CHANDIGARH: Having come to power in Haryana, will BJP cancel the controversial Robert Vadra land deal? Prime Minister Narendra Modi had used the issue to the hilt during campaigning. He had said in a rally at Hisar, "They know that after the elections, damadji (Vadra) will not get clearances for illegal deals. Between the election process, they have dared to take such a decision (of legalizing the deal)."
The Election Commission had found that the deal was legalized before the model code was enforced, but that did not matter. Modi's oratory ensured that the Rs 58 crore deal between Vadra's Skylight Hospitality and DLF becomes the biggest symbol of Congress misrule in Haryana.
Sources said the new government was likely to cancel the three-acre deal in Shikhopur village in Gurgaon, which brought allegations of corruption to the doorstep of 10 Janpath and shook the foundations of UPA-2 ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
According to legal experts, if the new government wants, it can uphold orders passed by whistleblower IAS officer Ashok Khemka who had cancelled the deal. Khemka had cancelled the mutation of the land deal on October 15, 2012, sparking a controversy after which the Haryana government had charge-sheeted him for acting beyond his jurisdiction. The officer has been shunted to a low profile post since then and heads the Haryana archives department.
Senior lawyer in Punjab and Haryana high court Anupam Gupta said the simplest and fastest way for the new government to turn things around is to issue an order from the chief secretary's office nullifying the July 16, 2014 order of Gurgaon deputy commissioner (DC) clearing the deal.
The chief secretary can issue orders on the ground that the Gurgaon DC was not authorized to issue such a letter because he was subordinate to the rank of DG (consolidation), which Khemka held at the time of cancelling the mutation.
"For one year and 10 months, from October 15, 2012 to July 16, 2014, Khemka's orders were in force and the Gurgaon DC was not authorized to nullify them," says Gupta.
He added that the new government could also cancel the change of land use licence of Skylight Hospitality on the ground that the company was not qualified or financially competent to get the licence. This has also been pointed out by the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG).
The noted lawyer has also suggested that a fresh probe into the entire case could vindicate Khemka's stand.
On October 15, 2012, Khemka had used his quasi-judicial powers under Land Consolidation and Holdings Act to cancel the mutation. Later, the Hooda government had constituted a three-member panel, headed by the then principal secretary (revenue) Krishna Mohan, to investigate Khemka's charges. In its report, submitted in March 2013, the panel had not only given a clean chit to the deal but also held that Khemka had acted beyond his authority.
In his letter on July 16, Gurgaon deputy commissioner (DC) Shekhar Vidyarthi has said that sanction of mutation of land between Skylight and DLF was legally valid and Khemka's orders were "not legally permissible", "zero in the eyes of law" and passed "beyond jurisdiction".
The letter further stated that the Skylight Hospitality had rightly transferred land to DLF and that the realty giant is the actual owner of the land in the state's revenue records.