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How Badal govt allowed two IAS officers in Rs1200 crore Patiala land scam go scot-free

Parkash Singh Badal

Chandigarh: Incontrovertible documentary evidence accessed by India Narrative shows that the then Patiala Commissioner S.R. Ladhar clearly stated on record that the attempt by the then DC Vikas Garg to sell the government land in the heart of the city was illegal. However, the then Parkash Singh Badal government ignored the findings of this report and refused to allow the Vigilance Bureau to take action against the key accused in the Rs1, 200 crore land scam.

A detailed study of the 10-page Ladhar report dated April 16, 2012, and other documents clearly show that Badal government allowed the former Patiala DC Vikas Garg (now Secretary, Transport) to escape trial by denying prosecution sanction to the court to put him on trial and also directing the Vigilance Bureau to cancel the FIR against him.

The then-Vigilance Bureau Chief V. Neerja, an IPS officer, also played a key role in deliberately allowing the former Patiala Commissioner G.S. Grewal (now retired) to escape the rigours of the law as his name was not included in the FIR, though the Ladhar report which formed the basis of registering the case mentioned his name.

Ladhar had stated in his report that “these officers with bad intentions passed orders to help three private buyers in their dubious attempt to usurp prime government land measuring 6000 square yards.”  The government offices had been functioning on this property in the famous Baradari Gardens of the city since the pre-independence days.

The Sessions Court, Patiala on September 15 acquitted all the 7 who were accused in the case from criminal liability. The Punjab government is now readying to move the High Court in an appeal against the trial court’s order. The legal process has been initiated.

The Ladhar report states:  ” …Commissioner G.S. Grewal, acting beyond his powers, on April 23, 2011, stayed the order of the then Patiala DC Deepinder Singh dated April 13, 2011, which had rejected representations of the private buyers seeking registration of their dubious sale-purchase deeds, especially when the power of attorney stood cancelled. It is from this very order of Grewal that the entire controversy germinated thereby weakening the government’s sovereign ownership claim over its property.”

Though the Vigilance Bureau accused Garg of connivance with fraudsters for monetary considerations in its challan presented to the court, the Badal government came to his rescue and refused to give prosecution sanction to the court for putting him on trial. He thus went scot-free.

Grewal, whose role is questioned in the Ladhar report, told India Narrative: “I acted as per law after Justice Surya Kant of Punjab and Haryana High Court order asked the DC-cum-Collector, Patiala to decide the representations of buyers within a week. Any action taken by the District Collector comes under the revisional authority implying the Commissioner. Had the order just mentioned DC-cum-Registrar, then I would have had no power to review it,” he stressed.

Grewal also said, “while taking up the review petitions filed by the buyers against the ex-parte demarcations by the then DC Deepinder Singh, I stayed the orders of the District Collector. At the same time, on April 4, 2011, I restrained the seller Kiraninder Singh (now dead) from executing any sale deed in favour of anyone.”

However, the Ladhar report explains that the Punjab Revenue Act and the Land Registration Act do not give any power to the Commissioner to adjudicate on a speaking order passed by the DC. It can only be challenged in a civil court.

Discussing the role of DC Garg who stepped into the shoes of Deepinder Singh on his transfer, Ladhar said, “tehsildar Amardeep Singh Thind, naib tehsildar Gurinder Singh Walia, and DRO Rajbir Singh had admitted in writing at one stage that the sale-purchase deeds in question cannot be registered but later took a summersault and toed the line of DC Garg apparently under pressure to register the deeds.”

Ladhar has extensively relied on the statements of DRO Rajbir Singh, Tehsildar Amardeep Singh Thind, Naib Tehsildar Gurinder Singh Walia, Kanungo Pritpal Singh, and Patwari Suresh Kumar to establish the criminal liability of the Commissioner Grewal and the DC Garg in registration and mutation of sale-purchase deeds.

The report records that sale-purchase deeds were registered despite the fact that the owner of the land Kiraninder Singh on February 2, 2011, revoked the General Power of Attorney and Special Power of Attorney given earlier to Ravdeep Singh and Jaswant Singh. This information was duly passed on to the two Attorney holders and was also mentioned by DC Deepinder Singh in his order. But still, the DC Garg instructed the revenue department officers to register the sale-purchase deeds.

Elaborating further Ladhar said that the land in ‘khasra’ number 103 was government property. The vendee (Kiraninder Singh) was not the owner of that land. Moreover, after the power of Attorney was revoked the sale-purchase deeds had no legal sanctity and could not be registered.