The row over the land purchased by Congress president Sonia Gandhi's daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra at Chharabra, 13km from Shimla, is getting murkier with Priyanka questioning the domicile of the Right to Information (RTI) activist, Dev Ashish Bhattacharya, who had sought detailed information about the land purchase.
Priyanka had challenged the State Information Commission (SIC) orders directing the state government to provide information about her land to the RTI activist. Priyanka's lawyer also filed an affidavit in the high court questioning the domicile of the RTI activist.
"It is not in dispute that the applicant was not a resident or domicile of Himachal and was not a Himachali and therefore lacks locus standi to even question the correctness or otherwise of the order granting any relaxation in favour of the petitioner (Priyanka) permitting her to purchase property in the state. Respondent Dev Ashish Bhattacharya is a complete stranger and has disclosed that his residence is in Noida, Uttar Pradesh. Therefore, he cannot be aggrieved of an order passed by the state authorities in granting permission under Section 118 of the HP Tenancy Act. The application seeking information under the RTI Act was liable to be dismissed," reads the affidavit filed in the high court on July 6. Priyanka also questioned the "public interest" behind the information sought by the RTI activist.
Priyanka has made Himachal principal secretary (revenue), State Information Commission, additional district magistrate (law and order), Shimla deputy commissioner and Dev Ashish Bhattacharya respondents in her petition.
Reacting to Priyanka's affidavit, Bhattacharya said: "I was born and brought up in Himachal as my father was in the state government service. My father breathed his last in the state. I studied in schools and colleges in Himachal. On the contrary, Priyanka has no such credentials which could emotionally force her to purchase land in the state," said Bhattacharya.
The State Information Commission on June 29 set aside the Shimla deputy commissioner's orders in which he had declined to provide information about Priyanka's land at Chharabra where she is constructing a dream cottage. In the orders, the commissioner maintained that even top political figures, including the Prime Minister and former prime ministers, who have been provided Z-plus security, also provide information about their movable and immovable assets in their election affidavits. However, the high court stayed the order on July 7.