#VadraSaga Part 1
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]C[/dropcap]ongress president Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra is not a media-savvy man. So, on Sunday when he gave a rare interview to a news agency and claimed that he was the victim of a political witch-hunt to divert attention (he did not explain from what), it generated a great deal of interest.
What compelled Vadra to come out of his shell and try to defend his role in several controversial land deals? Does he fear his arrest by the Haryana Government? Does he suspect that the Modi regime will go after him to arm-twist the Congress to cooperate with the Government for the smooth-functioning of the parliament? Has Vadra sensed that the Dhingra commission set up by the Haryana government to probe the land deals might recommend his prosecution? Many such questions surfaced both in the social media and political space.
The Vadra interview invited strong reaction from the BJP with party spokesperson Sambit Patra saying “Robert Vadra’s comment indicates that he is extremely scared,” and Haryana Health and Sports Minister Anil Vij tweeting: “Vadra ne jo haasil kiya sab rajneeti ki badaulat hai, veh rajneetik purja hai. Jaanch se humara kuchh lena dena nahin, aayog sifarish karega toh thok jaroor denge (Whatever Vadra has achieved is due to political patronage. He is a political tool. We (Haryana government) have nothing to do with the inquiry. If the inquiry commission recommends, we will fix him).
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]W[/dropcap]ell, why does the Haryana government need a judicial commission’s recommendation to “fix” Vadra when the BJP has gone around claiming that he was a “crook” who conspired with the previous Congress Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda to loot the resources of the state in land deals?
The BJP may have political motive to tarnish the name of a member of the first family of the Congress, but the fact remains that the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has also pointed out irregularities in Vadra’s land deals.
Let us first take a look at the findings of the CAG, which examined cases of nine firms which applied for 14 commercial licences in Sector 83, Gurgaon and discovered that Vadra’s firm was among the companies which did submit documents on financial adequacy. The report hinted that Hooda might have favored Vadra and realty giant DLF and such action caused huge loss to the government exchequer…
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he auditor’s damning reports make the following observations against Vadra’s land deal. “The applicant has not submitted any documents in respect of financial capacity… name of the director alone was mentioned.” “No uniform criteria/ benchmarks were applied for assessment of financial adequacy with the result that appraisal was ad hoc and varied from case to case”.
Here are some of the findings:
- The minimum area norm for a commercial colony in a Hyper Potential Zone like Gurgaon was two acres. … projects were sanctioned in Sector 83, Gurgaon for the area measuring less than two acres on the rationale that if applied land was contiguous with the already licensed area, then area of both contiguous plots was to be taken into account.
- “While appraising the licence of M/s Sky Light Hospitality Pvt Ltd (Vadrsa’s company), it was observed that out of 3.531 acres applied area, 0.83 acres fell in residential zone and 1.35 acres fell in the 24-metre internal circulation plan road. After excluding these areas, net area for commercial licence remained 1.351acres. However, the coloniser was assessed to have fulfilled the minimum area requirement of two acres.”
- As per norms, roads in commercial area have to be developed by the licensee at own cost and the road area transferred free to the government. “As per existing practice, commercial sites should be approachable through internal roads. In the case of M/s Sky Light Hospitality Pvt Ltd, the site was not approachable. The TCPD, however, decided (in March 2008) to waive off this condition that the approach would be taken by licensee through the plotted colony of Onkareshwar Properties Pvt Ltd and Mark Buildtech Pvt Ltd in collaboration with Vatika Landbase Pvt Ltd. Though there were no specific guidelines or earlier precedents in this regard, permission was granted in this instant case.”
- “As per Final Development Plan of Gurgaon-Manesar 2021, area falling under roads was not to be calculated towards net planned area. Only benefit towards Floor-Area-Ratio (FAR) was to be given for transferring the land falling under roads. While this principle was applied in 12 cases, the net area indicated against each of these applicants was indicated after deducting area under sector, roads etc… However, whole area including the area falling under roads was indicated in respect of M/s Sky Light Hospitality Pvt Ltd. It was not clear as to why such a distinction had been made in respect of M/s Sky Light Hospitality Pvt Ltd.”
- On May 23, 2007, approved drawings showed the total sector area of Sector 83, Gurgaon as 518.20 acres, including 126.80 acres commercial belt, the CAG said. On December 31, 2007, total sector area was changed to 511.45 acres, including 124.98 acres commercial belt. On October 21, 2008, total sector area was shown as 502.80 acres, including 126.90 acres commercial belt. The application of M/s A&D Estates Pvt Ltd was appraised using drawing approved on December 31, 2007. However, the application of M/s Sky Light Hospitality Pvt Ltd was appraised using drawing approved on October 21, 2008, though the application was received on March 10, 2008. “Audit could not find any evidence from records justifying the decrease in total sector area from 518.20 to 511.45 acres. Changes in area figures while assessing applications, casts doubts about the reliability of data and transparency in the process.”
- Total commercial area of Sector 83, Gurgaon was 126.80 acres. As per norms, 63.40 acres (50% of the area) was to be developed by private developers. The CAG said that as of March 31, 2008, there were 14 applications with M/s Sky Light Hospitality Pvt Ltd at Sr. No. 14. Scrutiny of records showed that if the application of M/s Sky Light Hospitality Pvt Ltd was to be considered, an area of 71.202 aces was to be given to private developers for commercial purposes — 8.712 acres in excess of the permissible limit of 63.40 acres.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]I[/dropcap]nstead of recommending a CBI probe on the basis of the CAG report or registering an FIR against Vadra, the Haryana government took the convenient route to bury the case by ordering a judicial probe by the former High Court justice, SN Dhingra. The commission is expected to submit its report soon.
Legally speaking, there was no need to set up a judicial commission in this matter. In 1996, when the CAG submitted a special audit report exposing the Rs 900 cr fodder scam, the then Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad ordered a similar judicial probe to pre-empt the High Court from ordering a CBI probe in the scandal. The court saw through his design and asked the CBI to probe the scam on the basis of the CAG report. The CBI probe led to the arrest of Lalu Prasad and his subsequent conviction.
If the BJP was serious about fixing Vadra, any officer of the Haryana government could have lodge a police compliant that could have been converted into an FIR. There are enough materials available to make a prima facie case under sections Section 420 IPC – Fraud – Section 408 IPC- Breach of Trust, Section 120B IPC – Criminal Conspiracy.
Many of the charges against Vadra can be taken as cognizable offences in which the police are empowered to register an FIR, investigate, and arrest an accused without a court issued a warrant. It is obvious that if someone other than Vadra was part of such a scandal, the police would never have waited so long to arrest him.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]E[/dropcap]ven if the police did not want to take such extreme steps on its own, it could move the court to seek Vadra’s custody for interrogating him about his role into alleged irregularities in grant of license(s) by the Department of Town and Country Planning to his company in Sector 83 of Gurgaon for developing commercial colonies in violation of norms and guidelines.
On the basis of the facts available in public domain, prima facie it is clear that a crime has been committed and the state was part of the conspiracy. The police investigation and conviction are two different aspects of a crime. First and foremost, the police have to probe the case and file a charge sheet, and then it would be for the courts to decide Vadra’s fate. But somehow the Haryana government has developed cold feet in dealing with the all-powerful ‘Daamaad Shree’ of the Gandhi family.
Judicial commissions are mostly set in India to give a long rope to an accused, and to let him escape the hands of law. Instead of complaining of a witch-hunt Vadra should thank the BJP government for treating him as the “true” daamaad of the country. Anybody else in his place would be behind the bars by now!
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