REAL ESTATE developer DLF has applied to the Haryana government for the renewal of a land development licence that a company held by Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, had transferred to it for Rs 58 crore. The two-year licence expired on December 14, 2016. Sources in Haryana’s Town and Country Planning Department told The Indian Express that they were examining the case to see whether the licence could be renewed. Records show that the licence to develop a commercial colony in Shikohpur village of Gurgaon is still in the name of M/s Skylight Hospitality, a company owned by Vadra.
Records also show that M/s DLF Retail Ltd (earlier DLF Universal) had been paying the licence fee for the 2.7-acre land in Sector 83 of Gurgaon after the licence was allotted to Vadra’s company — the fee was last paid in 2014, when the licence was extended by two years. When contacted, DLF CEO Rajiv Talwar confirmed that “DLF has applied for another renewal of the licence”. Construction work is yet to start. Sources said one reason the licence was not transferred in the name of DLF was because Ashok Khemka, the then director, Consolidation of Land Holdings, Haryana, had cancelled “mutation of the land” in October 2012.
The BJP government in Haryana is now faced with two options: terminate the licence or to renew it in the name of Skylight. Asked why DLF was making payments on behalf of Skylight, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar told The Indian Express: “Regarding any particular case, I am not aware of the minute details. The department’s officers must be aware of it. There are a few issues that we had handed over for CBI inquiry. There are a few issues that will be inquired into on the basis of the Dhingra Commission report. Soon, there will be an announcement…If we get any particular complaint regarding this particular case, we shall put it through the inquiry process.”
The Chief Minister emphasised that in cases where anomalies are detected, licences shall be terminated. “We are not going to focus on any particular case, all cases not eligible as per rules will be terminated,” he said. When contacted, Arun Gupta, director, Town and Country Planning Department, Haryana, declined to comment.
According to records, Licence No. 203 of 2008 was first allotted to M/s Skylight Hospitality on December 15, 2008 and was valid up to December 14, 2012. The licencee subsequently applied for renewal for a further period — upto December 14, 2014 — and again upto December 14, 2016.
On April 3, 2012, the Town and Country Planning Department granted “in-principle approval” for transfer of licence from Skylight Hospitality to DLF under Rule 17 of the Haryana Development and Regulation of Urban Areas Rules, 1976. On the same day, permission was “granted” through office memo No 4786 but not officially issued.
Records show that in the last eight years, DLF paid Rs 12.74 crore to the Town and Country Planning Department towards licence renewal fee and for various other charges, including land conversion, scrutiny, etc. Before coming to power in Haryana in 2014, BJP had released a document on the Vadra-DLF land deal titled “Damad Shree”, raising questions about the transaction, including the renewal of licence by the then Congress government under Bhupinder Singh Hooda.
Last year, the BJP government constituted a commission of inquiry led by Justice S N Dhingra to probe all land deals in Gurgaon’s Sector 83. Dhingra’s report, submitted early this year, has not been made public by the government. Incidentally, the constitution of the commission has been challenged in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
“It is right that the licence has not yet been transferred in our name. As far as making payments for renewal of licence is concerned, this is part of an understanding between M/s Skylight Hospitality and M/s DLF. I would not like to comment on this,” said Deepak Bhandari, a signatory on the licence renewal documents on behalf of DLF.
Asked about DLF’s plans to develop a residential colony on the land, Bhandari said, “We have not yet started any construction activity on the land. As far as future plans are concerned, I cannot disclose anything and would not like to comment.”
Responding to a request for comment from The Indian Express, Suman Jyoti Khaitan, lawyer for Robert Vadra, wrote: “Skylight Hospitality Pvt Ltd (‘Skylight’) had applied for grant of a commercial licence for 2.70 acres of land in village Shikohpur, Sector 83, Gurgaon in collaboration with DLF. On 15.12.2008, licence for 2.70 acres was granted. This license has been renewed upto 14.12.2012. On 17.01.2012, an application was made to Government of Haryana for transfer of this licence in favour of DLF in accordance with the provisions of Haryana Development and Regulation of Urban Areas Rules, 1976. On 03.04.2012, an in-principle permission was granted for transfer of licence. On 18.09.2012, Skylight sold the land to DLF vide registered sale deed. Consequently, all rights of Skylight in the title of the land stand extinguished in favour of DLF. Any other query regarding non-transfer of name in records of Department of Town and Country Planning may be made to the Director of the Department or an appropriate authority within Government of Haryana and to DLF. Skylight has ceased to have any title, right or claim over the land”.