Delhi HC has upheld the CIC decision on DLF subsidiary’s change of land use near Rashtrapati Bhavan. Now, all such land use changes will be available in public domain
Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law, Robert Vadra’s cosy relationship with DLF has come under scanner once again with the Delhi High Court, on 3rd December, dismissing a petition of DLF’s subsidiary, Edward Keventer (Successors) Pvt Ltd. This company had challenged the Central Information Commission (CIC)’s ruling on making public, documents pertaining to 22-acre prime dairy farm land, behind Rashtrapati Bhavan estate, under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The controversy over the land, where DLF’s subsidiary was all set to construct high-rise residential buildings, reached a boiling point with national security agencies objecting to construction in this VVIP area of Lutyen’s Delhi. Thereafter, the Delhi High Court had given a stay on construction.
Delhi based RTI Activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal had filed an RTI with the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) and Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and asked for the following information:
1. Is it true that change of land-use has been sought from Dairy Farm to Residential Group Housing for property situated at Block No. 48, Diplomatic Enclave, Sardar Patel Marg, New Delhi-110021
2. If yes, copy of application seeking the said change in land-use as in query (1) above mentioning also complete details of the person/ firm/ company etc owning the said land including partners/directors of the land-owning firm/ company etc
3. Complete information on action taken on any such application for change in land-use in respect of property situated at Block No.48, Diplomatic Enclave, Sardar Patel Marg, New Delhi-110021 together with related correspondence/documents/file-notings mentioning also present status of the said land and also of the application filed for land use
4. Complete information on amount of money deposited as application-money towards change of land-use as in queries above
5. Complete information on referring matter of change in land-use of the said property as in queries above to other concerned ministries/ agencies/ departments/ persons etc together with all related correspondence/ file-notings/ documents etc
6. Complete information on objections against change in land-use either by MoUD and/ or by any other ministries/ agencies/ departments/ persons etc together by copies of any such objections
7. Is it true that security-agencies and/or others concerned have registered objections against any such sought permission for construction to be done at Block No.48, Diplomatic Enclave, Sardar Patel Marg, New Delhi-110021, especially because of proximity of the plot with Rashtrapati Bhavan?
8. If yes, please provide details together with related file-notings/ documents/correspondence etc on abjections raised in regard with security-aspects
9. Is the property situated at Block No.48, Diplomatic Enclave, Sardar Patel Marg, New Delhi-110021 in the Lutyen Bungalow Zone (LBZ)?
10. Complete information on areas and postal-zones covered by LBZ and about restrictions applicable for new constructions in LBZ mentioning also maximum height permissible for constructing any building, residential or commercial, in the LBZ?
11. Height of the building/ apartment-complex etc mentioned in the submitted plan for the property situated at Block No.48, Diplomatic Enclave, Sardar Patel Marg, New Delhi-110021 while seeking change in land-use
12. Complete information about buildings in LBZ constructed in violation of norms including about height of such buildings mentioning separately norm violated by each of such building and year of construction of such buildings
13. Complete information on action taken on buildings having constructed in LBZ violating norms set for constructions in LBZ area mentioning also responsibility fixed and action taken against concerned ones for violation in construction-rules for LBZ area
14. Has any responsibility been fixed as far as illegal constructions are concerned? Their details?
15. Any other related information
The CPIOs thwarted Agrawal’s request and forwarded his application to the Municipal Corporation, Delhi, which in turn sent it to the MoUD once again. Agrawal said, “The CPIO at MoUD (Delhi Division) declined information on all the queries of the RTI petition even though many of the queries did not refer to property situated at Block No.48, Diplomatic Enclave, Sardar Patel Marg, New Delhi-110021. Even in respect of queries relating to this property, larger public-interest is involved because of high stake of money due to commercial aspects is involved.”
Agrawal felt that the CPIO should have invoked the `Third party’ clause.
The RTI activist, then filed a petition with the Central Information Commissioner Vijai Sharma, who directed the Ministry-MoUD to provide complete and detailed information on land-use change allowed from Dairy Farm to Residential Group Housing for property situated at Block No.48, Diplomatic Enclave, Sardar Patel Marg, New Delhi110021. Rashtrapati Bhavan, Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) raised serious security concerns.
Agrawal said, “The MoUD is amongst the most notorious public-authorities in complying with CIC-verdicts and properly responding to RTI petitions. RTI petitions with uncomfortable queries are unnecessarily transferred to hundreds of offices of Central Public Works Department (CPWD) misusing section 6(3) of RTI Act where RTI responses pour from these CPWD offices providing information relating to them as 'NIL'.”
DLF subsidiary, Edward Keventer (Successors) filed a petition in the Delhi High Court, arguing that the ‘third party’ clause was not used by the CIC. The CIC’s counsel in turn proved to the Court that indeed the petitioner was informed about this request and had replied that it had no stake in the property. Thus, the Judge dismissed the petition.
