The Jaipur Municipal Corporation (JMC) has sealed two havelis (traditional Rajasthani-style buildings) belonging to companies owned by former Indian Premier League chief Lalit Modi in the Amber Palace area, on the outskirts of the capital. The civic body on Wednesday resorted to the step on the basis of findings of an enquiry instituted by the Congress government here six months ago that the structures — partly in a dilapidated state — belonged to the government.
The havelis — Bairathon Ki Haveli and Chhabron Ki Haveli — perched on the hillocks in the vicinity of the historical Amber Fort, changed hands in 2007 when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government headed by Vasundhara Raje government was in power. The ownership of Bairathon Ki Haveli was transferred and registered in the name of Online Construction Pvt. Limited while the ownership of Chhabron Ki Haveli was transferred to the Heritage City Construction Pvt. Limited of which Minal, wife of Lalit Modi is the director. The director of Online Construction Company is Shobha Kilachand, considered to be a close affiliate of Ms. Raje.
The properties were sealed one after the other in the afternoon on Wednesday. The Chhabron Ki Haveli, half of which is in ruins, has two rooms, a kitchen and two bathrooms.
Some work was in progress at the Bairathon Ki Haveli when the JMC squad led by Director (Law) Ashok Singh and Commissioner (Vigilance), Amber Zone, Ummed Singh carried out the eviction process. There was a family living in Chhabron Ki Haveli. Both the havelis stand over plots measuring over 12,000 sq. feet and are considered to be worth many crores.
The issue of transfer of the properties had come up in the Rajasthan Assembly on several occasions. Tourism and Archaeology Minister Bina Kak, while disclosing the findings of the committee headed by the then Jaipur Divisional Commissioner Kiran Soni Gupta, in April this year said that the properties belonged to the State and they have the status of heritage buildings after a notification on 1974.The properties were taken over by the JMC after orders from the Ministry for Urban Development and Local Self-Government.
Urban Development Minister Shanti Dhariwal, when asked about the possibility of the government acting on other property deals which had taken place during the previous regime, quipped: “Just wait and watch!”
In the run-up to the Assembly elections in Rajasthan, the Congress had listed the transfer of ownership of the havelis among the illegal land deals which it would probe once in power.