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HC notice to Priyanka on land deal creates flutter in HP political circles

Shimla : Political circle of Himachal Pradesh were on Friday agog with speculation of next steps following the high court’s move to issue a notice to Priyanka Gandhi Vadra seeking information about her land deal in Shimla’s Charabra area.

Hearing a petition, Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan on Thursday asked Priyanka to respond to the notice within four weeks and fixed June 2 as the next date of hearing.

Bhattacharya contended, “If there are no irregularities in the land owned by Priyanka Gandhi, then why she is not making the documents public? She should just return the land to the state government.”

However, Congress legislator from Kasumpti assembly segment in Shimla district Anirudh Singh said the land was allotted to Priyanka Gandhi as per law. “As the matter is sub judice, I don’t want to speak much about it. But as far as I know, the court has just sought information from Priyanka Gandhi, who being a law-abiding person, would definitely obey the court’s direction,” said Singh, in whose assembly segment the land falls.

“They are saying that information cannot be disclosed as she is protected by the SPG. The matter is sub judice. But I think she will disclose the required information and there should be no problem in it. The law is same for all. All essential certificates had been issued to her by the government. The state government has given the permission following all norms. The court just wants to know about the details of the land like the Khasra number etc,” added Singh.

Priyanka Gandhi had purchased one acre (4.25 bighas) for approximately Rs. 47 lakhs seven years ago, the market value of which is said to be Rs.1 crore.

The then Himachal Pradesh government had relaxed norms under Section 118 of the Land Reforms and Tenancy Act to facilitate the sale, because under the state’s land laws, only permanent residents can buy land.

Coming out in defence of Priyanka Gandhi, Himachal Pradesh Urban Development Minister Sudhir Sharma told ANI that revealing detailed information of Priyanka Gandhi’s land is not possible because the Presidential retreat is also near her land.

“The RTI activist had demanded each and every detail of the house and land in question, which is not possible. Besides, the Special Protection Group (SPG) has also asked her not to reveal the details. She had gone to the high court, challenging the order of the State Information Commission,” said Sharma.

“Now, the court has given her four weeks to reply, we will have to wait for the verdict of the court,” he added.

However, senior BJP leader from Shimla Suresh Bhardwaj said an inquiry should be conducted and information would be revealed to the public. The order of the court would be followed and should be binding on everyone, he said.

“She bought land in Himachal to build a house. A non-Himachali needs to take permission from the government to buy land in the state. It is a public matter, so the public have right to know. If SPG information can be revealed in other states, then why not in Himachal Pradesh,” said Bhardwaj.

“Now, it has been challenged in the high court, and I don’t think there is any need to hide any information. Action should be taken, if any rule is violated,” added Bhardwaj.

Communist Party of India (Marxist), which is an alliance partner of the Congress for the ongoing West Bengal assembly elections, leader and Shimla deputy mayor Tikender Singh Panwar said, “There are many cases of irregularities under Section 118 of the Land Reforms and Tenancy Act, and there must be such an irregularity in this case also. There should not be two sets of rules for two people.”

“First, a question arises, whether the information should be given or not. When an RTI activist asks for the same information in Delhi, he gets it. If she has got the land after following all the rules, then there is nothing to hide. I have filed three writ petitions as the land is being sold under due connivance, which I don’t think is right. This is the misuse of the government’s machinery. The law should not be different for different people, which is not right,” added Panwar.

The high court had stayed the State Information Commission’s order to reveal information regarding the land deal at Chharabra, around 18 km from Shimla.

Bhattacharya, however, had filed an application to put the documents on record before the high court. The petitioner had sought information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act regarding the file, noting information divulged about the allotment of houses to Sonia Gandhi, AICC vice president Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi in New Delhi.

The petitioner contended that if the authorities could divulge information about Sonia Gandhi, AICC vice president Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi’s residences in New Delhi, who are SPG protected, then the same should be applicable here in case of Priyanka Gandhi’s land deal. (ANI)