Over a month after the alleged contract killing of Jhalod councillor and BJP leader Hiren Patel, the Jhalod municipality has issued a notice to the prime accused in the case, Ajay Kalal, seeking payments worth Rs 37.11 lakh towards a shop that was auctioned by the municipality in February this year.
The chief officer of the municipality, Hiral Thakkar, said they will initiate proceedings for penal action against Kalal and the original bidder of the auction, Jhalod-resident Rahul Jodha, if they fail to make the payment within a week.
Kalal, among the eight persons identified in the ‘murder’ case so far — six of whom have been arrested — faces a penal action for allegedly evading payments to the municipality in connivance with the then officials, Thakkar said. The shop in question is located on the premises of a vegetable market near Jhalod bus stand. According to the civic officials, it was auctioned in “violation of the prescribed process.” The civic officials are also preparing a dossier of the transactions of government grants, contracts and payments made from the municipality during the first tenure of the currently elected board between February 2018 and August 2020.
Kalal, in whose name the municipality had transferred the title of the shop in July this year, was not an original bidder on the auction, officials said. Records show Jhalod-resident Rahul Jodha Rathod, was the highest bidder and had proposed cost value of Rs 37.11 lakh and Rs 1,000 per month rent to the municipality.
However, after winning the bid, Rathod wrote a “consent letter” to the municipality asking that the shop should be transferred to Kalal. The “consent letter” received a ratification from then municipality president Kinjal Katara of the Congress, who, through a letter dated July 10, ordered the administrative wing to “fulfill the wish of the bidder, Rathod”.
Kinjal, the sister-in-law of Congress MLA from Jhalod Bhavesh Katara, was unavailable for comment.
Thakkar told The Indian Express, “The rule is that for any property of the government that costs more than Rs 1 lakh, a district-level committee, headed by the district collector, must oversee the sale or rent as may be the need… In case of this shop, the entire process was subverted… The shop was given away to Kalal, who was not even the original bidder, based on letters from the then president of the elected wing. Technically, the president does not even have the power to make any such directions.”
The transfer of property was executed between Kalal and the municipality, through Katara and then chief officer Deepsinh Hathila on July 14 on Rs 600 stamp paper instead of the prescribed registration of sale deed and payment of stamp duty fee.
The municipality also did not receive an outstanding amount of Rs 35.11 lakh towards the auctioned shop — Rs 2 lakh was paid by Rathod at the time of auction. Instead, the municipality had a stack of “outstanding bills” of four contractors to the tune of Rs 37 lakh, accompanied by undated “consent letters” from the contractors “willingly forfeiting” the outstanding dues owed by the municipality to them towards the payment of the shop auctioned to the original bidder.
The Indian Express has copies of Katara’s order, the sale deed as well as the consent letters of Rathod and the said contractors and copies of their bills raised towards purported payments due from the municipality.
Thakkar, who took over as the Chief Officer of the municipality on September 29 said she has initiated a probe into the bills as they “appeared fake”. The bills are from Noorani Steel furniture works, Muskaan Transporters and suppliers and Irfan Borewell from Jhalod and Krishna Chemicals from Ahmedabad. The borewell bills amount to Rs 14.8 lakh along with a consent letter from its proprietor.
In the notice dated November 2 to Kalal and Rathod, Thakkar said, “The municipality received Rs 2 lakh towards the initial payment on March 3. However, the remaining amount for the shop has not been paid by you. If the amount is not paid within seven days, penal action will be initiated against you for forgery, cheating and financial fraud with a government institution.”
Meanwhile, teams from the Dahod Local Crime Branch and Special Operations Group have been sent to nab Imran Gudala, a Jhalod resident , and Irfan Basti, a resident of Madhya Pradesh, whose names had cropped up during the questioning of the accused in the alleged contract killing of Patel on September 27.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines