Kejriwal forwards Bamnoli land acquisition report to LG

| | New Delhi
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Kejriwal forwards Bamnoli land acquisition report to LG

Thursday, 16 November 2023 | Staff Reporter | New Delhi

In  less than 24 hours after receiving a report from the Vigilance Minister Atishi in the alleged corruption in acquisition of 19 acre of land in South West Delhi's Bamnoli village in which she has recommended removal  of the chief secretary Naresh Kumar and divisional commissioner Ashwani Kumar,  Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has forwarded it to Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena  seeking  his immediate removal. The rifts between the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-led Delhi government and the bureaucracy have widened in the wake of the alleged scam over land acquisition for the Dwarka Expressway.

According to sources, Kejriwal has instructed the vigilance minister to send the report to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) as well.  Notably,  this matter has already been recommended to  the Ministry of Home Affairs for CBI for investigation on September 20.

Delhi vigilance minister Atishi on Tuesday submitted a report to CM Arvind Kejriwal alleging "prima-facie complicity" of chief secretary Naresh Kumar in a land acquisition matter, saying it would involve a windfall gain of Rs 897 crore for the landowners. The minister also recommended removal of the CS and divisional commissioner Ashwani Kumar from their posts to ensure a fair inquiry.

The chief secretary has denied any wrongdoing and termed the allegations against him as "mudslinging" by people with vested interests against whom vigilance action was taken in corruption cases. In a statement, Kumar questioned "on what basis such allegations are made especially when the chief secretary has joined only last year that is 2022. Copy of the report is not shared. So on what basis one can respond or report."

The BJP has criticized Kejriwal for recommending action against Chief Secretary. The Leader of Opposition Ramvir Singh Bidhuri said Delhi CS is carrying out inquires against the Chief Minister or Delhi Government Ministers in different cases including the liquor scam, renovation of CM’s bungalow scam. “That’s why they are trying to fix him at any cost.  This AAP government is trying to create an environment against CS as there are rumors of his extension,” he added.

The compensation for land acquisition was allegedly raised from Rs 41 crore to Rs 353 crore but the report has claimed that the "scale of undue benefits" in the deal was over Rs 897 crore.  The vigilance minister's report was an outcome of an inquiry to a complaint that alleged that the chief secretary's son was employed by a person who was relative of benefited landowners in Bamnoli.

The 670-page report by Atishi alleged that "the scale of the undue benefits is much larger than earlier made out to be in a vigilance report."

"The windfall gain for the Kathurias (landowners) would have been Rs 897.1 crore for the 19.081 acres of land in Bamnoli village based on the illegal and exorbitant arbitration award given by erstwhile DM Southwest, Hemant Kumar. This is much greater than the estimate of Rs 353.79 crore shown in the vigilance report," the report stated.The report further alleged that the "connections and the chronology give the prima facie appearance of complicity of the chief secretary with Hemant Kumar and the landowners."

It was alleged by the complainant - a lawyer - that the Delhi chief secretary's son worked in a realty firm, a director of which was the son-in-law of Subhash Chand Kathuria, one of the owners of the land acquired in Bamnoli village in southwest Delhi and who was awarded enhanced compensation for his land.

In its reply to Atishi, the DoV said”…it is informed that on a proposal made by the Directorate of Vigilance, GNCTD (DOV) with recommendations of the CVO-cum-Chief Secretary and approval of Hon'ble LG, the instant case was referred to the MHA on ·20.09.2023 for taking disciplinary action against the DM and for referring the matter to the CBI. MHA suspended the DM on 20.10.2023 and also referred this case to the CBI for investigations on 20.10.2023. Further, MHA has asked the Directorate of Vigilance to monitor the investigation and ensure that information sought by CBI is made available. Accordingly, original records in this matter are being sent to the CBI”.

According to the report, the minister has recommended removal of Chief Secretary Kumar and Divisional Commissioner Ashwani Kumar from their posts to pave the way for a fair probe.

The divisional commissioner in a press conference on Monday defended the chief secretary saying the complaint against him was part of "dirty politics" as he was actively pursuing corruption cases.

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