The Haryana town and country planning department that recommended disciplinary action against 1991-batch IAS officer Ashok Khemka for criticising the statutory provisions and policies of the state government has termed his May 21 response an unsuccessful attempt to sensationalise the matter to garner public support and media attention.
The state government had, on Thursday, ordered that the IAS officer be chargesheeted for major penalty under Rule 8 of the All-India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules for administrative misconduct.
"The department takes strong exception to such an attempt. All actions of the department are entirely in accordance with the provisions of the statute," a reply presented by the department to the government said.
Khemka, who submitted a 100-page response on the findings of a three-member committee, had questioned the manner in which a commercial colony licence was granted by the town and country planning department to Sky Light Hospitality - a financially weak company owned by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra. The officer had also alleged a quid pro quo between the department and Onkareshwar Properties, the entity which sold 3.5 acres in Gurgaon's Shikohpur village to Sky Light Hospitality. Khemka had said that Onkareshwar Properties received the largesse from the department in the form of licences for group housing and plotted development.
Responding to his allegations of quid pro quo, the department in its reply said the allegations suggested a complete lack of understanding of the entire licensing process undertaken by the department. It further said that applications for licences for commercial on group housing were placed in an order of seniority on the basis of the date and time they were received by the department.
The grant of licence can only be undertaken if a licence application fell within such order of seniority. This practice of the department has stood legal scrutiny. Regarding allegations of favouring Onkareshwar Properties, the letter of intent (LoI) for all three licences were issued long before the execution of sale by Onkareshwar to Sky Light. "Whereas the overall licensed area under these licences is about 219 acres, the share of Onkareshwar in these was only about 24 acres - about 11%. The department is unnecessarily being dragged into non-existing controversies with ulterior motives," the department wrote in its reply.
It said Khemka's comments were devoid of substance and malicious. "His criticism of statutory provisions and policies of the government has resulted in irreparable loss of reputation of the department and led to huge wastage of manpower of in responding to unjustified criticism in public," the department said.