IAS officer wanted use of Aadhaar number for high-value land transactions
To cut down on graft, the UPA government is making Aadhaar cards mandatory for accessing public services but is baulking at the use of UID numbers in the one area where it might actually work to reduce corruption: high-value land transactions.
Though cancellation of the land deal mutation between Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra’s company, Skylight Hospitality, and DLF Universal Ltd was the most prominent order of Ashok Khemka to be reversed by the Haryana government after it shunted the senior IAS officer out of his crucial land-related post last October, an important reform introduced by him to prevent fraudulent and ‘benami’ land transactions also appears to have been quietly shelved.
Mr. Khemka was Director-General, Land Holdings and Land Records, and Inspector-General of Registration, Haryana, until he was transferred soon after he began a probe into Mr. Vadra’s deal. Earlier this year, a three-member committee set up by the Haryana government to look into the issues the officer raised indicted him for acting improperly.
In chapters four and five of his reply to the committee, Mr. Khemka says: “A small but powerful lobby of politicians and bureaucrats having [a] vested interest in panchayat lands succeeded in stifling a good legislative reform that would have helped prevent misappropriation of panchayat lands in the future.”
The committee was referenced to inquire into this issue too, but chose to ignore it completely.
During his 80-day tenure in the land records office, Mr. Khemka had unearthed several land scams — particularly in Gurgaon and Faridabad — in which valuable panchayat and forest lands were being usurped by powerful land sharks with the apparent complicity of the authorities by misusing the provision of the Consolidation Act. Citing examples, his reply lists several modes of abuse of consolidation proceedings with the aim of grabbing panchayat lands. Common hilly and forest lands in the Aravalis are getting fragmented and privatised in the name of consolidation, and panchayat land in “prime properties of Faridabad was partitioned to favour a few VVIPs,” he notes.
One of the steps he took to stop misappropriation of panchayat lands was to frame the Haryana Land Registration Rules, 2012, under Section 69(1) of the Registration Act, 1908, and send them to the Revenue Department for notification. Rule 4 was “framed to introduce the UIDAI’s Aadhaar number for individual and CIN issued by MCA-21 for Corporates so as to uniquely identify the vendors and vendees.”
Aadhaar would have helped
“Use of Aadhaar and CIN would have helped to identify all immovable properties of an individual or corporate across the State and it was proposed that Rule 4 would be brought into force after a year with effect from 1st October 2013 so as to give ample time to the prospective buyers and sellers to obtain Aadhar numbers through any registrar of UIDAI,” says Mr. Khemka. But in May 2013, he learnt from a newspaper report that the Rules were not approved by the Revenue Department. “This action… if true, will also be [tantamount to] wilfully reneging on a commitment made to the High Court in September 2012, to stop [the] unauthorised transfer of ownership and possessory rights of gram panchayat lands by registration in future,” he writes in his 100-page reply.
Mr. Khemka goes on to say that “had the Rules been notified, the incorporation of Aadhaar numbers/CIN numbers in the registered deeds would have helped to curb fraudulent and ‘benami’ transactions in immovable properties to a large extent. When thousands of crores of public money is being spent on providing unique Aadhaar numbers to the country’s residents, it is not understandable why [these] would not be made compulsory for big value transactions like registration of immovable properties when the same Aadhaar number is made compulsory for small value transactions like remittance of scholarship, money, social security benefits or domestic gas subsidies.”