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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

File with then CM’s ‘approval’ missing, officer who took possession no more

The file on which the HSVP claims to have taken the then chief minister’s approval for transfer of land to the archaeology department “is untraceable”.

Written by Varinder Bhatia | Chandigarh | July 29, 2020 11:58:18 pm
hsvp, hsvp sale, hsvp undersized plot sale, ashok khemka, hsvp file missing, Indian express news Ashok Khemka has now demanded stern action against the erring officials and adjustment of the excess amount paid. (File)

AN INVESTIGATION into the Haryana Shahri Vikas Pradhikaran’s (HSVP) sale of an “undersized” plot to the state archaeology department for “excess” payment worth crores to build a state-of-art museum has brought out more startling facts.

The file on which the HSVP claims to have taken the then chief minister’s approval for transfer of land to the archaeology department “is untraceable”.

The then director of the archaeology and museums department, S K Saxena, who took wrong possession of the undersized plot in Panchkula’s Sector 5, in no longer alive. Moreover, “no measurement of the site was done at the time of allotment (August 1996) or possession (May 1998) or raising of additional demand of Rs 22.88 crore (September 2016), which was eventually paid to HSVP”.

The Indian Express had on July 28 carried a report about Principal Secretary (Archaeology and Museums Department) Ashok Khemka flagging the discrepancy. The plot was allotted to the archaeology department on August 23, 1996, for construction of the State Archaeological Museum at the rate of Rs 185 per sq. yard (Rs 17,90,800). Payment was made then to the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA), now HSVP. On May 23, 2019, the PWD (Buildings & Roads) informed the archaeology department that instead of 9,680 sq. yards, HUDA had given possession of 8,860 sq. yards. Later, the archaeology department requested HUDA to increase the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) from 100 per cent to 150 per cent. However, HUDA asked for additional payment of Rs 22.88 crore.

Khemka has now demanded stern action against the erring officials and adjustment of the excess amount paid.

As the error came to light, HSVP also attempted to make up for the undersized plot by offering to cut down the road between the plot and Indradhanush stadium into half, and transfer it to the archaeology department.

Khemka however junked HSVP’s offer. “The road width is proposed to be reduced from the present 12 mts to 6.7 mts by adding a 5.3 mt wide strip to the plot. Narrowing the road would render access to the museum site difficult. The archaeology department therefore agrees to take possession of the plot as at site, that is, 1.83 acres with excess amount adjusted,” Khemka wrote to the state government.

He further wrote, “Possession of the plot was handed over on May 22, 1998, by a junior engineer (HUDA) to S K Saxena. The then director was negligent in taking possession of the site without actual dimensions and site plan sketch. But HSVP is not a real estate dealer, it is a planned urban agency of the state. Each and every site in a planned sector is mapped and measured before allotment. The dimensions and actual area of the site would exist in some pre-allotment HSVP record, but the record was not produced despite request and reminder to the principal secretary (town and country planning) and HSVP officers.”

“The act of HSVP to allot and hand over possession of an undersized plot to a government department is most brazen and strains bona fide by suggesting fraud, breach of trust, and falsification of official records,” Khemka added.

Calling the earlier possession certificate dated May 22, 1998 — by way of which the land was transferred to archeology department — a “defective certificate and no-possession”, Khemka wrote, “HSVP must be directed to hand over proper possession of the plot with correct dimensions, area and site plan sketch and compensate the government exchequer as CM and finance department may determine for the 23-year delay in handover of proper possession of the plot for which full price was paid in 1997.”

He also raised strong objections over the archaeology department being charged a whopping Rs 22.88 crore for additional FAR, saying, “it was an unjust enrichment of HSVP at the cost to the government exchequer”.

“The additional demand of Rs 22,88,80,328 was raised for permitting increase in FAR from 100 per cent to 150 per cwent. The payment was made wrongly in two installments in 2017. The additional demand was bogus since full price for the lot was already paid in 1997. Permissible FAR is an inherent right, which accrues to the owner/occupier of the plot as per rules and regulations of the statutory authority. It is learnt that HSVP has since permitted FAR of 150 to all institutional plots in Panchkula.”

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