Robert Vadra-DLF land deal: 42 transfers in 21 years and holding on

The Vadra-DLF land deal he set aside wasn’t Ashok Khemka’s first brush with powers that be

Written by Varinder Bhatia | Chandigarh | Published:October 17, 2012 12:17 am

It is like some scoundrels rape a girl,and fingers are pointed towards the girl saying it was her fault,” says Ashok Khemka. On October 11,the Haryana-cadre IAS officer was transferred for the 42nd time in his 21-year career,days after he began looking into alleged undervaluation of properties registered by Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra.

It was the third major “scam” he had unearthed in the past six months,and his second transfer in just over 100 days. The latest order removed Khemka as Director General,Consolidation of Land Holdings and Land Records,and posted him as Managing Director,Haryana Seeds Development Corporation. The corporation post was earlier being held as additional charge by an IAS officer who is 12 years junior to Khemka.

Before this,Khemka was moved out soon after he reported a scam in state government’s electronics firm,Hartron. He lasted there as MD for 50 days. This was about the time he spent as DG (Consolidation) where,based on his assertions of a multi-crore scam in transfer of prime chunks of gram panchayat land in Gurgaon and other parts of Haryana to private builders,the Punjab and Haryana High Court quashed all such transfers and called it a “mammoth fraud”.

In a letter he sent to Haryana Chief Secretary P K Chaudhery on October 12,a day after his transfer as DG (Consolidation),Khemka called the move “deliberate and mala fide”,to punish him “due to some vested elements in the political-bureaucratic hierarchy affected by the exposure of the scams in consolidation”. “Several hundred crores worth of panchayat lands were transferred to realtor companies,which were created a few days earlier. Forest and hill areas were sought to be partitioned under the garb of consolidation to corner prime plots near highways to build farm-houses or resorts,” Khemka wrote.

LAND NEXUS

Khemka had been talking of the nexus for over two months,alleging deals in prime chunks of thousands of acres of panchayat land involving politicians,bureaucrats,private builders and seeking a CBI probe.

On October 8,he turned his attention to a February 12,2008 sale deed involving 3.53 acres of land in village Shikohpur in district Gurgaon. It was bought for Rs 7.5 crore by Sky Light Hospitality,a Robert Vadra company. On September 18,2012,four years after the purchase,Sky Light Hospitality sold the land to DLF Universal for Rs 58 crore. The mutation or transfer of title in both land deals happened within days,a process that normally takes three months.

Late on the evening of October 11,Khemka was issued his transfer orders. According to sources,the officer was summoned by Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda at his residence around 7 pm. When Khemka reached,Hooda wasn’t around. He left,and was called back by the CM’s staff around 8 pm.

The meeting lasted about 20 minutes,after which Khemka was asked to leave. The officer reportedly urged that he be deputed to a post where he could perform his official duties. Hooda,sources said,refused to cancel the transfer order and,about the same time,it was released to the media.

SHIKOhPUR PROPERTY

The day after,Khemka — who was yet to relinquish charge — ordered an inquiry into “under-valuation” of the Shikohpur property. In his October 12 letter — a copy of which is with The Indian Express — Khemka wrote that sale of the property during “the pendency of the consolidation proceedings without the sanction of the Consolidation Officer was against the provisions of Section 30 of the Consolidation Act”. It also said that the mutation of the property sanctioned on September 20,2012,was “without jurisdiction” as the Assistant Consolidation Officer who granted the same was “not a revenue officer under the Punjab Land Revenue Act”.

Barely a month after Sky Light bought the 3.53 acres,the Haryana government allowed it to develop a housing project on most of it,which caused the cost of the land to escalate sharply.

In his October 12 letter,Khemka ordered the deputy commissioners-cum-registrars of the districts of Gurgaon,Faridabad,Palwal and Mewat to “inspect all documents registered from the 1st day of January 2005 till date by or on behalf of Shri Robert Vadra or his companies”,to estimate the real value of the property mentioned in the documents and in case of under-valuations,to refer the matter to the Collector for “correct assessment of stamp duty payable”. Khemka went on to list Vadra’s companies as Sky Light Realty,Sky Light Hospitality,Real Earth Estates,Blue Breeze Trading,Artex and North India IT Parks. He sought a report from the deputy commissioners by October 25.

