This is a lesson one can learn from Robert Vadra, who, with a little help from his friends and the Hooda regime, has become a rich man
By Shailendra Singh
The nexus between politically well-connected Indians, business houses and state governments to usurp government land is
nothing new. But when the value of this land runs into crores and the Indian in question is UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law, eyebrows will be raised. In Vadra’s case, rules were flouted with impunity and without any adherence to law. AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal and IAS officer Ashok Khemka were among the few people who had the guts to question this deal openly. It was on October 5, 2012 that Kejriwal and lawyer Prashant Bhushan held a press conference alleging that Vadra had purchased at least 31 properties worth over Rs. 300 crore for which money came from “unsecured interest-free loans” from real-estate firm DLF Ltd. It was further alleged that the properties were purchased at prices far below market rates. This was reportedly done with the connivance of Haryana’s Congress government under Bhupinder Singh Hooda. The party, incidentally, lost the October assembly polls to the BJP. The allegations regarding this land deal are as follows.
As per information available on social media, it has been alleged that Skylight Hospitality Pvt Ltd, which is owned by Vadra, purchased 3.5 acres of land at a prime location—just off NH 8 in Sikhohpur village in Gurgaon, Haryana—through Omkareshwar Properties and issued a “fictitious” cheque for Rs. 7.5 crore. Strangely, the bank account of Skylight had only Rs. 1 lakh at that time. Under these circumstances, if Vadra had issued a cheque of Rs. 7.5 crore it would have raised suspicions. To avoid this, Vadra is likely to have requested Omkareshwar Properties not to present the cheque till such time that he could arrange enough cash in his account.
But in reality, the Corporation Bank cheque bearing No 607251 for Rs. 7.5 crore, which was mentioned in sale deed No 4928 of 12.02.2008 did not belong to Skylight Hospitality. It is likely that a fictitious cheque number (was it DLFs?) was shown by the company with the full consent and knowledge of DLF to enable it to get the title of the land legally as Skylight Hospitality did not have the money to pay the full amount of `7.95 core (land cost of Rs 7.5 crore plus stamp duty of `45 lakh) at the time of registration. Meanwhile, the deed stated that the stamp duty of Rs. 45 lakh was paid by Omkareshwar Properties instead of Skylight Hospitality. This amounts to making false statements, which is punishable under Section 82 of the Registration Act. Consequently, the balance sheet of Skylight Hospitality showed an overdraft of Rs. 7,94,00,000. It might have been done to show that Skylight Hospitality had enough of funds in its account, as the cheque for Rs. 7.5 crore was never presented for payment. As far as the remaining Rs. 1 lakh, no one knows anything about it.
Vadra entered into an agreement to sell this land to DLF itself for Rs. 58 crore after two months. He began receiving money from them in instalments. The first instalment came in June 2008, by which time, payment was made to Omkareshwar Properties. In other words, Vadra’s company began receiving money into its account without investing any of its own funds to buy the land.
When DLF’s role into the whole issue came under the scanner, it tried to clear its name by saying that it had not given any unsecured loan to Vadra for favors and that it had transparent dealings with him as an individual entrepreneur. The DLF statement said that it had given Rs. 65 crore as “business advances”, out of which Rs. 15 crore was fully refunded and
Rs. 50 crore was used for purchasing land.
All this would not have been possible without the connivance of the Congress government in Haryana at that time. Out of the 3.5 acres “purchased” by Skylight Hospitality, 0.75 acres did not fall in the area which could be used for residential and commercial purposes. But the Congress government overlooked laws and allowed the 0.75 acres to be used for residential and commercial purposes. Ashok Khemka, who was Haryana director-general, land holdings and land records-cum-inspector-general of
registration, objected to this and submitted a report against it to the district collector of Gurgaon. However, his report was rejected and sanction given to the said deal.
JUMPING THE QUEUE
Another rule which was flouted by the Hooda government was that the 3.5 acres of land should have been allotted on a “first come-first serve basis”. But the land was allotted to Vadra, whose application was 16th in queue.
Unfortunately, Khemka had to pay a price for raising his voice against Vadra as he was transferred. During his 80-day tenure in the land records office, he had unearthed several scams, particularly in Gurgaon and Faridabad, where valuable panchayat and forest lands were being usurped by powerful land sharks with the apparent complicity of authorities and by misusing the provisions of the Consolidation Act. Though the Haryana government tried to clear its own name by forming a three-member committee to probe into the charges against the Vadra-DLF land deal, it neither named Vadra nor DLF. With a BJP government coming to power in Haryana and saying it would probe this deal, it could lead to serious consequences. If the charges are found to be true, it would attract Section 7 to 16 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, and 171-B of the Indian Penal Code too.Tough times ahead for the Gandhi family?
—The author is an advocate in Supreme Court and Delhi High Court