The Punjab and Haryana High Court, while granting anticipatory bail, to an accused in the case of an alleged embezzlement of over Rs 7 crore in purchase of land by Jheorheri Gram Panchayat, has said that prima facie there does not appear to be criminal aspect to the issue.
In April, the HC, while rejecting the bail plea of three accused, had said the matter called for a thorough probe as it was “reflective of (a) scam”. Punjab Vigilance Bureau (VB) had lodged an FIR in February on the allegations of embezzlement of funds that had become available to the Jheorheri panchayat after acquisition of 36 acres of land by the state for expansion of the Chandigarh International Airport in 2008.
In 2016, the Jheorheri panchayat had passed a resolution on the purchase of a certain commercial property by utilising Rs 15 crore of the amount. VB had said that though the land purchased with the money was bought at a lower amount, a higher price was mentioned in the sale deeds.
“This court is of the considered opinion that prima facie there does not appear to be any criminal aspect in the matter. The petitioner, as a contracting party; while selling his property, is fully entitled to extract as much value for its property as he can, provided that he does not make any misrepresentation regarding the nature and character of the property,” Justice Rajbir Sehrawat has said while granting bail to an accused Darshan Singh.
The alleged scam involves four sale deeds in Karimpur, Kandipur and Sanauli villages and there are at least seven accused in the case. The VB had argued that the land was purchased by the panchayat without prior approval of the Director, Panchayat and also told the court that the sarpanch had made excessive payment to the land seller Darshan Singh.
“So far as the question of obtaining prior sanction from the director, panchayat, is concerned, it is a matter between the sarpanch… who purchased the property from the petitioner and the director, panchayat. The petitioner as a contracting party is not concerned about the internal matter between the sarpanch and the director,” said the High Court in the order. The High Court also said that it is proven by record that the accused had not received any excessive amount and it was well within the market value of land in Sanauli village as assessed by the Zirakpur Naib Tehsildar.
“It is not the concern of the prosecution in what manner the petitioner deals with his money after selling his property through a duly registered sale deed,” said the order while rejecting the state’s another contention that some amount had been transferred to a relative of the sarpanch.