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HC thrusts CBI spear in LDA guts

By ordering a CBI probe into LDA's Jankipuram land scam, the Allahabad High Court seems to have done something that the officials of the development agency have always dreaded. Why? Because Jankipuram is just the tip of an iceberg and an independent probe by the country's premiere investigating agency could result in several such skeletons tumbling out of LDA's cupboard.

india Updated: Feb 23, 2006 00:20 IST

By ordering a CBI probe into LDA's Jankipuram land scam, the Allahabad High Court seems to have done something that the officials of the development agency have always dreaded. Why? Because Jankipuram is just the tip of an iceberg and an independent probe by the country's premiere investigating agency could result in several such skeletons tumbling out of LDA's cupboard.

Not surprising therefore, the State Government is toying with the idea of filing a revision petition before the Allahabad High Court to reconsider the directive for a CBI probe on the ground that an inquiry in the matter has already been ordered by it. If sources in the Housing Department are to be believed instructions to this effect have been issued from the top and a team of officials is scheduled to leave for Allahabad on Thursday to make out their case in this connection.

“Though the HC has specifically asked the CBI to investigate only the 123 fraudulent property transactions of the Jankipuram housing scheme, a thorough job by the investigating agency could make the court to widen the probe's scope,” said an officer. And this is precisely what is bothering the powers that be.

“We will plead that a senior IAS officer is already looking into the matter. In any case this was too small a matter to require an investigation by a central agency,” said another official on condition of anonymity.

Incidentally, this is not the first time that the court has called for a CBI probe in a property scam related to the LDA. According to sources, the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court had ordered a CBI inquiry in a similar property fraud in Viram Khand of Gomti Nagar. “The CBI had even registered an FIR in the case but the court later, on a plea, agreed to let the Commissioner, Lucknow conduct the inquiry,” recalled an official.

In the Jankipuram scam, the LDA has so far maintained that the buck stopped at the level of the joint secretaries and the 'babus.' The Allahabad High Court, apparently, was not so convinced about the LDA's stand on the issue. In their order on Tuesday, Justice VM Sahai and Justice Barkat Ali Zaidi, have said that the “CBI will be free to question the vice-chairman, secretary and other officers posted in LDA in the relevant period with regard to matters in question.”

The Registrar General, High Court, Allahabad will send a copy of this order along with the photocopy of the entire record of the leading writ petition to the Director, CBI within 24 hours, directed the judges.

This, going strictly by the allegations leveled against his seniors by the suspended Allahabad Development Authority secretary RN Singh in his petition, would bring at least seven IAS officers under the CBI scanner, who were posted in the LDA when the scam took place. Among the vice chairman, they include Dinesh Rai, Atul Gupta, Anil Kumar Gupta and PL Loi and KK Upadhyay, MA Khan and RK Singh as LDA secretary. While Upadhyay has ever since retired, all other officials occupy senior positions in State and Central Government presently.

First Published: Feb 23, 2006 00:20 IST