The Congress state government in Haryana has officially legitimised the controversial land deal between party chief Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra and real-estate giant DLF Universal Ltd. According to the Indian Express, Gurgaon Deputy Commissioner Shekhar Vidyarthi claimed in a letter that the “mutation stands valid” and that “according to revenue records, M/s DLF Universal Limited stands owner of the land”.
Haryana’s former Director General (Consolidation) Ashok Khemka had earlier cancelled the mutation of the 3.5 acres land in Shikhopur village, Gurgaon, that was sold by Vadra’s Skylight Hospitality to DLF for Rs. 58 crore ($9.6 million).
Khemka was soon transferred out to the State's Seed Development Corporation and a report by four deputy commissioners in Haryana subsequently cleared all of Vadra’s land deals done in Haryana.
The government committee also said that the orders passed by Khemka to initiate the enquiry into Vadra's land deals were "without jurisdiction, inappropriate and not covered under any provisions of any statute or rules", and maintained that Khemka’s cancellation of the land mutation was improper.
Although the state administration claimed Khemka’s orders were not “valid”, it had remained silent on his order’s legal repercussions. That silence has now been dispensed with by the administration clearly stating that the land did in fact belong to DLF.
Vidyarthi wrote a letter on July 16 to the Haryana Chief Secretary and Financial Commissioner (Revenue), quoting a report prepared by the Assistant Consolidation Officer (ACO) terming his superior officer Khemka’s orders as “illegal”, “void” and “out of jurisdiction”. This, despite an ACO being far junior in rank to the Director General (Consolidation).
The opposition parties have criticised this decision taken prior to a crucial election, where the ruling Congress party is fighting a tough battle to win votes.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the Election Commission on Monday to look into the Haryana administration’s approval of Vadra’s land deal.
"They (Congress government) know that after the elections, the son-in-law (Vadra) will not get any clearances for illegal deals. So, in between the election process, they have dared to take such a decision," Modi said at an election rally in Hisar.
"It is clear from this decision of the shameless Hooda government that both he and the Congress party have already accepted defeat in Haryana," he added.
Meanwhile, the state administration has tried to deflect any responsibility for taking this controversial step.
“I do not remember such a letter,” Haryana Chief Secretary Shakuntla Jakhu told The Indian Express. “I cannot comment on it unless I see it,” he claimed.
In the Vadra-DLF land deal, an ACO had initially sanctioned the mutation. But in October 2012, Khemka passed an order that ACOs did not have powers to sanction mutations. He then cancelled the Vadra-DLF land deal’s mutation.
Following this, a dispute had arisen between Khemka’s orders and the state government’s “perception” on the powers of an ACO.
Vidyarthi claimed that the ACO was within his rights to call Khemka’s orders “illegal”. “He (ACO) is the competent authority. In revenue parlance, he has to record the reasons for not implementing an order, which he has done.”
This decision by the Congress administration is a political step, not an administrative one. Coming just before the state election next week, it shows that Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda wants to clear up all loose ends before facing the people’s verdict on October 15.