Rs 600-crore land scam in Delhi: Transfer records fudged, CBI probe sought

Officials in Delhi allegedly fudged land records using fake court orders to transfer at least 30 acres of prime government property, worth over Rs 600 crore, to private individuals.

delhi Updated: Nov 27, 2017 16:05 IST
Sweta Goswami and Prawesh Lama
Sweta Goswami and Prawesh Lama
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Property scam,Delhi,CBI
In what could be one of the biggest land scams in the national Capital, at least three properties in south Delhi’s Asola village were sold at less than one-twentieth of their market rates. (File for representation)

Officials in Delhi allegedly fudged land records using fake court orders to transfer at least 30 acres of prime government property, worth over Rs 600 crore, to private individuals.

In what could be one of the biggest land scams in the national Capital, at least three of these properties in south Delhi’s Asola village were then sold at less than one-twentieth of their market rates, according to papers accessed by Hindustan Times.

The scam, uncovered over the last one year, has prompted Delhi’s Lieutenant-Governor Anil Baijal to ask the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to take up the case.

Last week, Baijal also asked the Delhi government’s revenue department to submit case details of 13 plots whose records have allegedly been tampered with. The city’s divisional commissioner Manisha Saxena has ordered magistrates across the city to check all government land records for similar cases of forgery.

HT has examined records of all 13 properties in question. The land in each case belonged to the gram sabha and came under the Delhi government. It was transferred using non-existent court orders to alter the Khatauni and Khasra Girdawari (KG) documents in the sub-divisional magistrate’s office.

A Khatauni is a government record showing the land’s original owner and transfer details, if any. A KG is a bi-annual inspection report by revenue officers to check the land’s ownership and current usage.

Parts of a detailed canvas map, dating back to 1908 – the only physical representation of how land in Asola is distributed – were slashed , perhaps by the perpetrators of the scam. The map is stored in the sub-divisional magistrate’s office in Saket.

An acre of land in Asola costs nearly Rs 20 crore, according to local property dealers. Copies of sale deeds with HT show that in three cases, land was sold for less than Rs 1 crore per acre — even lower than the Asola circle rate, which is illegal.

Delhi revenue minister Kailash Gahlot confirmed on Sunday that land records had been tampered with. “Specific cases are being looked into to see the role of revenue department staff. All gram sabha land is being mapped,” he said.

The scam came to light when the government’s annual survey of property in 2016 revealed that plot (Khasra) number 1354 — a 2-acre land in Asola worth over Rs 40 crore — was transferred and sold for just Rs 2 crore the previous year.

The Khatauni record of the plot showed the land was transferred to one Mahesh under court order 144/RA/85 in December 1986. When officials checked the KG records, Mahesh was mentioned as the owner only since April 2015. The records prior to 2015 showed that the land belonged to the gram sabha.

Delhi’s biggest land scam?
An annual survey in 2016 found at least 13 cases in which officials fudged land records to illegally transfer Gram Sabha land in Asola worth Rs 600 crore
How the fraud was done
*Khatauni: Paper where land ownership is recorded
**Khasra Girdawari: Register of harvest inspections and a supporting document of land ownership
What action is being taken
The CBI asked to investigate the matter Divisional commissioner has ordered checking other land records Fresh action taken report on all 13 plots to be submitted to the L-G this week South district administration has filed an appeal in the civil court to cancel sale of land in Khasra 1354. (When the fraud was detected, the land had already been sold)
How the scam was unearthed
In early 2016, Asola’s Khatauni records were checked for computerisation of land records in DelhiIn the record for 10 bighas (approx. 2 acres) land at Khasra 1354, a dubious entry made in a different ink was spottedThe entry read that the plot was owned by one Mahesh, s/o Shankar since December 1986 under order 144/RA/85Officials check the ownership of the same plot in Girdawari records to verify the fictitious entryThey find that until October 2015, when the entry was made, land was owned by the Delhi governmentDivisional commissioner directs additional district magistrate to conduct an inquiry into the matterThe inquiry finds that order 144/RA/85, on the basis of which Mahesh claimed the land, does not existMahesh sold the land for Rs 1.42 crore (instead of the minimum selling price of Rs 6.96 crore) to one Raman MehraMehra sold it to a Dwarka-based property dealer and applied for mutation (transfer of ownership)The mutation was cancelled. The Patwari and Kanungo were suspended. Govt. reclaims land on the KhatauniAdditional district magistrate completes inquiry on June 16, 2016, and submitted report to divisional commissionerOver the past nine months, a government investigation found 12 other cases of fraudulent land transfersPolice registered an FIR in case of Mahesh on April 10, 2017. Nobody arrested to date. The case registered only under IPC section 420 (cheating)On May 9, the local SDM again wrote to the police for invoking stringent section under Prevention of Corruption Act. Police yet to add section to the FIR.

Officials also found a sale deed, dated May 19, 2015, which showed that Mahesh sold the land to an Amritsar resident, Raman Mehra, for Rs 1.42 crore.

Another sale deed, from April 2016, showed Mehra had sold the land to a Dwarka-based property dealer for Rs 2 crore.

According to an additional district magistrate’s inquiry report, no court order (144/RA/85, on which the transfer was made) exists. The ink used for making the entry on the KG appeared to be different from the ink used for other entries made in 1986, says the report.

Accused of forging records, a patwari (keeper of records) and kanungo (supervisor) were suspended, and the district administration annulled the sale deed.

“We asked Mahesh to produce original or even photocopy of property papers if the land belonged to him. He could not. We have reclaimed our land,” said an officer of the state revenue department, who asked not to be named.

After this case, officers found tampering of ownership records of 11 more properties over the last nine months. Records accessed by HT show that a similar modus operandi was used to transfer ownership of each of these properties. Two of them were sold.

“In one instance, we identified two officers who allegedly forged the records. They have been suspended. We are submitting a detailed case report to the L-G’s office,” district magistrate (south) Amjad Tak said.

HT contacted Mahesh on the phone number given on the sale deed. The person who answered the call insisted that the property was rightfully his. “It is my land. I had got in around 40 years ago from government. I will sue them. I have already given my statement to ADM,” he said.

Amritsar resident Raman Mehra declined comment.

First Published: Nov 27, 2017 07:01 IST