Chandigarh: The infamous 2018 Gurugram land deal case in which Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s husband Robert Vadra and former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda are accused on charges of fraud, forgery and corruption has now taken a new turn.
A latest affidavit by the BJP-ruled Haryana government in the Punjab and Haryana high court stated that the tehsildar of Gurugram’s Manesar town found no violation in the 3.5-acre land deal, which was sold by Vadra’s Sky Light Hospitality Limited to realty major DLF in Gurugram’s Shikohpur village (now Sector 83) in 2012.
The Manesar tehsildar sent his report to Special Investigating Team (SIT) probing this case last year on May 12, in which he also claimed that the state government did not suffer any revenue loss in this land transaction, a news report from Hindustan Times revealed.
The information in the affidavit was placed before the high court in connection with the ongoing public interest litigation for monitoring the progress of cases against sitting and erstwhile MPs and MLAs.
The fresh development came as a big surprise, since the said land deal, which was executed during the Congress government under then chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, was played up by the BJP claiming wide irregularities.
It was also alleged that the deal was designed only to benefit Vadra, and as per an estimate earned him nearly Rs 44 crore.
While these allegations were not substantiated, BJP made it one of its core issues in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and subsequent assembly polls in Haryana.
This, many believed, helped the party’s national prospects as well as paving the way for its first government on its own in Haryana.
Soon after coming to power, the BJP set up a one-man commission under Justice (retired) S.N. Dhingra in 2015 to probe the issue, especially pertaining to the grant of colony license to Vadra’s firm.
Three years later in 2018, the police formally registered a case under multiple charges of fraud, forgery, criminal conspiracy and corruption, thereby starting a formal probe against Vadra, Hooda, DLF and others by an SIT.
Now, the new affidavit in the high court has raised more eyebrows over the future of the case.
Reacting to the development, Hooda told The Wire, “I will not say much since the case is still sub judice, but no wrongdoing has ever happened in this case.”
He added, “All I can say is that it was a politically motivated case from the beginning. I have full faith in the judiciary,” he added.
However, Haryana Advocate General B.L. Mahajan told The Wire that there has been no clean chit to anyone yet. Mahajan said that only one aspect of the affidavit is being focused on. It has been stated in detail that the investigation is still underway. A new SIT has been constituted last month for further investigation, he added.
As per the affidavit, the clarifications/legal provisions regarding mutation of the land deal between Vadra’s firm and DLF have been sought from the additional chief secretary and financial commissioner.
As per the records, Haryana IAS officer Ashok Khemka, who was then posted as director general, consolidation of holdings, set aside the mutation of the land deal only a month after it exchanged hands from Vadra to DLF.
Mutation is the process of change of ownership in the revenue records of the government after execution of the sale deed.
But as per the HT report, Khemka’s mutation cancelling order had never come into effect. It quoted April 25, 2014 communication from the Gurugram deputy commissioner, which stated that there is no change in the status of mutation and it shows the ownership of land in favour of DLF.
How this controversial land deal came to be
It was alleged in this case that Vadra’s Sky Light Hospitality Limited, which came up in 2007 with Rs 1 lakh working capital, purchased prime 3.5 acres of land worth crores at throwaway prices from Onkareshwar Properties in February 2008.
Despite little experience in real estate development, Vadra’s firm was then granted a license to develop a commercial colony on the said piece of land.
Later, Sky Light, by way of a sale deed on September 18, 2012, sold the entire chunk of land, including the colony license, to realty major giant DLF for Rs 58 crore.
The FIR, which was registered on the complaint of Gurugram resident Surender Vashisht, alleged that in lieu of financial benefits to Vadra, the then Congress government helped DLF win a bid for 350 acres of land in Gurugram’s Wazirabad area for a leisure project, a matter which is now in legal dispute.
But the latest state government affidavit revealed that that as per bank statements of Vadra’s firm, a sum of Rs 7.45 crore and about Rs 7.43 crore had been transferred from the account of Sky Light Hospitality to the account of Onkareshwar Properties on August 9, 2008 and August 16, 2008 respectively.
It also stated that the colony license, granted to Vadra’s firm in 2008, was never transferred to DLF despite the sale of land. The license was later cancelled on March 9, 2022.
On the 350 acres Wazirabad land, it quoted the report sent to the police by the Wazirabad tehsildar, which stated that the said land has not been found in the name of DLF.
“The said land still exists in the name of state government agency -Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation and Haryana Shehri Vikas Pradhikaran as per the mutation and jamabandi record from 2007-08,” the Wazirabad tehsildar’s report said.