After filing contempt plea against info panel, Priyanka to again visit cottage site

  • Gaurav Bisht, Hindustan Times, Shimla
  • Updated: Aug 06, 2015 08:35 IST

A day after filing a contempt petition in the Himachal Pradesh high court wherein she claimed that despite a stay the state information commission had sought details about her land transactions from the district administration, Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi's daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has scheduled a visit to Chharabra, 14 km from here, to inspect progress on construction work at her cottage.

This will be Priyanka's third visit to the site, located close to the President's summer holiday retreat, this year. In May, when she along with her mother had gone there, she had asked the builders to demolish the structure after expressing dissatisfaction with its design and roofing.

Priyanka will put up at the Oberoi's upscale Hotel Wildflower Hall located in the woods. She will fly to Chandigarh along with architects from Delhi and later travel to Chharabra by road.

The site, spread over 3.5 bighas (a bigha is about 0.4 hectare), is situated at a height of more than 8,000 feet amid verdant pine and cedar trees. Priyanka bought the nearly one acre (4.25 bighas) plot in 2007 for around `47 lakh and its market value is now estimated at `1.5 crore per bigha. The then Himachal government had relaxed the norms under Section 118 of the Land Reforms and Tenancy Act to facilitate the sale. Under the current land regulations only permanent residents can buy land in the state.

The land Priyanka bought is in thick of controversy after the state information commission principal bench, comprising chief information commissioner Bhim Sen and member Kalidass Batish, directed the Shimla deputy commissioner to reveal details about the land in the "larger public interest" last Monday. The panel's order came in response to information sought by an RTI activist, Dev Ashish Bhattacharya, whose plea was earlier turned down by the Shimla DC on "security grounds". Priyanka later moved the high court seeking a stay on the SIC order. Citing a "security threat" she also questioned Bhattacharya's domicile.

The high court stayed the order issued by the commission, which later issued notices to the Shimla DC and the additional district magistrate Shimla for not providing the required information.

On Tuesday Priyanka filed a contempt petition in the high court submitting that though the high court had stayed the case, the state information commission had directed the Shimla DC to produce records pertaining to purchase of the land in question before August 20. In her petition she submitted despite the stay granted by the court the commission continued proceedings in her case.

Fact file

November 19: RTI activist moves state information commission, files second appeal
June 29: State information commission directs DC Shimla to divulge information
July 6: Priyanka moves high court against the order
July 7: High court stays information panel's order
July 23: State information commission issues notice to DC, ADM and SDM for the earlier delay
July 25: Another notice to ADM Shimla for concealing information
August 3: Priyanka files application in high court to stay SIC notices to Shimla DC, others
August 4: Priyanka files a contempt petition in high court

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