On the controversy surrounding his land deals, Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa on Saturday admitted that the title of the property in question is sub-judice and pending in the Punjab and Haryana high court. He, however, claimed that his company, PCB Real Estate, had bought the land through legal and valid transactions.
The admission at a press conference here called to clear his name in the controversy could, however, add to the troubles of Bajwa as the high court had ordered a status quo on land ownership in August 2003 while his company bought the land in 2011.
The 108 bighas land at Bhronjian village bought by him is part of the shamlat deh land of the village which was divided into individual shares by the then additional director, consolidation.
Following an appeal by the gram panchayat, this division was set aside by the director, department of panchayats, who also has the powers of commissioner. The commissioner's order was challenged in the high court, which had through an interim order directed a status quo on the ownership. When asked to name those he bought the land from, Bajwa said there were five people, including his brother's wife (Hanila Bajwa).
In a belated show of solidarity for the beleaguered chief, leader of opposition Sunil Jakhar and 22 MLAs flanked Bajwa on both sides. On repeated questions to the poor defence put up by his party MLAs in the state assembly, he said, "The matter is sub-judice and they did not know the details. I wanted to clear the air myself after the session was over."
Bajwa produced bank cheques to contest the claim made by revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia on the floor of the house that the payment for the land was made through cash. He said his company had made the payment of Rs. 2.98 crore by cheque to the owners of the land and all these transactions were shown in the balance sheet of the company and also in the IT returns for the assessment year 2012-13.
Demanding Majithia's resignation for misleading the house, Bajwa said, "The minister also quoted the Justice Kuldip Singh tribunal report which does not mention my name. It has exposed their government's double standards. Why has the Punjab government filed a special leave petition (SLP) against the same tribunal in the Supreme Court and is dithering on implementing its recommendations. Since matter was sub judice, it also amounts to contempt of court to raise the issue on the floor of the house."
Daring CM Badal to order a probe, Bajwa said, "Let them take the SLP back and proceed against all those named."
Later, in a press statement, he named chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, his son, deputy CM Sukhbir Badal, son-in-law Adesh Partap Singh Kairon, DGP Sumedh Saini and former DGP PS Gill among the "influential" persons who owned land in the periphery of Chandigarh.
Bajwa also rubbished Majithia's allegations of evasion of stamp duty saying his land is agricultural in nature and the amount paid was as per collector rates. He then trained his guns on Dera Bassi MLA and Akali Dal treasurer NK Sharma saying he is the frontman of the ruling Badals for all their land deals and was in true sense their "treasurer".
Virtually deserting his younger brother Fateh Jang Bajwa, who is courting controversy over sale and purchase of shamlat land through friends and family in villages of Mohali district, he said, "I am not answerable for my brother's land deals. I am here to defend my own."
Leader of Opposition Sunil Jakhar, while replying to a question, said the Congress would consider filing a privilege motion if it was found that the report of the Justice Kuldip Singh tribunal quoted in the Vidhan Sabha was a breach of privilege.
Justice Kuldip Singh (retd) speaks
When contacted, Justice Kuldip Singh (retd) said the name of the company reportedly owned by the Bajwas was mentioned in the tribunal's report.
"The land revenue records had the name of the company only but not the name of any individual," he said, when asked why the name of Partap Bajwa was not there in the tribunal's interim report when the names of certain other bigwigs were there.
His company made payment of Rs. 2.98 crore with an approved capital of Rs. 1 lakh
The company was formed in September 2011. He gave unsecured loan of Rs. 3 crore to the company and transferred money in three instalments from his personal account on October 22, 2011 (Rs 30 lakh), December 6, 2011 (Rs 2 crore) and January 10, 2012 (Rs 70 lakh).
Allegation: Evaded stamp duty
Bajwa defence: Registered land at prescribed collector rate and the tehsildar had verified the land title. It falls under PLPA and can only be used for agricultural proposes, so how could he be asked to pay stamp duty on commercial rates.
Allegation: Evasion of income tax
Bajwa's defence: His company made payment of Rs. 2.98 crore by cheque to the owners of the land and all these transactions were shown in the balance sheet of the company and also in the IT returns for the assessment year 2012-13.
Allegation: Name figures in Justice Kuldeep Singh tribunal report
Bajwa's defence: My name does not figure in the Justice Kuldeep Singh tribunal report. The report mentions Badal family, DGP, present and former, and others occupying high positions.
Khaira "not invited", Bajwa hardsells conspiracy theory
Questioning the timing of the newspaper reports, Bajwa tried to hardsell his conspiracy theory. "It is a planned conspiracy to divert the attention of people from important issues like property tax, illegal colonies case and the poor law and order situation. The real issue in the Vidhan Sabha was not my land deal but the real estate mafia, sand mafia, liquor mafia and transport mafia. The ruling party made malicious propaganda to skip a debate on important issues," he said.
Bajwa, however, found himself cornered when told by mediapersons that the controversy erupted following expose of NK Sharma's realty projects by his spokesman Sukhpal Khaira, who is learnt to have not been invited by him to the press conference.
Bajwa said Khaira had exposed NK Sharma's "murky deals" after speaking to him and he was currently away to New Delhi.
Khaira, who had earlier said that he was not invited, later played it safe by texting to mediapersons that his name figured in the press conference but he wanted to clarify that he was out of station for an urgent work.