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Delhi's MLAs richer than they claim

HT Correspondent , Hindustan Times  New Delhi, October 10, 2013
First Published: 11:53 IST(10/10/2013) | Last Updated: 12:56 IST(10/10/2013)

Delhi legislators undervalued their property in affidavits submitted to the Election Commission along with their nomination papers before the 2008 Assembly polls.

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The catch is that no one can do anything about it.

This is because while candidates have to provide the market value of shares and debentures they own, they are not bound to mention the real value of property they have registered in their names or in the names of their spouses and children.

It doesn’t help that there is  no government agency to verify the details furnished in these affidavits either. No wonder then that most candidates tend to furnish the lowest possible price of the immovable assets they hold.

For example, BJP’s four-time MLA and finance minister in the BJP government in 1993, Jagdish Mukhi has mentioned the price of his flat in Janakpuri, C-block as just Rs. 21,500 in the affidavit he filed in the 2008 Assembly elections.

The market value of this flat was at least Rs. 1 crore at that time. Similarly, Congress MLA from Kalkaji, Subhash Chopra, estimated the cost of his 700-square yard Hauz Khas bungalow at Rs. 3.8 crore while the market price was nearly Rs. 25 crore. The list runs long. Chopra holds one-fourth of the property.

Mukhi said he has contested several elections and always furnished the purchase value of the property. “I have mentioned the value at which I had purchased this house and I have the receipts and documents to prove that. I will know the market value of the house only when I will plan to sell it. How would I know the market value of my house now?” Mukhi said.

Chopra said the worth of the property was calculated on the basis of then circle rates. “We cannot hide the real worth of the property. I mentioned it in accordance to my income tax assessment as well as the circle rate applicable in my area at that time,” Chopra said.

According to professional property valuers, who assess the value of property of politicians before elections, candidates mention three different kinds of values of in their affidavits.

“While some mention the value at which the property was allotted to them or was purchased by them — which is always the lowest -- or the value based on the existing circle rate, or the current market value — which is always the highest. Different politicians mention different values,” said a professional valuer, requesting anonymity.

“The professional valuers charge a fee for assessing the value of property. The politicians do not want to pay that money and prefer mentioning the lowest possible price of their land or house in the affidavit,” another professional evaluator said.

Jagdeep Chhokar, founder-member of the Association of Democratic Reforms — an NGO aiming at government and electoral reforms — said whatever the candidates mention in the affidavits should be checked by an authorised government agency after elections.

“Whether they mention the purchase value or the market value is a minor issue. What we are demanding is that an authorised government agency should verify the claims made by candidates or at least the winners in their affidavits within a time frame. The political parties should also endorse and certify the affidavits of their candidates,” Chhokar said.

According to Delhi chief electoral officer Vijay Dev, the candidates are under no legal obligation to mention the current or market value of their properties.

“The affidavit is meant to bring the background of the candidates — their educational qualification, their criminal record and details of the immovable and movable assets — into public domain. If somebody thinks that the candidate has tried to conceal some information and they have details to substantiate that, they can move the court. Action will be taken against the candidate if the allegations are found to be true. But on our own we don’t get the details cross-checked,” Dev said.

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