Ahmedabad: The land on which Asia's largest solar park in Charanka, Gujarat has been set up has come under investigation. The state revenue department has begun investigation into alleged land purchase scam where it has been claimed that state-run Gujarat Power Corporation Ltd (GPCL) purchased land for the solar park from a select group of individuals at a price about 20 times the market rate prevailing in the area.
The 590 Mw solar park in Charanka village is spread across 5,384 acres in Patan district of the state.
This probe has been initiated in September by the state revenue department on directions issued by the Gujarat High Court while hearing a public interest litigation by local Congress leader Farshubhai Goklani, alleging gross irregularities in purchase of land for the solar park. On November 5, the state government sought six weeks time from the court to investigated the alleged land purchase scam. It argued that the time was required to look into bulky documents and land records. The court has given them time till December 18 to submit the investigation report.
"Such report shall also indicate whether in addition to any irregularities in payment of compensation and pilferage of public funds, there is any element of involvement of any of the officers or the individuals in commission of offence punishable under the Indian Penal Code or any other penal statute," the court stated in its order directing investigation.
Goklani had produced a comparative data of purchase of land for the solar park which the court found 'startling'. "This would prima facie suggest that the land was acquired by paying compensation at agreed rates which were extremely and perhaps artificially high. Though in the affidavit in reply, the respondent No.2 (GPCL) has tried to explain such rate fixation on the ground of a Committee having considered the jantri (circle rate) rates, we fail to see how such a Committee plainly overlooked the sale deeds of recent past of the very same land before arriving at a correct market price which could be offered to the land owners," the court observed.
In the PIL filed in 2012 Goklani has alleged that a small group of people purchased large chunks of land just before issuance of government notification in 2011 that a solar park would be set up near Charanka village. GPCL, then, purchased the same chunks of land from these few people by paying them up to Rs 51 lakh against the last sale deed of Rs 1 lakh for the same piece of land. Moreover, Goklani stated in the petition that the such high payments were made within one year of the previous sale deed. This, Goklani claimed to be highly unusual that price of a piece of land which was purchased for Rs 1 lakh was re-sold for 20 times higher prices that too with in a years time.
The court further observed that Goklani has made a strong case for investigation into the purchase of land by GPCL as it was a government company and the burden of such high rates of payment would fall on the public exchequer.
The court also directed the revenue secretary to to keep IAS officer D J Pandian, who was managing director of GPCL when the land was purchased, away from the probe in order to avoid his influence. Interestingly, Pandian was last week promoted as the chief secretary of Gujarat.