Details of land bought by Priyanka Gandhi near Himachal Pradesh’s capital must be revealed within ten days in larger public interest, the State Information Commission directed on Monday.
The SIC’s order came in response to information sought by an RTI activist Debashish Bhattacharya, whose plea was earlier turned down by the Shimla deputy commissioner on security grounds.
Priyanka Gandhi, the daughter of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, had in 2007 bought a nearly one-acre plot of land at Charabra, around 14 km from Shimla, for constructing a residence for her family.
However, the Rs 47-lakh deal ran into a controversy following allegations that the then state government had relaxed laws to facilitate the transfer of the land to Priyanka Gandhi. The value of the plot is said to be several crores of rupees now.
Under state laws, only permanent residents of Himachal Pradesh can buy land though relaxation can be provided under Section 118 of the Land Reforms and Tenancy Act.
Several land deals by her husband Robert Vadra in Haryana and Rajasthan are also under the scanner for alleged violation of different laws. All the deals date back to a period when Congress governments were in power in the two states.
In its order on Monday, a division bench of Himachal Pradesh’s chief information commissioner Bhim Sen and state information commissioner Kalidass Batish also summoned the Shimla DC and additional magistrate. The next hearing has been fixed on July 23.
Countering the security grounds cited by the Shimla DC, the SIC argued that even top political figures like the Prime Minister and former prime ministers who enjoy Z category security with SPG protection, provide information about their immovable and the movable assets in their election affidavits.
Besides seeking details of the deal and the relaxations provided by the then state government, the RTI activist has also questioned a letter written by Priyanka Gandhi citing security threat to her family if information on her land is divulged.
In December last year, the Shimla DC had turned down the plea of the activist saying, “The security of the VVIP is the sole responsibility of the state and the area about which the information is being sought is in core area.”
The DC had also referred to a letter by the SPG saying that the information has direct bearing on the security arrangements and that it should be withheld from disclosure.
Priyanka Gandhi’s father Rajiv Gandhi and grandmother Indira Gandhi were both assassinated while serving as prime ministers.