Chandigarh: A major scam has surfaced with “untraceable” allottees getting prime plots worth crores of rupees in Punjab Small Industries and Export Corporation’s (PSIEC’s) Mohali industrial estate.
RTI activist Dilbagh Singh alleges these plots have been allotted at a very low reserved price. They were taken back by the PSIEC from the original allottees due to the non-fulfilment of allotment conditions. Ideally, such plots should have been auctioned but were allotted to a select few in a hush-hush manner.
These industrial plots are situated in Industrial Area Phase 8-A and 8-B of Mohali on the outskirts of Chandigarh. This startling revelation has been made in the Vigilance Bureau’s inquiry.
The Vigilance Bureau (VB) is yet to register an FIR, though inquiry number 3 of 2018 regarding these and other plots, has been completed long back concluding that the “owners do not exist.”
An FIR has been registered in a separate inquiry number 10 in which former Industries Minister Sunder Sham Arora was booked along with an IAS officer Neelima and 13 others. The VB arrested 8 officials of the PSIEC in connection with the case in January 2023.
The ownership of 14 highly priced plots in the name “non-existent” persons has also led to the queer case of some advocates appearing before a court for ghost plot holders raising questions over the practice of advocacy.
RTI activist Dilbagh Singh alleges that these plots worth several crores of rupees belong to certain officers of the PSIEC and their friends, relatives, or partners in the real estate business. The plots have been transferred in the names of non-existent persons fraudulently.
When Dilbagh Singh moved the State Information Commission in July last year to seek information about the ownership of these plots, the “untraceable allottees” suddenly appeared before the court of Suresh Arora, Chief Information Commissioner through their respective advocates.
Advocate Rohit Gupta represented his clients owning plot numbers F-461, D-203, E-260, D-263, F-460, F-461, and F-463. Advocate R.C. Sharma appeared for his clients who owned plot numbers F-462, F-459, and F-550. Two other advocates, Gurdev Singh Saini and Gourav Kumar, also appeared for some of the ghost plot holders.
Indianarrative.com contacted advocate Rohit Gupta to know whether his clients met him in person to sign the ‘vakalatnama’ authorising him to represent them in court. Gupta refused to reveal anything saying, “it is between me and my clients. I acted as per my brief. I have no other comment to make.”
However, advocate R. C. Sharma was genuinely forthcoming. He admitted that some people claiming to be representing Harjinder Singh, resident of 470, Sector 82, Mohali, owner of plot number F-550, and Dalip Singh Arora, resident of 2037, phase 7, Mohali, owner of plot number F-459 met him in his office. “They asked for a blank copy of the ‘vakalatnama’ that they were to get signed by the allottees. I gave them copies of the ‘vakalatnama’, and they returned with duly signed copies,” he said. Sharma never met or saw his client.
The other “ghost owners” hold plot numbers, F-461, C-193, C-194, C-195, D-203, E-260, D-263, D-250, F-460, F-461, F-462, and F-463 in their names.
R. S. Bajaj, a senior lawyer of the Punjab and Haryana High Court explains that based on the Advocates Act, the lawyer must make sure he is appearing in court for a living and existing client and not for a fake or non-living person. It is essential to get the ‘vakalatnama’ signed by the client in person before the eyes of the advocate being hired, he adds.
Sources maintain that if this is brought to the notice of the Bar Council, the advocates concerned could be in trouble.