A day after the state cabinet decided to withdraw its decision to cancel the lease of land granted to the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA), the state vigilance and anti-corruption bureau on Tuesday arrested a retired government official, who is accused of conniving with the cricket body when he was with the public works department.
It has been the first arrest of a government functionary in one of the two cases registered against the HPCA.
The former sub-divisional officer (SDO) has been arrested in a case of demolition of a government building without permission. The case was registered on October 3.
“MC Katoch, a former SDO with the public works department, was arrested from his residence in Palampur town on Tuesday,” said a vigilance official.
Katoch has been accused of declaring a two-storey building comprising residential quarters of Government College, Dharamsala staff, unsafe without following proper procedure.
The building, which was located near the main gate of the international cricket stadium, Dharamsala, was demolished in 2008. The land on which the building stood was later encroached upon by the cricket body.
The investigation official said the HPCA headed by BJP MP Anurag Thakur, son of former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, had pleaded in 2008 before the then deputy commissioner, Kangra, that “ramshackle” houses adjoining the cricket stadium were posing a threat to their infrastructure.
“Following the request from the HPCA, the Kangra DC convened a meeting at his office on March 14, 2008, which was attended by PWD officials, college authorities and a HPCA office-bearer,” said the official who doesn't want to be identified.
In the meeting, the college principal was directed to give in writing to the PWD to declare the building unsafe.
However, Katoch on very next day submitted a report to executive engineer, PWD, declaring the building unsafe a month before receiving the request from the college authorities. The report was submitted without getting any technical survey report.
The college authorities applied to the PWD to declare the building unsafe after almost a month on April 10, 2008, and the same report was forwarded to them.
However, it is still unknown that who demolished the building as no orders were issued regarding this by the district administration. While no government agency was involved in the demolition, the HPCA is denying the charges.
The role of the then college principal, Narender Avasthi, is also under scanner in the case and he has gone underground after his bail plea was rejected by a local court.
The HPCA has been facing two cases - a case of cheating and misappropriation over alleged irregularities in allotment of common village land to the sports body for constructing a residential complex for the players near its stadium in Dharamsala.
Another case has been registered against the cricket body for encroaching upon the government land measuring 3,000 sq m near the stadium complex.
HPCA spokesperson seeks anticipatory bail
HPCA spokesperson Sanjay Sharma has moved the Nurpur circuit bench of additional sessions court, seeking anticipatory bail in a case of cheating and misappropriation registered against the cricket body. He applied for the anticipatory bail on Saturday last week. The hearing in the case will be held on Wednesday.