Patiala deputy commissioner Vikas Garg, former divisional commissioner GS Grewal and four others are in the dock for illegally executing the sale deed of a government property with an estimated market value of Rs 250 crore, which houses the offices of the civil surgeon, district town planner and district education officer, apart from an employment exchange.
An inquiry by Patiala divisional commissioner Sucha Ram Ladhar has indicted the six officials for misuse of powers and made a strong recommendation to the state government for a full-fledged vigilance probe into the alleged land scam. Besides Garg and Grewal (now retired), names of the district revenue officer (DRO), a naib tehsildar and two other revenue officials have surfaced in connection with the illegal sale deed of the prime property measuring roughly 6,000 sq yards.
Ladhar has submitted the report to the chief secretary, financial commissioner, revenue (FCR) and the chief minister's office. FCR NS Kang had marked the inquiry into the illegal sale of the government property on "wrong demarcation" as private property.
The deed was executed in September 2011 on the basis of a power of attorney, which had got annulled in 2010. Though the wrong demarcation of land had already been detected, the officials still went ahead with the sale deed.
"The DC, DRO and tehsildar failed in their duty to protect the state property. They bypassed the laid down procedures and executed a sale deed on the basis of a power of attorney which was declared annulled," remarked the inquiry officer.
Ladhar has also raised questions over the role of Grewal, as the former divisional commissioner had stayed the orders of former deputy commissioner Deepinder Singh, who had refused to execute the sale deed, declaring it a "government property" on the basis of a field inspection report.
When contacted, Garg said he had executed the sale deed on the basis of Grewal's stay order, in which he had approved of the deed.
He had made a similar claim before the inquiry officer. However, lower revenue officials, in their statements to Ladhar, have admitted that they executed the sale deed and later changed the ownership ('intaqal') on the "directions" of higher officials.
A perusal of records shows that without going into the fact that his predecessor had refused to execute this sale deed, Garg, along with the DRO, permitted naib tehsildar Gurinder Singh Walia to execute the deed.
The DRO and the naib tehsildar failed to perform their duty, according to the inquiry report. While the inquiry officer could not examine Grewal as he has retired, a perusal of official records shows that he stayed the former DC's order even though he had no such powers under the revenue laws. "Only a civil court can stay the orders of the DC," according to the inquiry report.
Though Garg is citing the stay order in his support, documents show that the former divisional commissioner had only stayed the order of his predecessor and not allowed execution of the sale deed.
We will punish the guilty: Majithia
Talking to HT, revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia said he was aware of the issue, though he had not seen the report. "Let me assure you that no one, either politician or bureaucrat, has the right to sell government property as private. Whosoever is responsible will be punished. I have asked the financial commissioner (revenue) to discuss the report with me to finalise action against the guilty," he said.