On October 15 morning,having still not relinquished the charge over the weekend,Khemka “set aside” the September 2012 mutation of the land to DLF Universal on the ground that the sanctioning authority was not competent to do so (the Express has a copy of the order). Hours after that,the officer gave up charge as DG (Consolidation) and took over at his new posting.

In his letter,Khemka noted that Sky Light had received Rs 50 crore of the Rs 58 crore from DLF Universal by October 7,2009,and that “ex-facie” sale agreement had been reached on or before June 3,2008. He questioned the fact that the Town and Country Planning Department renewed the licence for the housing project to Sky Light on January 18,2011,when it had already received most of the payment for the said land from DLF.

“If the vendor (Sky Light) had suppressed the fact that he had entered into a sale agreement… with DLF Universal… then the department ought to be taking action against the vendor,” Khemka wrote. And if the department was informed,he said,it is “unfathomable” how the licence was renewed.

“It is grossly unfair to punish me for being upright and exposing the scams and corrupt acts instead of taking action against the guilty,” Khemka says. He adds that he waited for four days before giving up charge as DG (Consolidation) as he was waiting for a reply to his letter to the Chief Secretary objecting to the transfer.

HARTRON ‘SCAM’

While acting as MD,Hartron,Khemka had objected to an alleged nexus involving award of small software development works of petty nature without tender to a few selected companies at “inflated” prices of Rs 25 to 50 lakh each,whereas the rudimentary software development work could have been done in a few man days. When he sought to know what three persons designated as “IT advisors” and hired for Rs 90 lakh per annum had achieved,Khemka was allegedly rebuked.

Later,the officer objected to a private company being let off a UIDAI project without forfeiture of Rs 12.5 crore security deposit. Soon after,he was handed his marching orders.

A 1991-batch IAS officer,Khemka is a graduate from IIT-Kharagpur and did his PhD in computer science from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai. His first posting was as sub-divisional magistrate at Narnaul in Mahendergarh district.

His frequent transfers are in violation of the IAS Fixation of Cadre Strength Regulations,2010,according to which the minimum tenure of an IAS officer at a post is two years. The state government,however,has stonewalled queries with a standard response. The transfers,it says,are its “prerogative”.

Officer objects

OCTOBER 12,2012 LETTER

* “Sale of the property (3.53 acres in Shikohpur bought by Sky Light Hospitality and sold to DLF Universal) during the pendency of the consolidation proceedings without the sanction of the consolidation officer was against the provisions of Section 30 of the Consolidation Act.”

* “The mutation… sanctioned on 20.9.2012 by the assistant consolidation officer was also without jurisdiction,since he is not a revenue officer under the Punjab Land Revenue Act.”

* “In view of the questions raised… it is fit and appropriate to order that the deputy commissioners-cum-registrars of the four districts of Gurgaon,Faridabad,Palwal and Mewat shall inspect all documents registered from the 1st day of January 2005 till date by or on behalf of Shri Robert Vadra or his companies… .”

OCTOBER 15,2012,LETTER

* “The vendor Sky Light Hospitality Private Limited had received Rs 50 crore out of the total sale consideration of Rs 58 crore by 7.10.2009. The vendor had ex-facie entered into a sale agreement with the vendee (DLF Universal Ltd) on or before 3.6.2008,when part payment of the total sale consideration was received.”

* “It is not known what made the Town & Country Planning Department to renew the LOI/licence on 18.01.2011 in favour of the vendor when 86.2% of the total sales consideration was paid to him by 7.10.2009.”

* “If the vendor suppressed the material fact… then the department ought to be taking action against the vendor… On the contrary,had the vendor informed the department… it is unfathomable how the department could renew the LOI/licence… in favour of the vendor who had ex-facie entered into an agreement to sell within 65 days of the issue of the first LOI/licence.”

* “I set aside the mutation dated 20.9.2012… on the ground that the assistant consolidation officer who had sanctioned the mutation was not competent to do so.”

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