Leading realty firm grabbed public land worth crores: internal probe | punjab | Hindustan Times
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Leading realty firm grabbed public land worth crores: internal probe

An internal vigilance probe by the state irrigation department has revealed that a leading real estate developing firm has allegedly grabbed public land worth crores of rupees in Gurgaon.

punjab Updated: Mar 08, 2015 20:38 IST
Vishal Joshi

An internal vigilance probe by the state irrigation department has revealed that a leading real estate developing firm has allegedly grabbed public land worth crores of rupees in Gurgaon.

The disputed relates to land grabbing by a private firm, Vatika Limited, on the Jharsa bundh or dam, which helps drain excess rainwater in the millennium city. The bundh is located on more than an acre of notified protected forest land in Sector 9 on Sohna road and the firm has been accused of causing large-scale damage to the green cover of the protected land.

According to the vigilance probe, a copy of which is with HT, roles of Mewat Water Services division, senior authorities of irrigation and forest department and directors of the real estate firm were liable for criminal action for "facilitating unauthorised possession and misuse of area of protected forest".

Vigilance probe further stated that on October 27, 2005, officials of Mewat Water Services illegally gave permission to the firm to maintain the bundh and use as pathway to connect its residential complexes within the same campus.

Later, the Yamuna Water Service also endorsed the permission but the same was withdrawn on January 31, 2011 after illegal activities were found by the department.

The vigilance report states that the irrigation officials did not respond to the repeated memos regarding the matter.

Former director, vigilance, irrigation department MS Mann, who had conducted the probe, confirmed on Sunday that the report was submitted to the state irrigation department about a fortnight ago.

Mann, a director general of police-rank officer, who was recently posted out of the irrigation department, refused to comment further.

However, the probe report indicates that despite knowledge of the incident of land grabbing, no serious effort was ever made by the state irrigation department to retain the public land.

Information accessed by HT revealed that, the firm has illegally built recreational facilities on the encroached land for the residents of its elite residential towers.

Mann had ordered a probe following a report by the irrigation and power police station in Gurgaon.

The builders made way for roads, basket ball ground, school lawns etc for the residential complex and the alleged encroachment of the Jharsa Bundh has hindered the flow of water.

More than 1,000 trees were allegedly cut in the bundh area, says the report.


THE COST

Realtor is accused of grabbing land measuring 1,071 feet long and 44 feet wide (total 5,236 sq yard). The value has been pegged at `86.39 crore at the commercial collector rate of `1.65 lakh/sq yard.

However, the sources estimated the cost of the land to be at least three times the current market rate in Gurgaon.

HIGH COURT DISMISSES PLEA

On November 21, 2014, Justice BB Parsoon of Punjab and Haryana high court dismissed the plea of the firm on bundh maintenance.

According to the judgment, Justice Parsoon observed that the petitioner firm "deftly avoided mentioning of the fact of withdrawal of the permission (of maintenance of bundh). It is also worth notice that the petitioner-company has nowhere challenged the order dated January, 2011." The judge upheld the lower court's judgment that the land belonged to the irrigation department.

CASE LOST IN ENVIRONMENT COURT

Internal vigilance probe also stated that the Gurgaon district forest officer had filed a complaint in March 2008. However, the special environment court, Faridabad, dismissed the case on May 1, 2013 in which two board of directors were named as the key accused.

Vigilance probe said, "Gurgaon district forest officer committed a serious lapse. The case was instituted against two persons in their individual capacity whereas ownership of the land on both sides of the bundh is with the (accused) firm (and not the individuals named in the case)."

Sources said it was a matter of investigation if the forest department's action was intentional or not.