Land favours to Hooda aide irks court

November 5th, 2010 - 11:53 am ICT by IANS  

By Jaideep Sarin
Chandigarh, Nov 5 (IANS) “Favouritism” shown by various agencies of the Haryana government to a senior state functionary has invited the wrath of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The high court, while quashing the “illegal release of land” to Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s principal adviser R.N. Prasher, has passed strictures against the Haryana government and its land allotment agency, the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA), for showering favours on Prasher.

Prasher, a former senior bureaucrat (IAS officer) who retired as financial commissioner and principal secretary this year and was later appointed as principal adviser to Hooda, has been charged with “blatant misuse of power” by the high court for manipulating things while in the government to secure a prime piece of residential land in Sector 4 of the Mansa Devi complex at Panchkula, adjoining Chandigarh.

Prasher has built a huge private bungalow for himself on a plot adjoining the controversial land. The size of the plots owned by him in the residential locality is not in uniformity with the size of the other plots. The bungalow even has a drive-in ramp and porch like upmarket hotels.

He later managed to get another adjoining piece of land, measuring 848 sq metres, allotted to himself and built a garden there.

The property in question, which is just three kilometres from Chandigarh’s famous Sukhna Lake, is worth millions of rupees.

“The state is the trustee of the people. If by violating the Act and the rules, some benefit is granted to a favourite, the court can always step in as it was not a bounty which was being distributed by the state. Even if no one had invoked the jurisdiction of the court, this court cannot shut its eyes to a patently illegal act committed by the state in showing favoritism to a person who had been a senior functionary in the state at the relevant time,” said the court order quashing the allotment of land to Prasher.

The judgment was given by Justices M.M. Kumar and Rajesh Bindal this week.

The release of 848 sq m of land in favour of Prasher by the state government and consequential allotment of plot No. 190, Sector 4, Mansa Devi Complex, Panchkula, by HUDA in his favour have been set aside by the court.

HUDA has been directed by the court to refund the amount received from Prasher for the allotment of the plot.

Lawyer Arun Nehra, who was appointed amicus curiae in the case, had submitted that Prasher’s land allotment case was a glaring example of misuse of power by the state and its functionaries. Nehra, in his report to the court, highlighted how senior functionaries of the state can get things manipulated in their favour.

“In the present case, R.N. Prasher, a senior bureaucrat, had initially been able to save his land from acquisition, though notified twice earlier. However, when ultimately a small portion was acquired, the same was also released by him after more than six years of the passing of the award by the Collector and taking over of possession of the land by the state.

“There is no power vested with the state to release any land from acquisition after the possession has been taken. In fact, under the garb of release of land, R.N. Prasher had been allotted a two-kanal plot in the developed Sector 4, Mansa Devi Complex, Panchkula, valued at crores of rupees on a heavenly condition that he will return the amount of compensation received by him pertaining to his acquired land along with interest and a small amount as development charges,” the amicus curiae pointed out to the court.

“It is per chance that this illegality came to the notice of this court. Otherwise, this would have only remained buried in the official files. Not only this, release of the land was ordered even though it was specifically pointed out in the note that such a power does not exist under Section 48 of the Act. Still more, a plot adjoining the already released land of R.N. Prasher was allotted to him in lieu of the released land,” the court order stated.

The high court pointed out that the Haryana government was not able to defend its decision to illegally shower favour on Prasher and allot the prime land to him. It also noted that the order to allot the land was passed by the chief minister.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at jaideep.s@ians.in)

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