Jalandhar divisional commissioner Anurag Verma followed in the footsteps of his predecessor Sucha Ram Ladhar and charged arbitration fee - without prior sanction of the Punjab government - for resolving disputes between farmers and the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) over land acquisition compensation.
While Ladhar allegedly made 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 about Rs 10 lakh, government sources said.
Following Hindustan Times' expose about Ladhar's money-making practice ('IAS officer reaps a rich harvest' and 'No policy, Ladhar makes hay as arbitrator', May 24-25), 1993-batch IAS officer Verma, soon after returning from abroad last week, deposited in the government treasury the amount he had made through arbitration.
"Yes, I have transferred back the money (to the government), which is about Rs 10 lakh… In a span of about nine months, I may have dealt with around 60 cases of arbitration," Verma said when contacted on the phone.
After completing the first leg of his training abroad, Verma is presently doing a course at Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie (Uttarakhand).
Government sources say Ladhar has been defending his decision to charge arbitration fee and has "not taken the initiative of depositing the money charged without government sanction."
Ladhar had sent an e-mail to HT earlier, saying that other IAS officers, too, charged the fee. "As per my information, Verma has charged advance arbitration costs at the rate of Rs 3,000 per case (in 271 cases) and Rs 12,000 per case (in 60 cases) on finalisation of the awards," Ladhar had told HT.
Ladhar, a 1991-batch IAS officer, is known for enjoying Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal's patronage.
Hundreds of families, whose prime land has been acquired by the NHAI in Jalandhar and Patiala divisions of Punjab for widening national highways, have paid Ladhar through cheque Rs 4,100 and Rs 12,000 costs per case for deciding their compensation disputes.
Taking cognisance of the HT reports, chief secretary Rakesh Singh had sought Ladhar's explanation, directing him to reply within 48 hours.
In his reply, Ladhar had stated that he received Rs 1.32 crore as arbitration fee while he was posted as Jalandhar divisional commissioner, and Rs 26 lakh in the capacity of Patiala divisional commissioner while deciding land compensation cases of landowners. Ladhar also claimed to have deposited income tax on the amount.
Ladhar claimed that he neither committed any illegality while charging arbitration fee nor as per the conduct rules was he required to get prior sanction from the state government.
After examining Ladhar's reply, the personnel department has sent Ladhar's case to the chief secretary for necessary action.