The Punjab government informed the Punjab and Haryana high court on Friday that it had served a notice on Punjab-cadre IAS officer Sucha Ram Ladhar who has made more than Rs.
1.50 crore in arbitration fee from Jalandhar and Patiala farmers while deciding their land
acquisition compensation cases to deposit the arbitration charges collected by him.
However, the division bench comprising chief justice Arjan Kumar Sikri and justice Rakesh Kumar Jain said, "We wonder how a government officer can collect arbitration fee while acting in his official capacity?"
Jalandhar divisional commissioner Ladhar's counsel failed to submit his reply to the court on Friday and requested the bench for four weeks' time for the same. On this, the bench questioned him that why he was seeking so much time when he just had to justify the collection of arbitration fee from various parties.
The bench then granted three week to Ladhar as well as to the state government to file their replies.
The conduct of Ladhar (53), a 1991-batch IAS officer, has come under scrutiny following a series of reports in Hindustan Times, starting with 'IAS officer reaps a rich harvest' and 'No policy, Ladhar makes hay as arbitrator' (May 24-25). The petitioner, advocate HC Arora, has sought criminal/departmental action against Ladhar.
Hundreds of families, whose prime land had been acquired by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) in Jalandhar and Patiala divisions for widening of national highways, have paid Ladhar through cheque Rs. 4,100 and Rs. 12,000 costs per case for deciding their compensation disputes, even as the divisional commissioner functions as an ex officio arbitrator between the NHAI and the private party.
The petitioner had contended that Ladhar had acted illegally in fixing arbitral fee for acting as arbitrator in his ex officio capacity while working as divisional commissioner-cum-arbitrator and did not comply with the central government's directions to pay at least one-third of the fee charged by him to the government exchequer.
The bench was also informed that the state government had failed to take any action against the officer despite a legal opinion given by the advocate general, Punjab, stating that Ladhar had committed a misconduct and deserves to be chargesheeted for it.
The case would now come up on December 10.
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