The conduct of Jalandhar divisional commissioner Sucha Ram Ladhar who had allegedly made about Rs1.58 crore in arbitration fee for resolving disputes between farmers and the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) over the land acquisition compensation has come under the Income Tax (IT) department's scrutiny.
Ladhar, the 1991-batch IAS officer, had allegedly charged the fee during postings as Jalandhar and Patiala division commissioner-cum-arbitrator since August 2007 without the state government's approval.
While the IT department has directed Ladhar to furnish the entire details in a time-bound manner of the arbitration fee he had charged, the department has also sought details from the NHAI of the arbitration cases Ladhar dealt with, government sources said.
It was following Hindustan Times' expose about Ladhar's moneymaking practice ('IAS officer reaps a rich harvest' and 'No policy, Ladhar makes hay as arbitrator', May 24-25), that the Jalandhar circle of the IT department, specifically referring to the HT reports, slapped the notice on Ladhar.
Sources say the IT department also issued the notice to another IAS officer Anurag Verma who while posted as Jalandhar divisional commissioner followed in the footsteps of his predecessor Ladhar and charged arbitration fee without prior sanction of the government.
While Ladhar allegedly made about Rs 1.58 crore in arbitration fee when posted as divisional commissioner of Jalandhar and Patiala, Verma, after being posted as divisional commissioner at Jalandhar in July 2011, earned over Rs 10 lakh, government sources said.
However-after HT expose-the 1993-batch IAS officer Verma had deposited in the government treasury the entire amount he had made through arbitration.
On the other hand, government sources say Ladhar had been defending his decision to charge the arbitration fee.
In his explanation to the government, Ladhar has reportedly stated that he neither committed any illegality while charging the arbitration fee nor, as per the conduct rules, was he required to take prior sanction from the state government. Further, he has stated that if at all the sanction was required, the government should give it with retrospective effect, government sources said.
Hundreds of families, whose prime land has been acquired by the NHAI in Jalandhar and Patiala divisions for widening national highways, have paid Ladhar through cheque Rs 4,100 and Rs 12,000 as costs per case for deciding their compensation disputes. Taking cognisance of the HT reports, chief secretary Rakesh Singh had sought an explanation from Ladhar.
Now the state government has been awaiting the legal opinion of advocate general Ashok Aggarwal on the issue.