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Khemka at it again!

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It is a measure of the cynicism gripping public opinion that the latest revelations by Haryana IAS officer Ashok Khemka about alleged illegal land...

It is a measure of the cynicism gripping public opinion that the latest revelations by Haryana IAS officer Ashok Khemka about alleged illegal land deals of Robert Vadra, and the State government’s connivance at them are unlikely to have anything more than a languid reaction. After all, for years the nation has been hearing of so many epic scams as to have got used to them to the extent of missing them when they do not occur! Therefore, the son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi is by no means the first to have been accused of “minting money with fake documents”; neither is he likely to be the last. It is, however,

probable that if Haryana had had a lokayukta the truth buried in the charges and denials would have been laid bare by now. Khemka, in his reply to the charges made against him by the three-member committee that indicted him in December last, has explained why he ordered an inquiry into alleged undervaluation of Vadra’s land deals and cancel the mutation of 3.53 acres in Shikohpur in Gurgaon even after he had been served with transfer orders on October 11, and if he had acted selectively against Vadra.

“Leaving charge without passing these orders would have been an act of cowardice and betrayal of public trust…and to abdicate the responsibility just because VVIPs are involved in the sham transaction would amount to dereliction of duty,” he has said, and cited two other cases in which he had passed equally harsh orders. But by far the most incisive of his replies is in the form of a query which must have made the Government committee squirm: “When Vadra or his company Skylight Hospitality, DLF Universal Ltd or Onkareshwar Properties was ostensibly not aggrieved with the inquiry, why and how are some functionaries in the State government aggrieved?”

The answer is simple even though it might be hasty to believe his charges against some other officials of the State government: Most bureaucrats adopt the line of least resistance by winking at apparently illegal deals made by the politically powerful. There is no denying that Vadra enjoys enormous political clout by virtue of being the son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi. It is to the credit of Khemka that where many other bureaucrats would have signed silently on the dotted line, the line dotted by the Congress-led State government and its officials, he stood up for propriety and helped draw public attention to how those with political clout can twist laws to suit their own interests.

Another of Khemka’s allegations is that the (inquiry) committee, “instead of answering the references made before it by the order of the Chief Secretary, decided to frame its own issues which were grossly biased with the sole aim of giving a clean chit to the land licensing transactions of Vadra’s company and to hide from public glare other land licensing transactions indulged in by companies owned by Vadra in collusion with the State government departments”. And in the process of indicting Khemka, “the committee completely departed from principle of natural justice that no one should be made a judge in his own cause, and the rule that no one should be condemned without being heard”.

When he was transferred at 10 pm on October 11, Khemka had shot off a letter to the Chief Secretary protesting against the action, because the Indian Administrative Service (Cadre) Rules 1954 provide for a minimum tenure of two years. While he waited over the next two days, which happened to be holidays, for the Chief Secretary’s decision, he continued to function as Director-General of Consolidation of Land Holdings and Inspector-General of Registration (IGR) till the evening of October 15. Therefore, he had issued his two orders in exercise of the powers he had until his transfer.

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