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Thursday, August 05, 2021

No proof of irregularities in land deals: Ram temple trust

On March 18, according to the legal documents, the trust had purchased a 1.208 hectares plot for Rs 18.5 crore from property dealers Sultan Ansari and Ravi Mohan Tiwari, who in turn had purchased it from landowners Harish Pathak and Kusum Pathak for Rs 2 crore the same day.

Written by Avaneesh Mishra | Lucknow |
Updated: July 2, 2021 7:14:47 am
The Ayodhya land that is under question. (Express photo by Avaneesh Mishra)

Members of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust on Thursday gave themselves a clean chit in connection with the allegations of corruption and fraud in land purchases, claiming that no evidence of irregularities was found by a “team of experts who scrutinised all the documents related to the land deals”.

Speaking to mediapersons after a three-day meeting of the Trust members, Treasurer Govind Dev Giri said that the Trust will not get into any “media trial” and will answer only to “competent authorities” if and when asked for the proof.

Giri said that all the documents related to the land purchases “show full transparency and honesty”.

“There have been some incidents to create hurdles in the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya in the last 15-20 days. Some people, including political and so-called religious figures, said that there have been irregularities or a scam. I got several phone calls showing confidence in the Temple Trust, but also requesting me to look into the matter. In the last three days, since I have arrived here, I have been investigating the matter. I brought lawyers, lekhpals and chartered accountants with me. We are happy to inform you that, as expected, the entire process of the land purchases has no irregularities,” Giri said.

“After a proper investigation, we can say that nothing illegal has happened in the land deals. All the lands have been purchased in amounts equal to or less than the current market price. We have a request, as well as a challenge, to those making the allegations that if they can purchase land at a lesser price, we are ready to purchase land from them,” Giri added.

On March 18, according to the legal documents, the Trust had purchased a 1.208 hectares plot for Rs 18.5 crore from property dealers Sultan Ansari and Ravi Mohan Tiwari, who in turn had purchased it from landowners Harish Pathak and Kusum Pathak for Rs 2 crore the same day. This deal had landed the Trust in a controversy with Samajwadi Party and Aam Aadmi Party alleging “corruption and fraud”. The Trust, however, denied it claiming that the Pathaks and the property dealers had a previous agreement, which is why the land was first purchased at the price decided in the agreement, but later sold to the Trust at the prevailing market rate.

However, an investigation by The Indian Express found that the very same day, the Trust purchased another parcel of 1.037 hectares of land from Pathaks for Rs 8 crore. The Trust hasn’t yet responded to the new findings.

According to the Trust, which was formed by the Government of India on a Supreme Court order to facilitate the construction, they need around 108 acres of land for the project. Out of this, 70 acres were provided by the government, additional 10 acres have been purchased by the Trust so far, and the remaining 28 acres will be purchased in the coming days, the Trust said.

“Even though there have been no irregularities in the land purchase so far, we will now be even more cautious in all the works related to the temple construction,” Giri said, adding, “The temple construction is going on, and we all hope that the Ram temple is completed within the deadline.”

Asked about the evidence, Giri said, “We do not want to get into media trial. However, whenever any authorised person will ask us, we will provide them with all evidence. But it has to be a competent authority. We urge people to not trust those who have political agendas and want to crush nationalist feelings.”

Claiming those who are making the allegations have political agendas and want to create hurdles in temple construction, Giri said, “They did not even follow the basic etiquette of reaching out to Trust members with their questions before going to the media.”

Asked if they plan to take any legal action against those who made allegations against the Trust, Giri said that he personally was not in favour of taking any legal action. “However, if the other members of the Trust are in favour of taking legal action, then I will support them,” he added.

On whether the Trust would make any changes in the committee which has been asked to make the land purchases, Trust member Kameshwar Chaupal said that given the Covid pandemic, five Trust members who are permanently residing in Ayodhya — Champat Rai, Anil Mishra, Vimlendra Mohan Mishra, Mahant Dinendra Das and Mahant Nritya Gopal Das – were looking after the land purchases and they would continue to do so.

“The Trust will be extra cautious in the purchase of additional 28 acres which is required for the project,” Chaupal added.

Earlier, while responding to the allegations, the Trust had said that it was their decision to expand the area of the temple and the teerth kshetra.

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