A 58-crore land deal in Haryana between businessman Robert Vadra and real estate giant DLF was cancelled earlier this week by IAS officer Ashok Khemka but the commercial license that was the heart of the deal is still in Mr Vadra’s name, said a senior government official today, emphasising that this is in keeping with rules. Meanwhile, NDTV has accessed documents that counter the Haryana govt claim and show the IAS officer sought Vadra land deal records before he was transferred.
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Ashok Khemka met Haryana Chief Secretary, PK Chaudhary today and said he was satisfied with Mr Chaudhary’s reply on his transfer. Mr Khemka has been transferred 43 times in the his 21 years of service. He served as DG, Land Consolidation and Holdings for 50 days till October 15. (Read: Khemka satisfied with chief secretary’s reply)
On his last day in office, October 15, Mr Khemka, the top man in the Land Records department, cancelled a 58-crore deal between Mr Vadra and real estate company DLF. (Read: Khemka cancels DLF-Vadra deal)
The government has said Mr Khemka’s decision to invalidate the transaction is incorrect. It says the decision defied “the principles of natural justice” because he did not allow either Mr Vadra or DLF to explain their version of events. It has set up a committee to study the deal and given it a one-month deadline to share its findings.
“If that’s what they believe, they should go to the High Court,” said Mr Khemka today. He said that unauthorised officials had signed off on the transfer of the land to DLF; he also raised questions about why the government appeared to have bent the rules for Mr Vadra, processing his documents at lightning speed and licensing him to build a commercial housing project on his plot of 3.5 acres.
It blames Mr Khemka for misrepresenting the facts to make it seem like he was transferred because he ordered an investigation into all the land bought and sold by businessman Robert Vadra in the state since 2005. The government said that Mr Khemka was transferred on October 11 and that the next day (on October 12) he wrote a letter to senior officials in four districts of Haryana, asking them to determine “the real value” of Mr Vadra’s transactions.
The Haryana government has implied that Mr Khemka ordered the inquiry to make it seem like he had been punished for trying to expose a land scam involving a powerful personality. But documents accessed by NDTV -file notings – show that Mr Khemka in fact initiated the inquiry against Mr Vadra on October 8 – and that three days later, he was served his transfer orders. (Read: Haryana govt refutes Khemka)
The head of Haryana’s Town and Country Planning Department, TC Gupta, told NDTV today that the license is still in Mr Vadra’s name, though the land was transferred to DLF last month till Mr Khemka cancelled the transaction on Monday. Mr Gupta said that that because formalities have yet to be completed, the license has not been transferred to DLF yet. He refuted allegations that licensing guidelines had been skewed for Mr Vadra.
In a strongly worded letter to state chief secretary P K Chaudhery yesterday, Mr Gupta, referred to “orders of Director General, Consolidation of Land Holdings & Land Records-cum-Inspector General of Registration issued on October 15. Mr Gupta said the original copy of Mr Khemka’s order has still not been received by his Department, “even though the same has found its way to all newspapers/ electronic media”.
The commercial housing license was granted after Mr Vadra bought the land for 7.2 crores in February 2008, and added a whopping 50 crores to its value – just a few months later, DLF agreed to buy the land from Mr Vadra for 58 crores; the value of Mr Vadra’s land had escalated eight times. (Case timeline)
By 2011, DLF had paid Mr Vadra nearly 50 of the 58 crores for this land. Yet, in January 2011, Mr Vadra’s license was renewed by the government. Sources say this was an aberration that must be studied and justified. Mr Gupta of the town planning department says that the license was reissued against a payment of 72 lakhs by Mr Vadra, and that it was made out to the businessmen and not DLF because at the time, an ‘Agreement to Sell’ had been signed but the land had not yet been bought by DLF in government records.