Senior bureaucrat Shakuntala Gamlin, whose appointment as acting Delhi chief secretary sparked a turf war between the chief minister and lieutenant governor (LG), has accused a minister in the AAP government of attempting to pressurise her to issue an illegal order.
In a letter to the LG, Gamlin, who now serves as principal secretary in the industries and power departments headed by Satyendra Jain, has alleged he tried to coerce her to push a proposal to convert leasehold industrial land to freehold, a move that would benefit capitalists.
Jain, however, denied the charge and argued he only wrote to the concerned department to examine the feasibility of the proposal about which several organisations had sent representations to him.
Gamlin’s 10-day stint as acting chief secretary was protested by the Arvind Kejriwal government, which accused her of trying to benefit the city’s private electricity distribution companies when she was power secretary through a Rs 11,000-crore loan.
“The industries minister had been continuously pressing me to submit a note for the Council of Ministers proposing therein conversion of industrial plots in the city from leasehold to freehold even after full facts pertaining to the legal ramifications of the case that the matter was not within the competence of GNCT Delhi had been brought to his notice,” she said in her letter to Jung.
Gamlin is at the epicentre of a showdown between the Kejriwal administration and the Centre, with the AAP accusing the L-G of attempting a “coup” and bypassing an elected government to draft officers of his choice. The matter is now pending before the Supreme Court.
The power tussle between Kejriwal and Jung, who reports to the union home ministry, is rooted in Delhi's limited statehood where the provincial government has no control over police and land which fall under the Centre’s jurisdiction.
“If I receive a representation will I not send it to the department for further examination? Is it not natural that the minister will ask for a proposal and will it not be sent to the legal department for vetting?” Jain said. “So instead of writing elsewhere and leaking it to the media it was better if the officer concerned had raised the issue with me or if it would have been put up in writing.”
Gamlin also said in her letter that according to rules, the Delhi government has no jurisdiction in the administration of land except through the LG, who acts in these matters on the advice of the Delhi Development Authority.
“Due to oversight or otherwise, some conversion of industrial plots had been ordered in Delhi without the involvement of land owning agency Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and the matter is said to be under scrutiny of the Vigilance Department of Delhi Government,” she said.
“Despite these facts having been brought to the knowledge of the Minister, he kept pressing for a note for the Council of Ministers on the subject and expressed his annoyance on several occasions in this regard.”