IAS officer cancels Vadra land deal, shunted out
Chandigarh: The controversy over land deals involving Robert Vadra has taken a new turn with senior Haryana IAS officer Ashok Khemka cancelling the sale of over three acre land to realty major DLF after he was shunted out from his post.
Khemka, who was removed as Inspector General of Registration in the wake of him ordering a probe into all the land dealings of Congress president Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law in four districts of Haryana, has hit back at the government saying it was "grossly unfair to punish him for being upright and exposing the scams".
A 1991-batch IAS officer, Khemka, who claims that it is his 43rd transfer in 20 years, significantly ordered the cancellation of mutation of 3.5 acre plot of land in Manesar-Shikohpur that Vadra had sold to DLF for Rs 58 crores.
Late last week, pursuing a probe he had already initiated, Khemka issued a letter formally ordering an inquiry into the "alleged undervaluation of some properties registered by Shri Robert Vadra or his companies as vendor or vendee." The letter also took note of allegations by activist Arvind Kejriwal against Vadra.
As the issue hotted up and the Haryana government came under attack over its action, Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda said transfer is a prerogative of the government.
If his assertions made with regards to the land deals are found to be true, action will be taken against anyone found guilty, he said.
In his letter to state Chief Secretary PK Chaudhery, Khemka said it seemed to be a "deliberate and malafide" action to punish him due to "some vested elements" in the political-bureaucratic hierarchy "affected by the exposure of the scam in consolidation of land under the garb of exercise of powers".
"Several hundred crores worth of panchayat lands were transferred to realtor companies which were created a few days earlier. Panchayats also lost huge lands in consolidation by way of deliberate undervaluation," Khemka said.
He ends the letter claiming that he has been threatened that he would be subject to transfer every month to "humiliate and demoralise" him.
On October 12, Khemka ordered four deputy commissioners-cum-registrars to estimate the real value of Vadra's direct and indirect property holdings and in case of undervaluation the matter should be referred to the Collector under the provisions of the Indian Stamps Act for correct assessment of the stamp duty payable.
Khemka cancelled the sale of the Manesar-Shikohpur land on the ground that the mutation violated the States Consolidation Act and was done not by a revenue officer but by an officer not authorised to do so.
He has now been posted as Managing Director of Haryana Seeds Development Corporation, which was last under an officer 12 years his junior.
"If these problems are brought in sunshine, probably my decisions would appear to be normal and correct. But what happens is, inside, you are guided and directed to behave differently," the officer said.
He said, "If you do take an action which you call strong but I would call as correct, and then action is taken against you, it's very demoralising, dehumanising and you feel ashamed of yourself that look, there must be something wrong with you that these things are happening.
"You get words like 'you don't get along well with others, 'there are shades of grey in life' etc. These kinds of euphemism are created to deviate you from the correct path," he said pleading for security as he feels "threat" from "vested elements" whom he has been exposing from time to time.
In Delhi, Congress dismissed as "baseless" the charge that Khemka was shifted in the wake of his decision to probe alleged undervaluation of properties dealt with by Vadra.
"The allegations are baseless. There is no witch hunt. We do not question the integrity of the officer. It is prerogative of the government to transfer any bureaucrat. The Chief Secretary will be able to brief about the reasons behind the transfer", party general secretary B K Hari Prasad said.
Criticising Khemka's transfer, BJP said Congress is suffering from an "Emergency mindset" and demanded that an impartial inquiry be held into the matter.
"Congress is in complete shambles and in doldrums. It is trying to save Robert Vadra. We want an honest and impartial probe into the charges. An honest officer with integrity who has decided to take suo moto action has been transferred. That too at 10 pm," BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said.
Stepping up the heat, activist Arvind Kejriwal said, "Haryana Chief Minister ought to answer to the country why has Khemka been transferred. What is transfer policy for IAS officers in Haryana? Under that policy, can officer be transferred merely because he was investigating Vadra?
Khemka said he would like to know the reason for his transfer instead of being "kicked around".
"But, there cannot be hearsay, such kind of euphemism that I must 'adjust'. Adjustment is a dirty word," he said.
Khemka said he was empanelled as a joint secretary to the government. "And, I know how selections are made to these posts. How, in a sense, officers who are adjustable, are picked up.”