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HindustanTimes Tue,02 Sep 2014

Land acquisition for ring road: CBI inquiry likely into how rules were 'bent'

Kamaldeep Singh Brar, Hindustan Times  Bathinda, March 19, 2013
First Published: 23:57 IST(19/3/2013) | Last Updated: 00:01 IST(20/3/2013)

Another project in the district is likely to go under the CBI microscope.

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After the acquisition of 38 acres for a waste management project at Mandi Khurd, the acquisition of 91 acres for the ring road project-2 is the second case from this jurisdiction that the Punjab and Haryana high court might assign to the central bureau of investigation (CBI).

The high court has not only felt for the need for a CBI inquiry but also hinted at a political clout in the state government's acquiring land in 2009 to connect the Malout- Bathinda road with the road to Badal, native village of the chief minister.

Alleging a high degree of irregularities in the project, a man named Baldev Singh had filed a civil writ petition in the high court against the state government and some private people. In 2011, the court accepted the petition.

In the hearing on March 12, a division bench of the high court made an important comment during the issue of summons to respondent number 5. "The real issue is whether on account of the political clout of respondent number 5, a local politician of Bathinda, the entire acquisition process has been carried out in a manner that the respondent's land is saved at the cost of the petitioner's? Since respondent number 5 is stated to be close to the seat of power, we are of the prima facie view that the matter requires investigation by an independent agency such as the CBI," reads the summon to one of the respondents.

"The respondent number 5 is lawyer Mohan Lal Garg," said petitioner Baldev Singh. "My factory was levelled to save the land of Garg, a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who acted as chairman of the Bathinda improvement trust in 1999."

Among irregularities in the acquisition process, one is that the road has not been constructed according to the original map, the petitioner has said. "In the original map, the road is shown to be almost straight but on the ground, there are many curves, which has increased its length from what was planned. The road was bent to favour Garg, and it demolished my factory," said Baldev. "This is why it failed to meet the railway over bridge as planned."

It was a big scandal, in which officials of the district administration were hand in glove with political leaders, said the petitioner. It will not be first case in the district, if the high court orders a CBI inquiry. The agency already is working on another land-acquisition case at Mandi Khurd village, where the allegation is that the price of land was rigged to benefit people close to a state minister.

The court also directed the high court registry to ascertain whether or not Garg had been served with notice and represented by counsel in the court during the hearing. If Garg is not represented by counsel, he should again be served dasti notice by the petitioner, Baldev Singh, the court ordered.

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