Weeks after the Supreme Court lifted its stay on investigations into charges of corruption during allotment of residential plots in Noida in 2004, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) raided 20 places in four cities on Friday looking for evidence.
The New Okhla Industrial Development Authority (Noida) had received 1,66,801 applications for the residential plots. A draw of lots was held on July 2, 2005 after which 1,250 plots were allotted.
The allotments triggered a controversy following reports that dozens of influential politicians, bureaucrats, senior police officers, family members of retired and serving judges among others were allotted prime plots under the scheme. The allotments were cancelled on July 4, 2005.
“Officials of Noida, Uttar Pradesh Development System Corporation among others had allegedly conspired by falsifying electronic records and altering the computer ‘source code’ developed for the draw of lots,” a senior CBI official said.
The CBI searches, which started early on Friday, were carried out at 10 places in Noida, seven in Lucknow, two in Meerut and one in Ghaziabad. Prominent among those whose residential or official premises were searched include Deo Dutt Sharma, former CEO of Noida, Dev Sharan Pathik, MD, UPDESCO, R.S. Yadav, OSD (residential plots), Lorek Yadav, the then chief financial and accounts officer, and Tanwar Jaffar Ali, the then deputy CEO, Noida. The CBI also searched the Noida authority office. Repeated attempts to contact those whose premises had been raided by the CBI failed.
Senior officials, however, admitted that the searches might not have the desired effect, as they may have come a little too late. The CBI had registered a case under the Prevention of Corruption Act and IT Act pursuant to the orders of the Allahabad High Court on October 4, 2005. The HC had noted at the time of directing the agency to register a case that “the investigation must be initiated at the earliest as otherwise vital evidence, oral and documentary could run the risk of being obliterated”. The writ petition in the HC, which led to the registration of the FIR, had cited reports in the Hindustan Times in his petition.
The SC had stayed the HC order on November 11, 2005, but subsequently lifted the stay on November 22, 2007.