A committee of officers constituted by the Haryana government has termed inappropriate and without jurisdiction the orders to cancel the mutation of 3.53 acres in Gurgaon’s Shikohpur — the land that was sold by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s businessman son- in-law Robert Vadra to DLF, it is learnt.
The orders to cancel the mutation were passed on October 15, 2012 by the then director- general, Consolidation of Holdings (DGCH), Ashok Khemka. The committee, in its report submitted to the chief secretary on December 28 last year, is learnt to have also held the order to be against the provisions of the East Punjab Holdings (Consolidation and Prevention of Fragmentation) Act and Punjab Land Revenue Act.
The inquiry report is being kept under wraps and no member of the committee or any government official was willing to share its details. However, Hindustan Times has tried to put together key findings of the exhaustive report after speaking to sources. The committee was constituted on October 19 to “ascertain facts and to inquire into the matter to ascertain acts of omission and commission by various authorities involved”.
Its mandate was primarily to scrutinise the October 12 and 15 orders issued by Khemka in his capacity as director-general, consolidation of holdings, and inspector-general of registration.
Bone of contention
The 3.53 acres of land was sold by Vadra to real estate major M/ s DLF Universal Ltd. Khemka had set aside the mutation of September 2012 on the grounds that the assistant consolidation officer ( ACO) who had sanctioned the mutation was not competent to do so. The Gurgaon deputy commissioner, however, did not give effect to Khemka’s orders of cancelling the mutation. Mutation means recording the transfer of title of a property from one entity to another in revenue records.
Hindustan Times has learnt that the inquiry committee, while looking into the validity of mutation of 3.53 acres and the execution of the sale deed, centred its findings primarily on these aspects:
(a) Khemka had contended in his orders that sale of property during pendency of consolidation proceedings was prohibited without the sanction of the consolidation officer. The committee has reportedly held that since the government had only issued a notification under section 14(1) of the East Punjab Holdings (Consolidation and Prevention of Fragmentation) Act and thus declaring the intent of making a scheme for consolidation of holdings and no notification of the scheme under sections 19 and 20 of the Act was made, the actual consolidation process never commenced in Shikohpur.
(b) In the event of a dispute pertaining to recording/ sanctioning of mutation, the appeal under the Punjab Land Revenue Act lay with the collector, commissioner and financial commissioner.
Khemka issued the October 15 cancellation order as the director- general, Consolidation of Holdings ( DGCH) under section 42 of the Consolidation Act, which was beyond his powers. Section 42 empowers the government to call for proceedings to verify the legality or propriety of an order passed, scheme prepared or confirmed or repartition made under the Act, and call for and examine the record of a case pending or disposed. However, section 42 cannot be applied to activities under the Punjab Land Revenue Act, mutation being one such activity.
Only Vadra mutation singled out
The committee is learnt to have reported that over 100 mutations were sanctioned by the ACO in Shikohpur since 2011 but the cancellation orders issued by Khemka were only for 3.53 acres.
It held that in the event of a doubt regarding the powers of the ACO with regards to sanction of the mutations, the issue should have been referred to the Law Secretary as it was not a one- off case. Khemka’s October 15 orders are learnt to have been declared administratively inappropriate as his transfer orders were i ssued on the night of October 11.
The committee is learnt to have quoted rulings of the Punjab and Haryana high court to buttress its contention. It concluded that buying- selling of land was prohibited without the approval of the consolidation officer only when the scheme was notified. The sale deed of 3.5 acres was registered on September 18, 2012 when Vadra’s Sky Light Hospitality sold it to DLF. On September 18, only a notification under section 14(1) of the Consolidation Act was in force and no scheme under sections 19 and 20 were prepared.
(c) The orders of setting aside the mutation on the grounds that the ACO did not have powers to sanction the mutation, the committee i s learnt to have said that between 1990 and 2012, about 1,400 buysell transactions took place in Shikohpur which were recorded by the consolidation patwari and approved by his supervisor — the ACO. Though the state government didn’t issue a notification to authorise the ACO with the powers to sanction mutations, no one except the consolidation patwari and ACO could have updated- sanctioned the revenue records, since they were custodians of revenue record all this while.
The committee is learnt to have held that if these officials did not do so, they would have deprived the landowners of the rights granted by the Punjab Land Revenue Act. It was obligatory for them to update the revenue records during this period. The actions of the consolidation patwari and ACO were in sync with the established practice and precedent and in accordance with the spirit of law. The committee is learnt to have remarked that when an exercise is widely prevalent, undisputed and uncontested, it attains the force of law.
Insufficient proof for checking under-valuation
Regarding the reference to four deputy commissioners on the suspected undervalution of properties owned by companies of Vadra, it is learnt that the committee has concluded that there was not sufficient evidence to back such apprehensions. Khemka in his capacity as IG, Registration, had on October 12, 2012 asked the deputy commissioners of Gurgaon, Faridabad, Palwal and Mewat to inspect the land documents of Vadra’s companies and estimate the real value of property, suspecting under- valuation of these assets.
The inquiry committee is learnt to have held that the October 12 order was flawed since the then IG, Registration, had asked the deputy commissioners to inspect the land documents registered in the last seven years ( between January 2005 and October 2012) by or on behalf of Vadra or his companies as vendor or vendee, whereas the provisions of the Indian Stamps Act stipulate a three- year period from the date of registration of the instrument to call for and examine to ascertain correctness of the value of property.
The four deputy commissioners after examining the records had on October 26 communicated to the state government that there was no under- valuation of properties bought by Vadra and his companies.