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Saturday, September 26, 2020

In HC crosshairs, prime UT property with a mystery builder and an ownership dispute

In November 2019, Padamjit sold his 50 per cent share in Sector 5 ancestral property to Pritam Kaur, a Chandigarh resident, by way of a registered sale deed.

Written by Varinder Bhatia | Chandigarh | August 19, 2020 10:39:08 am
In HC crosshairs, prime UT property with a mystery builder and an ownership disputeThe property in question at Sec 5, Chandigarh. Express

In an ongoing litigation over “taking possession” of a prime plot, worth Rs 30 crore, in Chandigarh’s posh Sector 5 locality, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has ordered a probe to find its actual owner after the prime litigant in the case claimed that he neither authorised the lawyer purportedly representing him to file the case nor did he sign any legal documents produced before HC in his name.

After the litigant, a US-based NRI Padamjit Singh (84), sold his share “ancestral property” to a Chandigarh resident, Pritam Kaur, she had approached the court seeking possession of the plot. Kaur’s plea was contested in court and a “stay on transfer of property sought” on behalf of Padamjit Singh, which the 84-year-old now says he never authorised.

The dispute

In November 2019, Padamjit sold his 50 per cent share in Sector 5 ancestral property to Pritam Kaur, a Chandigarh resident, by way of a registered sale deed. Pritam Kaur approached the High Court on June 12, 2020 saying that property was not being transferred in her name despite her possessing the registered sale deed of 50 per cent in her favour.

HC disposed of her petition directing the UT Estate Office to pass the final order within four weeks.

Soon after on July 3, Advocate Anandeshwar Gautam filed a writ petition purportedly on behalf of Padamjit seeking a “stay on transfer of property”. This led the court to order “status quo” with regards to transfer of property to Kaur.

Subsequently, Pritam Kaur filed application to be a party in the case and also raised the issue of construction going on at the said plot. Pritam Kaur’s application came up for hearing Monday.

During Monday’s hearing, Padamjit, through his counsel, told the court that “the writ petition was filed (by advocate Gautam) without having his consent or without having any power of attorney from him”.

He further said that the ongoing construction at the plot was not being done by him. Padamjit also said that the legal documents purportedly bearing his signatures, which were produced earlier in the High Court to deny transfer of property to Pritam Kaur, were forged.

Taking this on record, Punjab and Haryana High Court directed UT’s Standing Counsel to verify the documents and the “actual ownership of the house”.

Mystery builder

While the purported owners and shareholders of the house/plot are contesting in the High Court over possession of the plot, a palatial house is already under construction on the said six-kanal plot (3,094 square yards).

The High Court has also asked UT’s standing counsel to verify “about the person who is raising construction and in what capacity” since the purported owners of the house have said that they were not the ones who were raising construction.

“Mr Pankaj Jain, Senior Standing Counsel for UT, is directed to verify the factum of ownership of the house and also about the person who is raising construction and in what capacity. He is also directed to verify the correspondence and the documents received by Advocate Mr Anandeshwar Gautam. Mr Anandeshwar Gautam is also directed to co-operate in the matter and the mobile/landline number or any other mode of communication of the persons who were instrument in engaging him in the case and also subsequent communication be conveyed to Mr Pankaj Jain,” the division bench of Justice Daya Chaudhary and Justice Meenakshi Mehta ordered.

Whom does the lawyer represent?

Advocate Gautam, however, told the court that he had filed the petition through “one Mr Kapil Khanna who is practising taxation lawyer”.

Gautam further submitted in the court that “Mr Kapil Khanna along with one of his friend came to him for filing this petition and the fraud, if any, is not in his knowledge”.

Gautam added that “he has done all this on the basis of messages received through email”. He apprised the court that he was ready to “cooperate with the matter”.

After the matter of the alleged fraud came to court’s knowledge, Gautam even requested that he would like to withdraw himself from the case citing that he was “not aware about the facts as mentioned today (August 17)”.

However, the HC did not accept his request. “By considering the submissions made by learned counsel for the parties, the request of Mr Anandeshwar Gautam for withdrawal from case is declined at this stage as his assistance is necessary for reaching to the root of the matter after verifying the correct facts as to whether it is a case of forgery of the documents with some ulterior motive and who is the actual owner of the property in dispute,” the division bench ordered.

Advocate Kapil Khanna, however, told The Indian Express that he had no concerns with the said plot/house in question.

“There is a dispute between two parties. I represent one of the parties for tax matters in London. She (Mary Singh – one of the litigants in the related matter) put me across to her brother-in-law (Padamjit Singh) to help him. Padamjit asked me if I could recommend a lawyer here in Chandigarh since he was having some legal issues here. Thus, I gave Gautam’s email ID to Padamjit who directly got in touch with Gautam. The other side has totally misrepresented the whole situation before the court. I don’t even know Gautam directly. I have nothing to do with this house/plot,” Kapil Khanna told The Indian Express.

Advocate Anandeshwar Gautam was, however, not available for comments. Meanwhile, after asking UT’s standing counsel to conduct thorough verification on multiple aspects, the High Court also ordered, “Registrar (Judicial) is directed to keep the complete paper book in a sealed cover and the case file be not got inspected without permission of the Court. Meanwhile, raising of further construction on the property in dispute is stayed till further orders”.

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