Kerala government seeks legal opinion on HMT land deal

February 15th, 2008 - 6:00 pm ICT by admin  


Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 15 (IANS) With pressure mounting on Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan to sack two ministers for an alleged land scam, his ministry Friday decided to seek legal opinion on an official report recommending cancellation of the disputed land deal. The report was discussed at the cabinet meet Friday and a war of words broke out between the Communist Party of India (CPI) and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) ministers over the issue, official sources said.

The CPI ministers wanted the government to cancel the deal but it was opposed by state Finance Minister Thomas Isaac and his CPI(M) colleagues, said the sources.

The scam pertains to the sale of 70 acres by public sector undertaking Hindustan Machine Tools (HMT) to Mumbai-based Housing Development and Infrastructure Ltd (HDIL) to build Rs.40-billion ($1 billion) Cyber City in Kochi.

Opposition Congress party alleges a scam in the sale because land was given free of cost by the state government to HMT.

It has been demanding ouster of Industry Minister Elamaram Kareem and Revenue Minister K.P. Rajendran as they approved the project.

Achuthanandan added to the controversy by staying away from the project’s foundation laying ceremony in early January and said the IT department he heads had not cleared the project.

As demand for sacking Kareem and Rajendran intensified, he appointed an official committee headed by state Chief Secretary P.J. Thomas to look into all aspects of the project. The committee in its report, submitted in early February, has recommended cancellation of the deal and taking over of the land, the sources added.

The cabinet has decided to send the report to the Advocate General C.P. Sudhakara Prasad for his opinion, Achuthanandan told reporters after the weekly cabinet meeting Friday.

“You wait till he gives his comments. Why should I give you piece-meal information on the contents of the official panel? When the AG submits his report I will tell you everything,” he said.

The land deal has been challenged in the Kerala High Court.

Blue Star Realtors, which got the contract to build the Cyber City, submitted Friday an affidavit to the court that the HMT has every right to sell the land.

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