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Vadra's firm got licence without meeting norms

chandigarh Updated: Feb 25, 2015 07:56 IST
Hitender Rao


In what could stir up a fresh debate on the alleged favours showered by the previous Congress government on M/s Skylight Hospitality, the company owned by Robert Vadra, the businessman son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, the principal accountant general (audit) of Haryana has observed that Vadra's company was given a colonisation licence in Gurgaon's Sector 83 (Shikohpur) despite not fulfilling the minimum area norm of two acres as per policy guidelines.

Draft audit paras

In revised draft audit paras on "issues relating to regulatory framework and policy guidelines" for the Haryana town and country planning department (TCPD), the principal accountant general (PAG) said that as per the December 2006 policy for grant of licences, the minimum area norm for setting up a commercial colony in the hyper-potential zone was two acres. Gurgaon falls in the hyper-potential zone.

The PAG represents the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) in a state and prepares audit reports pertaining to the accounts of the state that are laid in the state assembly.

The town and country planning department is yet to submit a reply on these draft audit paras. The then director general, town and country planning, Haryana, Anurag Rastogi had told HT on February 13 that the department has not replied to these draft paras sent by the PAG.

TCPD officials confirmed on February 24 also that no reply had been made so far to the draft audit paras.
After the TCPD's reply and exit conference, the PAG will finally decide whether to drop the draft paras or to record them in the final CAG report to be tabled in the assembly.

'Skylight favoured?'

"While appraising the licence of M/s Skylight Hospitality, it was observed that out of 3.531 acres applied area, 0.83 acre fell in a residential zone and 1.35 acres fell in the 24-metre internal circulation plan road. After excluding these areas, the net planned area that could be considered for commercial licence was 1.351 acres, which was less than the minimum area norms prescribed in policy guidelines," the PAG draft paras submitted to state government read.

The auditors said that the district town planner (HQ) proposed that the coloniser would construct the 24-metre road passing through the site and transfer it to the state government free of cost. Thus, the coloniser was assessed to have fulfilled the minimum area requirement of two acres.

As per the department policy, areas falling under roads was not to be calculated towards net planned area and only benefits towards floor area ratio (FAR) was to be given for transferring the land falling under road. While this principle was applied in 12 other cases (the area indicated against each of these applicants was after deducting area under sector roads) but in the case of Skylight Hospitality, the area falling under roads was indicated, the audit said.

"In the absence of any explanation for the same in notings of the district town planner (HQ), it is not clear why such a distinction was made in respect of Skylight Hospitality vis-a-vis other applicants. If this area is excluded then the net planned area of Skylight Hospitality comes to 1.351 acres, which is less than two acres required under policy guidelines," the PAG said.

'Condition waived for company'

The draft audit paras said that in the case of Skylight Hospitality, the Gurgaon site was not approachable. However, the department decided to waive this condition while granting licence on the justification that approach would be taken by the licencee through the plotted colony of Onkareshwar and Mark Buildtech in collaboration with Vatika Landbase for which a letter of intent (LoI) had already been issued.

"The DTP (HQ) in his March 17, 2008, noting that though department had been considering approach road for existing colonies for grant of additional licences but there were no precedents where approach was to be given through a plotted colony of another licensed colony and this would require revision of the approved sector plan," the PAG said.

The draft audit paras observed the absence of specific guidelines or earlier precedents in this regard. "Without revision of sector plans as indicated by DTP (HQ), permission was granted to Skylight Hospitality," the auditors said.
The draft audit para also said though as per the government policy, commercial sites should be approachable through internal roads, there was no clearly laid down criteria about the approach roads and no guidelines have been framed to cater to situations where commercial sites were not approachable.

No contravention of rules: Vadra lawyer

Responding on behalf of Vadra and Skylight Hospitality, advocate Suman Jyoti Khaitan said: "Our clients (Skylight Hospitality) have been given licence number 203 of 2008 for 2.7 acres at Shikohpur village in Gurgaon in accordance with Section 3 of the Haryana Development and Regulation of Urban Areas Act, 1972, read with Rule 12 of the Haryana Development and Regulation of Urban Area Rules, 1976."

"The internal circulation road is always a part of the licensed area unlike the sector roads and green belts as per the government policy applicable in all cases."

Khaitan said that access has been provided to our clients by the adjoining colonisers through a written undertaking given and accepted by the town and country planning department.

"This is the practice and there is no contravention of any provisions of the Act of 1975 of the Rules of 1976 in any manner whatsoever. Even otherwise, roads constructed by a coloniser are of public use and an access available through a road constructed by an adjoining coloniser can neither be improper nor illegal in any manner. No adverse inference can possibly be drawn," the advocate added.