CBI probe in release of 1,300 acres land in Gurugram comes under cloud
The CBI investigation into the release of about 1,300 acres land in Gurugram, during the previous Congress regime, has come under a cloud following a complaint by the ousted special director of the investigating agency, Rakesh Asthana, to the Union cabinet secretary.
Asthana’s complaint speaks about “exchange of money to ensure that the preliminary enquiry (PE) is closed and no criminal investigation is launched.”
The contents of the complaint are now being investigated by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) under the supervision of a retired Supreme Court judge.
The CBI, which was given an extended two-month deadline till October 31 by the Supreme Court to submit the final report in the Gurgaon land release case, however is unlikely to arrive at a conclusion when it submits a status report before the apex court next month.
SC ordered investigation
The Supreme Court had ordered a CBI investigation in the land matter on November 1, 2017 with a six-month deadline (till May 30, 2018) for the agency to submit a report.
The CBI on August 31 filed an application before the apex court seeking two-month extension to prepare and file the final report. The extension of time till October 31 was granted by the apex court. The agency in the meantime also submitted a status report in the sealed cover before the SC.
What’s the probe about
The CBI is investigating initiation of land acquisition process for 1,407 acres and passing of final award for 87 acres in Gurgaon during the Congress regime.
The Congress government had in June 2009 issued a notification under Section 4 to acquire 1,407 acres for developing residential sectors 58-63 and commercial sectors 65-67 in Gurgaon by the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA).
The land sought to be acquired covered eight villages - Badshapur, Behrampur, Nangli Umarpura, Tigra, Ullahwas, Kadarpur, Ghatta and Medawas of Gurgaon.
However, while issuing the declaration under Section 6 on June 2, 2010, the total area was reduced to about 800 acres. Finally, the award dated May 29, 2012 was passed for 87 acres only.
Asthana’s plaint puts a spanner in probe
The complaint made by Rakesh Asthana, an IPS officer, has cast aspersions on the investigations in the land matter.
“Information is received to the effect that a heavy amount of illegal gratification (to the tune of Rs 36 crore) is changing hands to ensure that PE is closed and no criminal investigation is launched,’’ he alleged in a top secret note of August 24 to the cabinet secretary.
He also alleged that Haryana officials and real estate developers were liaising with the CBI officials in this regard. The PE was registered by the Anti Corruption Branch – I, CBI, New Delhi.
Course of CBI probe
Since the CBI initiated a PE in the matter, the agency can convert it into a regular case (RC), if commission of a prima facie cognisable offence was established. The RC is a first information report (FIR). The other option would be to close the PE for want of proof, CBI officials said. However with the probe under a cloud, the agency may hand over the case to a special investigating team (SIT) of the CBI.
Hight court quashed acquisition notification
Notably, land owners had filed petitions challenging the Gurgaon acquisition proceedings before the Punjab and Haryana high court.
Quashing the acquisition notifications, including the award, the HC in January 2014 had said that the power of eminent domain was invoked by the state to acquire more than 1,400 acres for purpose of developing residential and commercial sectors in Gurgaon.
“The state machinery has bent over backwards to favour the private colonisers. There can thus be no other inference but to hold that powers under the Act have been misused to benefit the private builders and other affluent individuals, who meanwhile purchased the land from original owners,’’ the HC said.
The court also said this is undeniable that the total land, which has been finally acquired, is insufficient to develop even one urban sector in Gurgaon what to talk of the entire notified public purpose. It is also an uncontroverted fact that the acquired land (87 acres) is scattered here and there in the revenue estate of different villages and fall in different urban sectors, the HC said.
• June 6, 2009: Process to acquire 1,407 acres for HUDA initiated.
• May 29, 2012: Only 87 acres acquired. The rest of the land was released
• Jan 10, 2014: HC quashes the acquisition notifications, including the award
• November 1, 2017: Supreme Court orders CBI probe into initiation of acquisition for 1,400 acres and passing of final award for 87 acres. Orders CBI to submit report in six months.
• August 31, 2018: CBI seeks two more months to complete the probe.