Is it proper for the country's defence chief to preface his request for allotment of a plot of land with gushing praise for a chief minister for leading his party to victory in elections?
The then chief of naval staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta, who was also chairman of the armed forces chiefs of staff committee at the time, did exactly that while requesting Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda for out-of-turn allotment of a plot in the state last year, according official documents accessed by Hindustan Times under the Right to Information Act.
"It is very heartening to see the excellent results of the Congress party under your stewardship, with a clean sweep of all Lok Sabha seats comfortably. Please accept my heartiest congratulations on this wonderful performance in the general elections. I am sure this is public affirmation of the systematic implementation of your development plans in the state," he wrote on his official letterhead to Hooda on May 22, 2009, soon after the Lok Sabha results last year.
The Congress had won nine of the 10 LS seats in the polls. Admiral Mehta was seeking a plot in any urban estate, preferably in Gurgaon's Sector 23 or a nearby sector, from the state government.
In all, he wrote half a dozen letters (all of them on his official letterhead) to Hooda and the then chief secretaries between 2007 and 2009 seeking land, first under the discretionary quota and then under the preferential allotment policy, to "help me firm up my settlement plans" after retirement, the RTI-stamped documents reveal.
Mehta, who is at present Indian high commissioner to New Zealand, has not yet been allotted any plot as he has not been able to prove his domicile in Haryana. He retired from service on August 31, 2009.
"The allotment has not been made as the process pertaining to domicile is not complete," a Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) official told Hindustan Times.
Brig Harwant Singh (retd), president of the All India Defence Brotherhood, an ex-servicemen's welfare group, said, "This practice of a services chief writing to state heads for preferential plots lowers the defence forces' ethos. There is a need for legislation that would ensure that the defence chiefs get remunerations that take care of the post-retirement needs. Writing for preferential plots is like begging, which needs to stopped."