Terms of land deal between Vadra, DLF ‘a matter between private parties’

A spokesman of Haryana Town and Country Planning Department has denied the allegations levelled against the department in “Ousted after probing Vadra land deal, Khemka digs deeper” and “Vadra used falsified documents, sham transactions to collect premium on land deal’ (The Hindu, August 10).

“These allegations are wrong and misleading, aimed at sensationalization of an issue which is non-existent.

“The allegations have been repeated which have already been gone through in detail by a High Level Committee comprising three Financial Commissioners of the State and they did not find anything wrong in grant of license or renewal thereof.

“Regarding the ownership documents being called as ‘sham’, the Haryana Development and Regulation of Urban Areas Act, 1975 requires the Director to enquire into the ownership of the land before grant of any license. In order to confirm ownership, the Department relies not only on the Sale Deed but also on the entries in the Revenue Records i.e. the intkaal (Mutation) entered into by the revenue authorities after following due course of law. Once the intkaal in favour of an applicant is presented to the Department for a particular piece of land, the Department is bound to accept the ownership of land in favour of such applicant. This is the standard procedure followed for grant of license, which has been followed in the license case pertaining to Skylight Hospitality Pvt Ltd also. The Sale Deed and Mutation by which Skylight Hospitality Pvt. Ltd. became the owner of the land in question is valid even today and nobody has challenged it.

“As far as the exchange of sale consideration is concerned, it is a matter between private parties which cannot be gone into by the Director. It is reiterated that no fake papers were submitted to the Department as alleged.

“It has also been incorrectly mentioned that DLF had applied for the same license twice before. Further there was no revenue loss as stamp duty and registration charges were paid as per law on execution of this Sale Deed. Thus the allegations regarding favouring the applicant by the Department by accepting its ownership documents is far from truth and facts.

“Similarly, all requirements and formalities required to be completed by any applicant for the purpose of issue of LOI and for grant of license as per the norms and parameters applicable during the said period were completed by Skylight Hospitality Pvt Ltd also and thus there is absolutely no irregularity is the issue of LOI or in the grant of license in the said case.

“It has been alleged that the transfer of license allowed by the Department creates a black market for trading in licenses which is alleged to be a game of looting public wealth. First of all, it is asserted that the transfer of licenses by the Department in any case is allowed strictly in accordance with statutory procedures. Secondly, the land is owned by a private party thus beyond the collection of license fees, scrutiny fees, conversion charges, Infrastructural Development Charges, External Development Charges, the benefits of the project flowing to the private agencies cannot be termed as loot of public wealth. Thirdly, benefit of the project and the development that can be undertaken at site has to be strictly in accordance with the land use prescribed under the Development Plan and no discretion in this regard can be exercised by the Department for grant of licence. Finally, license is allowed for creating urban infrastructure in the form of residential, commercial, industrial development for achieving the goal of planned development of urban centers with no cost to the State Exchequer.

“Every person either owning or purchasing land from existing owners within the Development plan boundary has an equal right and opportunity to conform to the norms and parameters to obtain such licence for development of such colony.

“In addition, the level of market premium being market determined is not a constant at any location and is governed by various factors, viz., location of site, its future potential for development, the existing demand and supply equation for such projects.

“It may also be noted that wild and imaginary market premiums have been calculated for the entire licensed land throughout the State which is far from the truth. Out of approx. 21,000 acres of land for which licenses have been granted since 2005, licenses have been granted only for an area approx. 8,000 acres in Gurgaon primarily on account of better demand for developed land in the said urban centre but the fact that the licenses have been granted for an area measuring 13,000 acres to various landowners in various parts of the State, including low potential towns of Dadri, Narwana, Talwandi Rana, Ganaur, Indri, Taraori etc. has been completely over-looked. Same amount of premium has been imagined for these areas at par with Gurgaon’s commercial license just to sensationalize the issue. Moreover, the imaginary figures of premium of a small commercial license measuring 2.70 acres has been applied to all the licenses granted for other purposes like residential plotted colonies, residential group housing colonies, industrial colonies and IT colonies.

“Persons levelling these allegations are fully aware of the fact that some of the licenses have been cancelled in the State including those in Gurgaon for not developing the projects. In case of setting up of IT colonies in Gurgaon, there is default in substantial number of cases as there is no market demand for IT space and they have not been able to implement the project. Still imaginary figures of market premium have been presumed on all the licensed land (including cancelled licenses) at par with the commercial license of a small area measuring 2.70 acres granted to Skylight Hospitality Pvt. Ltd. to attract media attention and sensationalize the whole issue.

“By painting the entire State with one brush and assuming similar situation to prevail in the entire State, by ignoring the ground realities, a dangerous and mindless attempt is being made to stifle a sector of the economy, which has been doing well not just for the State but for the country as a whole.”

Our correspondent replies:

The abovementioned stories in The Hindu had merely reported key portions of the official submission made by IAS officer Ashok Khemka to a three-member committee set up by the Haryana government. These included (1) his claim that the “false statements” made in the registered deed dated 12.02.2008 that cheque no. 607251 was used to make a payment of Rs. 7.5 crore to the vendor and that Rs. 45 lakh towards stamp duty was paid by Skylight Hospitality (vendee) — something the Haryana government now says is “a matter between private parties” — were offences under the Registration Act; and (2) his estimate that the market premium collected by developers in the State ranged anywhere from Rs. 20,000 crore to Rs 3.5 lakh crore and that an independent CAG audit was needed to fix the value.

When asked by The Hindu for his reaction to the points raised by Mr. Khemka prior to publication of the stories, Haryana Chief Secretary P.K. Chaudhary had merely said that Mr. Khemka’s “voluminous reply is being examined and the points raised by him are being looked into.” We have nothing more to add on the subject.

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