‘Vadra used falsified documents, sham transactions to collect premium on land deal’

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VADRANEW DELHI, August 10;Ashok Khemka, the Haryana IAS officer who cancelled a land deal mutation between Robert Vadra and real estate giant DLF Universal Ltd last October, has told the Haryana government that Mr. Vadra falsified documents and executed a series of sham transactions for 3.53 acres land in Shikohpur village of Gurgaon, thereby pocketing a hefty premium on a commercial colony licence through money that he could account for.

Mr. Vadra, who is Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law, was favoured and aided in making these ‘sham transactions’ by Haryana’s Department of Town and Country Planning (DTCP), alleges Mr. Khemka, accusing the department of ignoring rules and regulations “to allow crony capitalists operating as middlemen to flourish and appropriate [the] market premium of a licence.”

He has made these assertions in a 100-page reply to a report of a three-member enquiry committee set up by the Haryana government last October to look into the Vadra-DLF deal. The committee had indicted Mr. Khemka for cancelling the deal. Mr. Khemka’s reply, submitted on May 21 and accessed by The Hindu, has been put together with the help of publicly available documents and his own findings, after the government stonewalled his efforts to get the official documents concerning the sale, issue and transfer of the license to DLF.

Though nearly three months have elapsed since his reply was submitted, Haryana Chief Secretary P.K. Chaudhary told The Hindu that Mr. Khemka’s “voluminous reply is being examined and the points raised by him are being looked into.”

Mr. Khemka states that both the sale deed of February 12, 2008 — through which Mr. Vadra’s company, Skylight Hospitality, bought the land from Onkareshwar Properties — and the letter of intent for granting a commercial licence to his company issued by the DTCP in March 2008 are sham transactions, executed only to enable Mr. Vadra to collect market premium accruing to him due to state largesse.

“If there was no payment as alleged in the registered deed, can it be said that the registered deed conferred ownership title over the said land upon Skylight Hospitality by virtue of the sham sale?” he asks.

The law defines “sale” as a transfer of ownership in exchange for a price paid or promised or part-paid and part promised. Mr. Khemka notes that “there was no promise to pay in the future in the registered deed. No price was paid as claimed in the registered deed … The “sale” registered in the said deed cannot, therefore, be called a “sale” in the true sense of the term, legal or moral, and it cannot be said that Skylight Hospitality became owner of the land in question by virtue of the “sale” registered in [the] deed.”

According to Section 82 of the Registration Act, 1908, the penalty for making false statements, delivering false copies or translations, false personation, and abetment is punishable with imprisonment up to 7 years, he notes.

Earlier this year, the Haryana government’s committee had concluded that the orders passed by Mr. Khemka initiating an enquiry into Mr. Vadra’s land deals were “without jurisdiction, inappropriate and not covered under any provisions of any statute or rules.” Also, that his order cancelling the land mutation was administratively improper. Mr. Khemka was not permitted to present his stand before this committee.

In his reply to the committee’s indictment, Mr. Khemka states that not just the sale deed through which Mr. Vadra became the owner of the land, but the balance sheets filed by Skylight Hospitality as on 31 March 2008 are also false. These, he says are offences under Sections 417, 468 and 471 of the IPC and the Companies Act 1956. Further, on 5 August 2008, Skylight Hospitality entered into an unregistered collaboration agreement with DLF Universal for 2.7 acres of this land, that Mr. Khemka terms as “an illegality that led to [the] loss of crores of revenue to the State exchequer” because a collaboration agreement of this kind has to be registered.

“It was known all along to the DTCP that the actual developer of the colony would be DLF and the routing of the transaction through Skylight was a subterfuge to remit part premium into the accounts of Skylight Hospitality Private Ltd,” he says.

The DTCP permitted Skylight to transfer the licence to DLF in April 2012, and the licensed land was finally sold to DLF on 18th September 2012. Mr. Khemka goes on to say, “By allowing the transfer of licence issued in the name of Skylight to DLF, the DTCP created a black market for trading in licences where cronies are issued licences which are later sold or transferred with ‘permission’ of the authority for a fat consideration, to the real developers.” He has demanded a white paper on the transfer of all such licences permitted in the past to “expose the diabolical game of looting public wealth.”

According to Mr. Khemka’s note, the DTCP issued various types of colony licences for a total of 21,366 acres in the last 8 years of Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s tenure from 2005 to 2012. He points out that if the market premium for a colony licence is assumed to be as low as Rs. 1 crore/acre, the land-licensing scam in the past eight years is worth roughly Rs. 20,000 crore. At the premium of Rs. 15.78 crore/acre that Mr. Vadra earned, this figure would jump to a staggering Rs. 3.5 lakh crore.

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