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HindustanTimes Thu,21 Aug 2014

Haryana's licence raj comes under CAG scanner

Navneet Sharma, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, February 15, 2013
First Published: 00:15 IST(15/2/2013) | Last Updated: 20:22 IST(15/2/2013)

Facing fire over the release of land under acquisition process to developers and its licensing policy, the Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress government in Haryana could face some more heat in the coming days.

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The grant of licences and release of land from acquisition have come under the scanner of the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) of India. The CAG, which examined the procedures adopted by the state authorities, has detected instances of "undue favour" and insufficient planning in several cases, according to sources.

The findings, which may provide ammunition to the opposition parties, were conveyed by the CAG to the town and country planning department (TCPD), and are expected to figure in its latest report. When contacted, principal secretary, TCP and urban estates, SS Dhillon said the CAG, which has been conducting audit of the department every year, undertook a "special audit" for the period between 2007 and 2012 for some reason.

He insisted, however, "They (CAG) have made their conclusions without a thorough discussion with the department officials. We have a difference of opinion with them and conveyed it to them at a three-hour long exit conference." "Unfortunately, the auditors have maintained their position on most issues, but we do not agree with their views. This is where the whole thing stands now," he told HT on Thursday. 

A case in point is release of land for the housing colony of Sonika Properties, a subsidiary of the Suncity Group, in Rohtak. The government had notified 506 acres in Rohtak for acquisition for a sector of Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) under section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act1894 in December 2006 and declaration under section 6 was issued in December 2007.

The private firm moved an application for release of 14.81 acres in February 2008 for developing a housing colony in Sector 36, Rohtak. Though the director of town and country planning department gave the opinion that release of land would marginalise the capacity of HUDA, the release was allowed in July 2008. The firm was also issued the letter of intent (LOI) for developing the colony.

In December 2009, the department withdrew the LOI as the company failed to fulfill terms and conditions, according to sources.

Section 8 of the Haryana Development and Regulation of Urban Areas Act 1975 prescribes that a license shall be liable to be cancelled by the director if the coloniser contravenes any of the conditions of the licence or the provisions of the Act or the rules.

While the director, urban estates department, proposed in May 2010 that the land released to the coloniser should be acquired, the CM ordered that the company may be given "one more chance".

The department officials give the argument that grant of one more opportunity after the expiry of LOI was not against the "practice" being followed in the department "whose job was not to halt development".

However, it is not in consonance with provisions of the Act and the terms and conditions of LOI, it is learnt.

The LOI, which is valid for 30 days and could be extended for another 60 days, was issued in September 2008 and one more opportunity was given in May 2010.

Yet another case examined by the CAG is the controversial release of 30 acres in Gurgaon to East India Hotels Limited in 1995-96 without taking the bank guarantee, which was to be obtained in the name of director, UED, and the subsequent permission to sell it to another private firm. While the high court had in 2011 taken an adverse view and set aside the release, the apex court stayed the order.

The state government has granted licences for roughly 21,000 acres of land in the past eight years, with a bulk of them being in the National Capital Region (NCR) districts of Gurgaon and Faridabad adjoining Delhi.

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