Hooda overruled objecting officials for ‘special case’,say file notings

Two years after the Haryana government had sold 20 acres of panchayat (shamlat) land at throwaway prices to noted director and producer Subhash Ghai,the Punjab and Haryana High Court had quashed the deal on September 11,terming it to be a “fraud”.

Written by RAGHAV OHRI | Chandigarh | Published: September 18, 2012 5:34 am

Two years after the Haryana government had sold 20 acres of panchayat (shamlat) land at throwaway prices to noted director and producer Subhash Ghai,the Punjab and Haryana High Court had quashed the deal on September 11,terming it to be a “fraud”.

Facts emerging from the official notings of the government,for the first time,revealed that not only rules were bent but serious objections to the sale of land were raised by government functionaries including the then Jhajjar deputy commissioner (DC). All these “objections” were cleared after Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda termed it to be a “special case”. As per rules,there is no provision for making payment for purchase of gram panchayat land in installments in Haryana. Moreover,the Act pertaining to sale and transfer of panchayat land makes it mandatory that such land,even if has to be sold,has to be auctioned. Yet,Haryana allowed Ghai to pay in installments — seven equal yearly — for purchase of land at Badhsa village in Jhajjar for his film institute. Just one letter written by Ghai was sufficient for government to initiate the sale process. Not even an advertisement was issued.

Official notings,in possession of The Indian Express,show how despite objections raised by a legal officer,Jhajjar DC and accountant general,the deal was “allowed and approved” by Hooda.

On December 21,2009 Ghai,chairman of Mukta Arts Limited,wrote to Jhajjar District Collector Nitin Kumar Yadav. The letter (a copy of which is with The Indian Express) stated: “As per our discussion with Hon’ble Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and your good self,we understand that we are able to purchase the land on a freehold basis for this unique project at the lowest possible rates. As discussed,it would be unviable for us to invest a large amount on land purchase. We hope you would be able to make available for purchase,land as identified adjoining the proposed AIIMS campus in Badhsa village,Jhajjar at the lowest possible cost. We also request the mode of payment be ten equated installments after a deposit payment.”

Interestingly,exactly a fortnight later — on January 6,2010 — the gram panchayat passed a resolution that 20 acres be sold to Mukta Arts Limited,Mumbai for establishing International Film an TV Institute and Multimedia complex at market rate. The panchayat had initially objected to the clause of payment in installments.

On February 5,2010,a Haryana legal officer raised three objections on the proposal. The most significant was that though Mukta Arts Limited has requested to make payments in 10 equal installments,there was neither any provision for such a payment nor the gram panchayat has agreed to the proposal of the company. The proposal was then sent to the Jhajjar DC for clearance.

The then DC,on February 25,2010 upheld the objection. “Though there is no provision to take the sale price in installments but as decided in the case of land to AIIMS,the government may decide in the present case also to take the price in installments as requested by the Mukta Arts Limited,” he said.

After recording the DC’s findings,the legal officer sent the proposal on March 19,2010 to the government stating: “There is no provision under the rules that the sale of land can be allowed on the payment payable in installments. In view of the above,the proposal is submitted for orders.”

On April 15,2010,R S Doon,the then deputy principal secretary to the chief minister (DPSCM),issued an official noting stating that the chief minister has approved the proposal to sell the land at market rate subject to the condition that Mukta Arts will make the payment in seven equal installments. It added: “The first installment shall be paid immediately as a special case,as the establishment of TV and film Institute in Haryana shall help for development of the area,which shall be beneficial in upgrading the financial status of the inhabitants of the village particularly.” Haryana okayed the project and sold it to Ghai for Rs 8 crore.

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