Panel to summon Robert Vadra over land deal

The justice S N Dhingra Commission, probing alleged irregularities in grant of licences to developers in four villages of Gurgaon by the previous Congress government in Haryana, is set to summon Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, early next year. Sources told The Indian Express that Vadra will be given an opportunity to explain allegations that he made monetary gains from his company Skylight Hospitality’s deal with real estate major DLF after the then government of Bhupinder Singh Hooda granted change of land use (CLU) certificate to land owned by the company in Shikohpur village of Gurgaon.

Apart from Vadra, the role of Chhatar Singh, former principal secretary to Hooda, who is currently a member of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), is also being looked at. Sources said Singh, too, could be summoned by the Dhingra commission to explain his “actions” while dealing with files relating to permissions to real estate companies. “We will summon him (Vadra). He can appear either in person or through his lawyer or representatives. But this doesn’t mean we have found him guilty. This is part of a process which is still on,” sources said. “We will record his statement and give him ample opportunity to rebut the allegations,” sources said. In 2008, Skylight Hospitality sold 3.5 acres of land in Shikohpur village to DLF at a rate much higher than the prevailing rate then. The deal became a major issue in the run-up to the Assembly election last year. The BJP, then in Opposition, repeatedly said it will probe the deal if it comes to power. In May this year, the BJP government of Manohar Lal Khattar appointed the Dhingra commission to probe alleged irregularities in grant of licence(s) by the Department of Town and Country Planning to some companies in Gurgaon Sector 83 for development of commercial colonies. Later, the scope of the probe was expanded to four villages in Gurgaon. Last week, the commission wrote to the Haryana government to grant it six months extension to complete the probe and submit its report. “We have been told that the extension has been granted though we are yet to receive the notification,” sources said. Apart from Vadra’s company Skylight Hospitality, the commission is also going to examine other real estate companies which benefited because of alleged irregularities. Sources said the commission has so far examined about 20 officers, most of them from the Department of Town and Country Planning. Careful perusal of official files and documents submitted by various departments to the commission, sources said, show sector plans were repeatedly changed to allegedly favour certain real estate companies and objections raised by junior officers were brushed aside. Irregularities in granting clearances to building plans — especially by senior officers — and in some cases in violation of floor-area ratio (FAR), are under the scanner. Over 170 licences granted in these villages between 2008 and 2014 are being examined. Incidentally, in its report for 2013-14 tabled in the Haryana assembly early this year, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had come down heavily on the Department of Town and Country Planning and the Hooda government for helping builders. “Perusal of files show a clear trend of rules being subverted to favour some companies. There are many gaps that require to be explained, including by the office of the then Chief Minister, since many decisions were taken at that level,” sources said. Asked if Hooda could also be summoned, sources said no decision had been taken “so far” in this regard. “All those who are required to be examined to bring out the truth will be called,” sources said. The Dhingra panel’s mandate In May this year, the Haryana government appointed a one-man Commission of Inquiry under former Delhi High Court Judge S N Dhingra to probe alleged irregularities in grant of licences by the Department of Town and Country Planning to some companies in Sector 83 of Gurgaon. In August, the ambit of the commission was expanded from Sector 83 to four villages: Sihi, Shikohpur, Sikanderpur Badha and Kherki Daula. The four villages now form part of about 15 sectors of Gurgaon. Among other things, the Commission is inquiring into “circumstances under which licences for development of commercial colonies” were granted to companies in these villages; whether these “entities were eligible for grant of licences as per the applicable laws, rules, circulars, notifications, guidelines, etc”; whether the “transfer of licences by the original licencee within a short period of time to other entities” was violative of the law and relevant rules. It is also empowered to recommend measure(s) required to be adopted to meet the “ends of justice, particularly with a view to take corrective action to prevent loss of revenue to the public exchequer and also prevention of undue private enrichment at the cost of the public exchequer in such cases in future”. – See more at: