Arbitration fee case: HC seeks chief secy's reply
The Punjab and Haryana high court has sought Punjab chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal's response to a contempt petition alleging that the arbitration fee collected by IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officer SR Ladhar from land owners in the state had not been paid back.
The high court bench of justice RK Jain has also issued notices to the Jalandhar divisional commissioner and Ladhar to ask for their response by September 4. In October 2013, it had issued directions to the state in this regard. The conduct of Ladhar, a 1991-batch IAS officer, had come under scrutiny after a series of reports in HT, starting with 'IAS officer reaps a rich harvest' and 'No policy, Ladhar makes hay as arbitrator' (May 24 and 25, 2012). In October 2012, on the basis of these reports, a public-interest petition was filed in the high court for the recovery of the entire amount from the officer who is said to be close to key leaders of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).
The petitioner, HC Arora, had asked for the exercise to be over in a month; but the court was told that in spite of directions from the state government to the arbitrators, including Ladhar, to supply the details of the arbitration cases, the latter had not supplied the list. The petitioner submitted that Ladhar had written to the government in March 2014 that he had paid `57.17 lakh of the collected money as income tax, and it was to be remitted to the government as and when the refund was received.
So far, of the 2,313 entries of arbitration-fee deposit in banks, 676 for an aggregate amount of `1.46 crore could not be matched with the office records in the absence of information from Ladhar, the petitioner had submitted, referring to the information he had from various government agencies under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.