Updated: July 27, 2021 1:25:50 am
Haryana’s State Information Commission (SIC) has asked the state government’s revenue department to intervene and constitute committees of multiple departments to ascertain the “correct ownership” of 60 farmhouses that have allegedly been built illegally in the Aravali area in Gurgaon and Faridabad.
Ownership of these farmhouses continues to remain a mystery, with multiple departments throwing the ball in each other’s court. The Dakshin Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam (DHBVN) has submitted to the SIC details about electricity connections given to these farmhouses, but that failed to yield details about the ownership. It is learnt that the farmhouses given electricity connections do not have permission under the Forest (Conservation) Act or Controlled Area Act. The forest department did provide names of some people who own between 2 and 18.5 acres of land, but added that the “actual and real ownership” can only be verified from revenue records.
In a scathing order, the SIC asked the Financial Commissioner (Revenue) that the “committees consisting of officers concerned of Faridabad and Gurgaon districts… may be constituted to ascertain the correct ownership… specifically (of) 60 farmhouses… preferably within two months of receipt of this order”.
In its earlier order on January 15, the SIC had “frowned” upon the public authority and called the denial of information a “shameless disregard for accountability”.
The case pertains to 60 farmhouses over which senior IAS officer Ashok Khemka had filed an RTI application seeking details of ownership. The application was filed on February 28, 2020, based on forest minister Kanwar Pal’s reply in the Vidhan Sabha, wherein he listed 60 farmhouses but did not mention names of owners.
Pal was responding to a question raised by MLA Seema Trikha, who had sought information about illegal farmhouses in the Aravalis and what action the government was taking.
Haryana’s Principal Secretary (Town and Country Planning) A K Singh submitted to the SIC that “out of total 60 alleged farmhouses, 54 fall within the jurisdictions of Urban Local Bodies and Forest Department… Therefore, only six… are falling in the work jurisdictions of both the SPIOs of TCP Department. And out of these six, alleged activity of farm housing has been detected only in the revenue estate of village Khedla (Gurugram) on 29.06.2021 and the same has been found at initial stage in the form of boundary walls and action against the same is being taken up…”
Singh further submitted that “exact details with respect to ownership of farmhouses can only be ascertained from the Department of Urban Local Bodies and Revenue Department…”
Expressing dissatisfaction over Singh’s reply, the SIC observed, “The commission is of the view that the reply… is contrary to the reply given by the Hon’ble Minister in the Vidhan Sabha. Therefore, to ascertain the correctness of ownership of farmhouses, the commission is of the view that a committee should be formed.”
Coming down heavily on other officers concerned, who had been transferring Khemka’s RTI application, the commission observed: “A show cause notice be issued to Rani Sodhi, the then SPIO-cum-Dy Director (Admn) o/o Urban local Bodies, Haryana asking why a penalty @ Rs 250 subject to maximum of Rs 25,000 for causing an inordinate delay/wrongly transferring RTI application in this case be not imposed upon her.”
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