 days. However, Om Prakash Sharma of Ambala, residing in Sadhupul near Solan for the last 12 years, did not have to have to face any such hurdles. His plea was met by the district administration on November 4, 2011. Congress president Sonia Gandhi is learnt to have chosen the land — the President’s summer residence Retreat is located nearby — for her daughter’s house. Even clearances from the President’s secretariat had to be acquired for the project.
Priyanka bought land for the project in 2007, 2011 and 2013. All purchase details barring the one in 2013 were provided to Om Prakash. These include certified RTI copies of the land deals and the special permission granted by the state government in relaxation of Section 118 of the Tenancy and Land Reform Act, 1975. Under the Act, a non-Himachali cannot buy land in the state.
She initially bought 4.25 bighas for Rs 47 lakh in August 2007. Once the house maps were prepared by architects from Delhi and demarcation was done, the need for land for an approach road was felt. This is the reason cited for the second purchase of 9.22 hectares on July 14, 2011, from Wing Commodore (retd) Devinder Jit Singh of Noida and his sister-in-law Amar Bir Pasricha of Greater Kailash (Delhi).
In 2013, 12 biswas were bought from a local resident, Manjit Khachi. Incidentally, Devinder Jit, who owns a huge chunk of land next to Priyanka’s property, wanted to construct a hotel here. His request was rejected by the government citing the land’s proximity to the high-security Retreat. He approached the High Court, but remained unsuccessful there too.
House was to be built by 2013
The initial land purchase clearance letter, issued to Priyanka Gandhi (pic) by the Deputy Secretary (Revenue) on July 27, 2011, mentioned that the "house was to be built within two years, subject to extension". There is also a condition that the land would be vested with the government in case the condition is not met. But the government is learnt to have granted extensions for the project on more than one occasion. The land purchase permission has been granted for horticultural purpose.
Priyanka’s lawyers to file review plea today
A battery of lawyers representing Priyanka Gandhi arrived in Shimla on Friday to contest in the High Court the State Information Commission's order to the state government to provide RTI information on her property in Charabra. The lawyers, it is learnt, would filed a judicial review on Saturday. On June 29, the commission directed the government to provide the information to RTI activist Dev Ashish Bhattacharya within 10 days. On Thursday, Bhattacharya filed an online caveat in the High Court to prevent grant of any relief to Priyanka or a stay on the commision's order.
3 land deals in 6 years
August 2007: 4.25 bighas bought from a Shimla-based family for Rs 47 lakh
July 2011: 9.22 hectares bought from Wing Commodore (retd) Devinder Jit Singh of Noida and his sister-in-law Amar Bir Pasricha of Delhi for around Rs 11 lakh
2013: 12 biswas bought from a local, Manjit Khachi
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