Himachal officials face charges in land case

Shimla, July 27 (IANS) Two senior Indian Administrative Service officers have been charge-sheeted in a case involving land allotment to the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) during the previous BJP regime, official sources said Saturday.

Deepak Sanan and R.S. Gupta allegedly allowed the change of land use for building an ultra-luxurious residential complex for players near the cricket stadium in Dharamsala by the Bharatiya Janata Party MP Anurag Thakur-controlled HPCA, the sources said.

Confirming this development, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh told reporters here that "this might have happened".

"It's a serious issue that both the officers gave permission on their own to transfer village community land for commercial use. If both of them deny the charges against them, a senior officer will look into the matter. Their suspension is not required at this stage," a state personnel department official told IANS.

Earlier, the officers were served show-cause notices.

The HPCA built the complex with 38 rooms, 32 huts made of imported wood and a world-class multi-gym just three km from the stadium.

"When the land was allotted to the HPCA, Sanan was principal secretary, revenue, and Gupta was the deputy commissioner of Kangra district where the stadium and its residential complex are located," an official said.

They have been accused of giving permission to the HPCA to change land use for construction of the complex without the cabinet approval, a revenue department official said.

"The land was the common village land which could not be given for any commercial activity. There is a clear-cut violation of land laws," said the official, who did not wish to be named.

Sanan is currently additional chief secretary animal husbandry, while Gupta is posted as commissioner, inquiries.

The Congress - then in the opposition - had objected to the land allotment.

In a "charge sheet" submitted to President Pranab Mukherjee in August last year, the Congress had also accused then chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal of extending favours to his son-controlled HPCA.

It alleged that the government has provided several pieces of land to the HPCA in various parts of the state.

Official sources said that during the seven Indian Premier League (IPL) matches played in Dharamsala from 2010-12, the state government, then headed by Dhumal, had not charged the HPCA for providing security.

The sources added that the state government after coming to power Dec 25 started examining violations, if any, of statutory provisions in allotting the land to the HPCA.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), citing a Supreme Court judgment of 2011 which held the transfer of village community land for private and commercial use as illegal, has also demanded that the HPCA should be evicted from the land.


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