Unravel Haryana land deals: SC

Former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda

Former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda

The much-awaited report of Justice S N Dhingra commission that had probed controversial land deals in Gurgaon, including those of former Congress president Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra, may see the light of day as the Supreme Court on Monday set a deadline of two months for the Punjab and Haryana high court to decide the petition challenging commission's constitutional validity.

"There was an unholy nexus between the government machinery and the builders/private entities in devising a modality to deprive the innocent and gullible landholders of their holdings and jeopardise public interest, which the acquisition was meant to achieve", Justice Lalit said in the 97-page judgement authored by him on behalf of the bench.

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Between 2004 and 2007, after the acquisition was notified, many farmers had sold their lands at a minimal price to private builders.

A bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and U U Lalit said two decisions taken on August 24, 2007 and January 29, 2010 with regard to dropping of acquisition and closing of proceedings respectively were taken to "confer advantages and benefits upon the builders/private entities rather than to carry out or effectuate public purpose". The SC quoted the CBI's report, which said, "Some politicians who were also important functionaries of state government, government officers and their agents caused a wrongful loss of Rs 1,500 crore to land owners of Manesar, Naurangpur and Lakhounla and corresponding gains to themselves". "Substantial sums have exchanged hands in the form of settlement money", Justice Lalit, who penned down a 97-page verdict for the bench, said. "The unnatural and unreasonable bargain was forced upon the landholders by creating façade of impending acquisition...the motive was to confer undue advantage on the builders/private entities".

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The state may revisit its policy of change of land use and giving colonisation licences in respect of land which was the subject of acquisition, the court said. The builders and the private entities were aware that the acquisition would not go through, but the landholders were influenced to involve into the transaction.

"It was a mala fide exercise of power. These decisions were nothing but fraud on power", it said. The top court set aside the decision of the state government to drop the acquisition.

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