Khemka stands his ground over report against Vadra

Hitender Rao

Chandigarh, Aug. 12 -- Haryana IAS officer Ashok Khemka has said that if Robert Vadra owned Sky Light Hospitality or realty major DLF Universal Limited - the two players involved in the deal of 3.5 acres Shikohpur land in Gurgaon - were not aggrieved by his order to cancel the mutation, why and how some officials in the Haryana government were aggrieved.

"Is the same yardstick applied for an ordinary citizen?'' he has asked. Khemka said the order under section 42 of the Consolidation Act - under which he cancelled the mutation of 3.5 acres - is final and the only recourse for an aggrieved party is to petition the high court.

The IAS officer, in his capacity as Director General of Consolidation of Holdings, had in October 2012 set aside the mutation of the land on the grounds that the assistant consolidation officer (ACO) who had sanctioned the mutation was not competent to do so. The Gurgaon deputy commissioner, however, did not give effect to Khemka's cancellation orders. Mutation or intkaal means transfer of title of a property from one entity to another in revenue records.

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In his response to the three member committee which scrutinised Khemka's order to cancel the mutation besides other issues, the IAS officer has said there was no response from the committee chairman who was requested by him to inform whether any representation, appeal or complaint was received from Robert Vadra or DLF or Onkareshwar Properties against his orders to cancel the mutation.

Khemka said his order was adversely criticised in the committee's report without hearing him. "The motive seems to divert public attention from a well-organised racket in the department of town and country planning of milking huge premiums in colony licences by routing them through selected cronies,'' his reply reads.

He further said that the committee's observation that his powers under section 42 of the Consolidation Act, 1948, would certainly not extend to activities under the Punjab Land Revenue Act, 1887, was grossly misplaced. "The Director, Consolidation of Holdings, has been delegated the powers under section 42 of the Consolidation Act. By virtue of the above powers, he exercises revisionary jurisdiction to correct any illegality or impropriety committed under the Act. Even if it be assumed for the sake of argument that the mutation could have been annulled under the Punjab Land Revenue Act, the Director of Consolidation of Holdings is appointed as the Collector in the estates under consolidation or already consolidated by the state government vide a Punjab government notification of July 8, 1950,'' Khemka said in his reply.

He said the advice of the committee that he should have referred the matter to the Law Secretary before arriving at the conclusion that the ACO was not empowered to execute the mutation was not proper. "An order under section 42 of the Consolidation Act is quasi-judicial. There are umpteen cases where the Law Secretary did not consider appropriate to tender advice or opinion in quasijudicial proceedings. Seeking advice or opinion of the Law Secretary in quasi-judicial proceedings under section 42 of the Consolidation Act was not only unnecessary but wholly unwarranted,'' his response read.

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Referring to the assertions made by the deputy commissioners of Gurgaon, Faridabad, Palwal and Mewat that there was no undervaluation of properties owned by Vadra or his companies, the IAS officer, in his reply, said he could not understand how the committee or the deputy commissioners arrived at this conclusion without placing on record the registered deeds and disclosing the details of the inquiry conducted.

Regarding the allegation of being selective in picking up only the Vadra-DLF deal, Khemka said he wished the committee had given him an opportunity to explain his order before indicting him.

The officer said he had ordered an inquiry into the alleged under-valuations of deeds registered by Vadra's companies on the basis of news reports appearing in reputed national dailies. No other case of under-valuation was brought to his knowledge during the short tenure of 80 days as IG, Registration, he said. "Nonaction on specific media reports would have meant dereliction of public duty and misconduct of omission. The media plays a significant role in a democracy and not taking action on wellreported stories would lead to loss of public faith in institutions of governance,'' Khemka's reply said.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.