A preliminary inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into land acquisition in Bathinda has revealed that 'certain public servants' indulged in criminal misconduct by facilitating acquisition of 247 kanal land of politically influential persons at a very high price in 2010.
The land was bought for setting up a solid waste dumping yard.
In an abbreviated status report submitted in the Punjab and Haryana high court registry, the CBI has sought the court's permission to register a case against 15 people under Sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 420 (cheating) and prevention of corruption act. The inquiry has revealed that there was evidence of money collection by nine beneficiaries, 'ostensibly to pay to higher government officials' for ensuring acquisition of their land and fixing of higher price.
The CBI had submitted the same preliminary inquiry report in a sealed cover to the high court in January last year as the agency did not want the report to be handed over to the petitioner, Jarnail Singh, and other parties in the case.
Since parties in the case, including the then Bathinda municipal commissioner, Ravi Bhagat, had requested a copy of the probe report so that they could defend their case, the agency's probe had come to a virtual halt since January last.
The CBI has found that the principal secretary of local government, Punjab, had on December 29, 2009, approved the proposal sent by Bathinda municipal corporation for acquisition of 95 acres at Gheri Bhagi village, Bathinda. However, the approval DO letter was found missing from the records of corporation during inquiry.
The report says that the letter was 'willfully destroyed with ulterior motives'.
It was found that corporation officials 'dishonestly arranged' a letter from Gheri Baghi villagers addressed to the deputy commissioner to justify the decision for not acquiring land even after previous approval.
"It was also revealed that he (deputy commissioner) had decided not to process the matter relating to acquisition of land at village Gheri Bhagi, even before the receipt of the request letter from the villagers, which was entered into the municipal corporation records on February 16, 2010," the report reads.
As per Bathida district administration website, Rahul Tiwari was Bhatinda deputy commissioner from August 11, 2008, to February 28, 2010, and Gurkirat Kirpal Singh took over on March 2, 2010 and continued till January 5, 2011.
The report adds, "No official letter was received from DC, Bathinda, recommending the dropping of the proposal to acquire land at Gheri Bhagi."
It was found that corporation officials opened a new file for the case, whereas already the matter was being processed on another file. The municipal commissioner on February 25, 2010, wrote a letter to the principal secretary, recommending acquisition of 40 acres in Mandi Khurd village, without mentioning the earlier approval of Gheri Bhagi village.
The inquiry also found that as claimed, a meeting of the district land price fixation committee for considering rate of the land to be acquired was never held on July 22, 2010, in the office of deputy commissioner.
Preliminary inquiry registered
The CBI registered a preliminary inquiry against nine beneficiaries whose land was acquired; Ravi Bhagat, the then Bathinda municipal commissioner; officials of district land price fixation committee, unknown officials of Bathinda MC/state government and others.
Beneficiaries, who according to the petitioners were close to revenue and public relations minister Bikram Singh Majithia, include Khushdev Singh, former councilor of Khanna municipal council; Yadvinder Singh, district president of Ludhiana Youth Akali Dal.
Others are Ludhiana resident Khushdev Singh, his wife Kamaljeet Kaur and brother Himmat Singh; Muktsar residents Kanwar Pal Singh, his wife Kirandeep Kaur and one Balvinder Singh; Ludhiana residents Yadvinder Singh, wife Jasdeep and relative Surjit Kaur.
The petitioner had submitted that the beneficiaries had jointly purchased land in Rampura Phul for around Rs 1.59 crore in February 2010. However, just after few days the state government decided to acquire it for around Rs 7 crore. A total of 294 kanals and 9 marla land was acquired for the project vide notification dated April 16, 2010, of which 247 kanals and 6 marla belonged to the beneficiaries.