New Delhi: Senior IAS officer Ashok Khemka, who was transferred by the Haryana government after he ordered an investigation into the land deals between Congress president Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra and realty major DLF, on Tuesday said that he suspected that the Punjab and Haryana High Court order was used as a pretext to transfer him out.
Speaking exclusively to IBN-18 Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai, Khemka said, "I was conducting inquiry since October 8 after reading media reports. I questioned the officer of the revenue department who was not willing to give me data for inquiry. Subsequently I was transferred."
Asserting that he was not an "escapist", the IAS officer said that his duty was to correct the legality and he did that. He said, "I suspect I was shifted after I ordered probe into Vadra-DLF land deal."
"If the Haryana government knew I would succumb to pressure, they would not have transferred me...I chose to act even though it involved a super VVIP," said Khemka, adding "I would continue my fight no matter how much I am hounded".
When asked if he had received death threats over the issue, Khemka chose to give a direct answer but mentioned that he feared for his family. He, however, added, "I will remain in public service till I am retired…some of the vested interests were hurt by my act."
However, Khemka's friend and lawyer Anupam Gupta confirmed about the threat to the IAS officer’s life. When asked about the threats, Gupta said, "Yes Khemka has personally told me that he has received threatening phone calls in the night...we don’t know who are these callers and who is behind all this."
Earlier, the Haryana government was forced to order an investigation into the Vadra-DLF Manesar land deal worth Rs 58 crore after Khemka cancelled the land mutation saying it violated the consolidation act of the states. However, the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government questioned Khemka’s decision to scrap the deal without giving the affected parties a chance to give their version.
The Haryana government also defended their decision to transfer the IAS officer. "Khemka has tried to link this transfer to certain actions that he has taken on subsequent dates without any basis. As far back as August 1, 2012, Khemka had written to the Chief Secretary requesting for withdrawing one of the charges held by him on the ground that his orders are applicable to officers junior to him," the Haryana government said.
The Congress party also ruled out a witch hunt by it in the case. Senior Congress leader BK Hariprasad has said that the transfer of IAS officer Ashok Khemka is not a result of a witch hunt. "There is no substance in the allegations," Hariprasad added.
Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda also said that the transfer of an IAS officer is not a punishment. Assuring a probe into the deal between Vadra and DLF, Hooda said, "A transfer is not a punishment. The Chief Secretary will investigate." Refuting India Against Corruption Activist Arvind Kejriwal's allegation, Hooda said that the Haryana government was not giving any undue favours to any one.
The statement by the Haryana Chief Minister came after anti-corruption crusader-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal came out strongly against the state government for transferring Khemka. