Politics of land deals: When state machinery dithers on probe
An official probe into the bigwigs illegally occupying government lands that was conducted under the judiciary's constant watch for three years has become a forgotten tale, and an incomplete task.chandigarh Updated: Nov 11, 2013 00:42 IST
An official probe into the bigwigs illegally occupying government lands that was conducted under the judiciary's constant watch for three years has become a forgotten tale, and an incomplete task.
The entire proceedings, till December 2010, are still buried under the carpet, raising a question mark on the "half-hearted" attempt of the bureaucracy in fighting corruption.
The Punjab and Haryana high court, while hearing a petition related to the "illegal" occupation of shamlat land allegedly by IPS officer Sanjeev Gupta had in December 2007 entrusted a thorough probe into all such cases in Chandigarh's periphery to the then ADGP (law and order) Chander Shekhar.
But during the probe period, till December 2010, deputy commissioners, senior officials from revenue, forest, rural development and panchayats departments and the vigilance bureau failed to feed the probe panel with the detailed and accurate records, inviting even a contempt of court at one time against the then Mohali deputy commissioner Prabhjot Singh Mand.
Mand was replaced without any penalisation for the contempt of high court in December 2009, and even his successor Parveen Kumar did not yield much. The other district officials of various departments remained elusive from providing the relevant records of land deals and the nature of lands under question.
Sumedh Saini's reluctance
The present Punjab DGP Sumedh Singh Saini, who had locked horns with his IPS colleague Sanjiv Gupta that led to the complaint in the high court by one Kulwant Singh of Kansal village in 2007, remained elusive to the entire probe as the VB chief.
On Shekhar's formal plea, the high court then directed the state police intelligence wing and the VB to extend assistance to him in the probe in its order dated June 18, 2010.
Saini was appointed as the VB chief director by the previous SAD-BJP government months after the coalition came to power in February 2007.
All 10 interim reports accounting Chander Shekhar's probe and the related high court proceedings have no single instance where the VB had ever submitted any record to help in probing the assets of any administrative or police officer.
Despite the repeated high court orders on November 2009, June 2010 and in July 2010 to the VB to feed the panel, Shekhar wrote to the court in September 2010 that the specific information as sought from the VB was still awaited.
Shekhar, however, quoted 49 'nami' properties of "high-up police and non-police officers" that needed to be probed in the Chandigarh's periphery, as provided by the intelligence.
The intelligence wing had ruled out any record of 'benami' properties in this regard.
The eight villages around Chandigarh in Mohali district, which were zeroed in on as most vulnerable for the relevant probe were Karoran, Kansal, Nada, Parchh, Seonk, Mullanpur, Banjarpur and Naglan.
The revenue and forest officials were not able to provide detailed records like sale deeds, mutations and status of the forestland patches in these villages where farmhouses and other such structures in question still exist.
As on March 2009, as per the then Mohali deputy commissioner's record, a total of 6,987 acres, 17 kanals and 19 marlas land was in illegal possession and the purchasers have further sold the land to different persons.
The task force, constituted after undertaking of the then Punjab advocate general HS Mattewal in the high court to fix the culprits and evacuate these lands, has not yet seen the light of day to accomplish the task.
Complaint that triggered trouble for bigwigs
It was IPS officer Sanjiv Gupta's rebuttal to the accusations against him in a criminal complaint that gradually led the high court in its proceedings to entrust the inquiry into all such land deals, including the illegal occupation of the village common lands or encroachment of any individual's land in the Chandigarh's periphery, to the then ADGP Chander Shekhar in December 2007.
Earlier, two inquiries into the complaint - each conducted by SSP, Fatehgarh Sahib, and SSP, Rupnagar, in November 2007 had presented varied results into the complaint against Gupta.
Shielding encroachers of forest lands
Chander Shekhar even wrote to chief sccretary SC Aggarwal in February 2010, seeking details of the disciplinary action taken against IFS officers AS Dogra, HS Grewal, BC Bala, Swaran Singh, JS Samundra and Naresh Mahajan for not providing specific information to the panel despite repeated reminders for nearly two years. The said officers had been eluding the information on the alleged encroachment of forest lands since they were asked to provide it on January 30, 2009.