Agrawal said, “It is noteworthy that Dr Subramanian Swamy, in his letters addressed to President of India alleged involvement of UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra in the dubious land-deal highlighted in the RTI queries, said to have been the biggest ever land-scam in the country. With the petition of DLF subsidiary (Edward Keventors Successors) now dismissed, MoUD and any other concerned government-agency should review decision of allowing land-use change in the earlier UPA-regime in the controversial matter where even intelligence-authorities and President Secretariat are learnt to have raised objections from the security-aspects with the land-project being in close vicinity of Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Conclusion: All land use changes, particularly in urban areas, most of them notorious changes, comes under public information under the RTI Act, as it involves larger public interest.
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
Shiv Sena has been assured of five cabinet rank posts and seven ministers of state in the Fadnavis government in Maharashtra
Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena on Thursday finally decided to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Maharashtra. On Friday, 12 members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) from Shiv Sena would join the 34-day-old Devendra Fadnavis government.
Addressing a crowded press conference, accompanied by Shiv Sena leaders, Maharashtra Chief Minister Fadnavis told reporters that both the parties have been ideological partners for the last 25 years. "Unfortunately, they could not form an electoral alliance during the recent assembly elections but the people of Maharashtra voted in their favour. Today it is people’s wish that both parties come together in the State," he added.
According to Fadnavis by Thursday evening Shiv Sena high command will draw up a list of 12 MLAs who would be sworn in as ministers on Friday. Similar number of MLAs from BJP would also be made ministers in the State. Final modalities of portfolio distribution are being worked out, he said.
Shiv Sena has been assured of five cabinet rank posts and seven ministers of state. The new additions will increase the Fadnavis government strength to 29.
Senior Sena leader Subhash Desai said that since the electoral mandate is against the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), his party has decided to join the Fadnavis government.
Fadnavis added that the alliance between the two parties will be a broad alliance and it will jointly fight even local elections in the State. Soon, a joint committee would be set up for fighting the elections, he said.
At present, there are eight cabinet and two ministers of state in the Fadnavis ministry sworn in on 31st October.
Shiv Sena has 63 legislators in the state assembly while the BJP has 121 members supported by one member of the Rashtriya Samaj Party.
With Shiv Sena joining the government, Eknath Shinde, who had assumed the post of leader of opposition on 12th November, when Fadnavis had won the confidence motion by trust vote, would step down.
If the export subsidy of Rs3,300 per tonne is given, by extending the scheme, and bearing in mind the growing sugar stocks on hand, it would bring great relief to the industry
As per details released by the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA), 45 mills, including 14 cooperatives have begun crushing of sugarcane in Uttar Pradesh (UP). By the end of December another 70 mills would go into crushing programme, and, hopefully, by the first week, ISMA expects most mills in UP to be in full swing in crushing cane.
At the end of November, the arrear payments to sugarcane farmers is reported to have come down to Rs1,200 crore and the ex-factory sugar price stood at Rs2,700/2,750 per quintal. In UP, based on a recovery of 9.2% the State Advisory Price is Rs280 per quintal for 2014-15 season. Of this, Rs240 is expected to be paid within 14 days of purchase, Rs40 to be paid within 90 days after crushing. For the second tranche, government plans to gives Rs20, covering the society commission of Rs6.60, purchase tax of Rs2 and entry tax of Rs8.60, subject to market movements, once cane payments are made.
As in the past, banks lend upto 85% of the stock value as working capital and had the first charge on sugar stocks pledged to obtain the loans. However, due the recent ruling by the Allahabad High Court, cane dues to the farmer get priority over the bank claims. Rightly so.
If the export subsidy of Rs3,300 per tonne is given, by extending the scheme, and bearing in mind the growing stocks on hand, it would bring great relief to the industry. It may be noted last year India exported 1.2 million tonnes of raw sugar, out of which 700,000 tonnes were covered under the incentive scheme. Ram Vilas Paswan, Food Minister, has indicated that a decision would be tied to cane arrears being repaid on time. Our opening stocks of sugar amounted to 7.5 million tonnes and production during the current season is expected to be between 25 and 26 million tonnes, marginally higher by 5% over last year.
If Brazil, the world's largest producer can divert 60% of cane it produces for the manufacture of ethanol, why not India also make it mandatory for the sugar mills to compulsorily set aside a certain percentage for this purpose? This should be followed by mandatorily directing the blending with petrol for the oil companies and marketing the same. Current fall in oil prices should not make us complacent.
Finally, the UP mills have been demanding the implementation of the linkage formula as outlined by the Rangarajan Committee, and there is no reason why this matter cannot be revisited by a new committee to be set up by the present government. What is important is to find a solution to this perennial issue that comes up every year!
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)