Bhushans under scanner over land allotment
New Delhi: Co-chairman of the Lokpal Bill redrafting committee Shanti Bhushan is facing fresh allegations of being involved in questionable deals after it came to light, Tuesday, that he is a beneficiary of a nontransparent allotment of prime land in Noida by the Mayawati government.
As per a report published in a leading daily, noted lawyer Shanti Bhushan, who is also the co-chairman of the drafting committee of the Lokpal Bill, and his son Jayant were allotted one prime farmhouse plot each by the UP government.
Importantly, Shanti Bhushan had mentioned the 10,000 sq m farmland plot as part of his assets after Gandhian Anna Hazare urged all civil rights member nominated in the drafting committee of the Lokpal Bill to declare their assets.
However, he did not disclose the discretionary manner in which the Mayawati government allotted him the prime farmhouse plot and another 10,000 sq m farmhouse plot to his lawyer son Jayant Bhushan,
A conflict of interest case is also being made out as Jayant had fought against the UP government in the Noida park case, especially because the Supreme Court had ruled in favour of the state government.
Denying any wrongdoing, Jayant Bhushan told a private news channel: “These allegations are clearly an attempt by the government to tarnish the reputation of my father and my brother Prashant, who are in the drafting committee of the Lokpal Bill. This is scurrilous. The Noida park case was fought tooth and nail till the end. My brother is still fighting the Taj Corridor case against the Mayawati government.”
On the discretionary manner in which the land was allotted, he said, “We have no idea as to how many applicants were there and how the land was allotted to our family. It was done by the Noida Authority so you should ask them how the allotment was done.”
Defending his father and brother, Jayant clarified, “I want to make it clear that the land allotment is not part of any discretionary quota and we are also not aware of what criterion they have followed for doing so.”
“It’s purely up to them and it is not correct to suggest that everybody who was allotted land was given in consideration for something. My question here is why any other allottee is not being questioned? Why my father and my bother are being targeted? It is wrong to suggest that my father and brother went to Mayawati seeking favours,” he stressed.
However, Jayant agreed that if there were more applicants and less number of plots and if the allotment was done on a ‘pick-and-chose manner’ then it is wrong, adding that his family will not challenge the matter in the court but will also not complain if the allotment is cancelled.
“I agree there was no transparency in the scheme and allotments may have been made without any clear criterion but we can’t question the allotment. We will not challenge it in courts. I would have no problem if the allotment is set aside by the authority,” Jayant said.
Echoing similar sentiments, his father Shanti Bhushan said that he and his son had applied in the scheme on the basis of a newspaper advertisement by the Noida Authority and hence are not done anything wrong. He however added, “Certain politicians are feeling jittery that if I remain in the drafting committee they may not be able to draft a soft law.”
Interestingly, the allotment of the under scanner farmhouse land by the Noida Authority has been challenged in the Allahabad High Court by another allottee and former Additional Solicitor General Vikas Singh.
In his petition challenging the allotment, Singh has alleged that he was allotted the “worst” piece of farmland as “punishment” since he had shot off several complaints on the “arbitrary” manner in which the farmland was being allotted.
Singh also alleges that cost of each farmhouse plot is Rs 3.5 crore and allottees had to pay just 10% — Rs 35 lakh — at the time of allotment, the rest in 16 installments, which is far less than a quarter of the market rate.
As per reports, a total of 64 “successful” applicants were selected for allotting prime land in Sectors 126, 127, 128, 131 and 133 in the first lot; the Bhushans were among 27 “successful” candidates who appeared for an interview and got plots in a second batch in Sectors 162, 164, 165 and 167.
Under the scheme, called “Open ended scheme for development of farmhouse on agricultural land”, announced by the Noida authorities in January 2009, applicants had to submit a detailed project report on how the farmland would be used, approved by a chartered accountant, and provide a balance sheet of their income of last three years along with cash- flow estimates. They were also asked to appear for an “interview” before members of a screening committee.
Importantly, the allotment of land by the state governments in an arbitrary manner is high on the agenda of the Group of Ministers on corruption.