Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Friday directed chief secretary Rakesh Singh to proceed as per law against Patiala divisional commissioner Sucha Ram Ladhar for charging arbitration fee from landowners while deciding their land acquisition compensation disputes.
Ladhar has been claiming that he has not committed any illegality while charging arbitration fee.
As per conservative estimates, Ladhar has allegedly earned over Rs 1 crore through this practice. Official documents accessed by HT show that Ladhar has been making lakhs of rupees annually by charging Rs 12,000 each from thousands of landowners while deciding their compensation disputes against the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI).
At the core of the controversy is Ladhar’s order asking for “the cost of arbitration” to be shared 50:50 by the NHAI and the landowners. After the NHAI refused to deposit its share, the IAS officer issued another order asking the landowners to also pay the arbitration costs of the NHAI.
Following the HT expose (‘IAS officer reaps a rich harvest’ and ‘No policy in place, Ladhar makes hay as arbitrator’, May 24-25), the CM held a meeting to discuss the matter soon after reaching here from Delhi on Friday evening. The meeting was attended by advocate general Ashok Aggarwal, chief secretary Rakesh Singh, CM’s principal secretary SK Sandhu and secretary (personnel) Anirudh Tewari.
After being briefed about “the gravity of the issue”, Badal asked the chief secretary to act as per the law against Ladhar, government sources told HT. The CM said that if necessary, opinion of the advocate general should also be taken, said sources.
The chief secretary informed Badal that he had already slapped a notice on Ladhar, seeking an explanation. The deadline for Ladhar to submit his reply is Saturday evening.
The government has held that Ladhar’s action raises a “question of ethics”, and directed him to reveal how much money he had received as arbitration fee, and under what provisions or guidelines of the state government was he seeking it.
The notice also asks Ladhar to state if he followed the conduct rules, and whether he had taken prior permission from the government to charge fee.