Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, daughter of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, and leading lawyer Prashant Bhushan are among 881 individual beneficiaries, companies, societies and trusts granted permission in the last three years to buy land in Himachal Pradesh. The strict land laws that do not permit outsiders or non- agriculturists to buy farm land were relaxed for these select few.

The matter of land transactions was raised by Congress MLA Rohit Thakur, BJP legislator Mahendra Singh and Lokhit Party leader Maheshwar Singh during question hour.

Revenue Minister Kaul Singh Thakur, in his detailed written reply, said there were 52 educational societies and three private universities among the 881 entities who were permitted to buy land over the period. Several hydropower companies, corporate house, industrial units and religious bodies were also among those for whom permissions under Section 118 of the HP Land Tenancy and Reforms Act 1972 were allowed, he said.

Besides Ms. Vadra in Shimla, the Kumud Bhushan Education Society, through Mr. Bhushan, associate of Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal, was also allowed to buy land in Palampur in Kangra by the previous BJP government. Ms. Vadra bought 922 sq. metres of land for constructing her summer house near the hill resort of Mashobara in Shimla during the previous BJP regime. The prized location at Charabara is at a height of 8,000 feet and is surrounded by thick oak and pine forests. It is just 15 km uphill from Shimla and has an Oberoi property (Wildflower Hall, a five-star deluxe hotel) in the vicinity.

In response to a question by Congress legislator Asha Kumari, the Minister said there were 246 cases registered in the last three years about land law violations that had come to notice. While 110 cases had been disposed of, the remaining were awaiting settlement.