A private firm owned by Rajya Sabha member of Parliament (MP) KD Singh has bought land worth several crores in the periphery of Shimla in violation of law, reveal revenue department documents accessed by Hindustan Times.
Documents of a probe conducted by the state revenue department show that the Trinamool Congress MP-owned M/S Alchemist Infra Reality Limited, New Delhi, bought 267 bighas for a mere Rs 15.67 crore through “benami” (proxy) deals.
Consequently, the Shimla deputy commissioner (DC) has ordered the land to be vested with the state government.
Following a petition by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM), the Himachal Pradesh high court had in September ordered the Shimla DC to determine within eight weeks whether there was any dispute with regard to the sale deeds of alleged proxy land owned by KD Singh.
The subsequent inquiry conducted by the revenue department detected that indeed proxy transactions took place in violation of section 118 of the Himachal Pradesh Tenancy and Land Reforms Act, 1972, that bars all non-agriculturist Himachalis, including bona fide Himachalis, and non-Himachalis from purchasing land in the state without the government’s permission.
Significantly, the Himachal Pradesh Ceiling on Land Holdings Act, 1972, prohibits possession of land more than 160 bighas by a single party.
According to the revelations of the inquiry, the firm had paid locals in Solan district to purchase land measuring 30 bighas in the scenic Chharrabra village, about 14km from Shimla. Realtors had planned a high-end resort there as the property commands a prime view of the wildlife sanctuary and is located adjoining the Kalyani helipad near the farmhouse of Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
It was found that the land was earlier in the possession of a man named, Major General Jagjit Singh, who sold the property through a “benami” sale deed in 2010.
The property was later bought by a man named, Sandeep Sethi, a resident of Saproon village in Solan district, for Rs 5.72 crore, in lieu of the firm.
M/S Alchemist Limited also purchased a land measuring 49.05 bighas near Totu in Rampur, again through Sethi, who acquired the land by the way of will. The private firm had paid Rs 4.5 lakh per bigha for the purchase.
Later, the firm bought 83.03 bighas in Rampur through Sethi’s wife Anu Sethi at Rs 4.5 lakh per bigha.
A massive chunk of 105.00 bighas was bought by Chander Mohini, wife of a man named, Ashok Sethi, a resident of Deonghat village in Solan district.
In another proxy deal, the firm bought 119.04 bighas through Rajesh Kumar, a resident Silaun village in Solan district. The land was declared “benami” and vested with the state government in August.
“The inquiry conducted by the revenue department has found that some purchases made by M/S Alchemist Infra Reality Limited, New Delhi, in the state violate section 118 of the Himachal Pradesh Tenancy and Land Reforms Act, 1972. I have directed the revenue officials to vest all these lands with the state government,” Shimla DC Dinesh Malhotra said.
Proxy land deals were a major concern during the tenure of the previous BJP government giving the Congress ammo to bolster its campaign ahead of the 2012 assembly elections. The Congress had even launched a campaign, “Himachal on sale”, and submitted a chargesheet to President Pranab Mukherjee. But on resuming power, the Congress government has failed to do much to rein in the shady deals.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had in November directed the State Anti-Corruption and Vigilance Bureau (SAVCB) to initiate action against those owning proxy properties across state, after discovering realtors from outside the state investing money through locals to construct high-rise buildings and cottages in various tourist resorts of the hill state.