The Haryana government will comprehensively examine the response submitted by 1991 batch IAS officer Ashok Khemka on the findings of a committee of officers which had termed Khemka's orders to cancel the mutation of 3.53 acres in Gurgaon's Shikohpur "inappropriate and without jurisdiction".
The tract was sold by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi's businessman son-in-law Robert Vadra to realty major M/s DLF Universal Ltd.
Chief secretary Pradeep Kumar Chaudhery told HT that, the state government would like to examine the entire matter in detail.
"We want to be fair to Khemka and also be responsible in coming to a conclusion on the findings drawn by the three member committee which probed the orders issued by the IAS officer in his capacity as director general, consolidation of holdings (DGCH). Khemka will be provided adequate opportunity in case of an adverse inference," Chaudhery said.
The committee of officers was constituted to "ascertain facts and to inquire into the matter to ascertain acts of omission and commission by various authorities involved".
Its mandate was primarily to scrutinise the October 12 and 15, 2012 orders issued by Khemka in his capacity as DGCH.
Khemka had set aside the mutation (recording the transfer of title of a property from one entity to another in revenue records) of September 2012 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 orders of cancelling the mutation.
The committees of officers in its report said:
(a) Khemka had contended in his orders that sale of property during pendency of consolidation proceedings was prohibited without the sanction of the consolidation officer.
The committee held that since the government had only issued a notification under section 14 (1) of the East Punjab Holdings (Consolidation and Prevention of Fragmentation) Act and thus declaring the intent of making a scheme for consolidation of holdings and no notification of the scheme under sections 19 and 20 of the act was made, the actual consolidation process never commenced in Shikohpur.
The committee also quoted rulings of the Punjab and Haryana high court to substantiate its contention. It concluded that buying-selling of land was prohibited without the approval of the consolidation officer only when the scheme was notified.
The sale deed of 3.5 acres was registered on September 18, 2012 when Vadra's Sky Light Hospitality sold it to DLF.
On September 18, only a notification under section 14(1) of the consolidation act was in force and no scheme under sections 19 and 20 were prepared.
(b) On Khemka's orders of setting aside the mutation on the grounds that the ACO did not have powers to sanction the mutation, the committee said that between 1990 and 2012, about 1,400 buy-sell transactions took place in Shikohpur which were recorded by the consolidation patwari and approved by his supervisor - the ACO.
Though the state government didn't issue a notification to authorise the ACO with the powers to sanction mutations, no one except the consolidation patwari and ACO could have updated-sanctioned the revenue records, since they were custodians of revenue record all this while.
The committee is learnt to have held that if these officials did not do so, they would have deprived the landowners of the rights granted by the Punjab Land Revenue Act. It was obligatory for them to update the revenue records during this period.
The actions of the consolidation patwari and ACO were in sync with the established practice and precedent and in accordance with the spirit of law. The committee said that when an exercise is widely prevalent, undisputed and uncontested, it attains the force of law.
(c) In the event of a dispute pertaining to recording/sanctioning of mutation, the appeal under the Punjab Land Revenue Act lay with the collector, commissioner and financial commissioner.
Khemka issued the October 15 cancellation order as DGCH under section 42 of the consolidation act, which was beyond his powers.
Section 42 empowers the government to call for proceedings to verify the legality or propriety of an order passed, scheme prepared or confirmed or repartition made under the act, and call for and examine the record of a case pending or disposed.
However, section 42 cannot be applied to activities under the Punjab Land Revenue Act, mutation being one such activity.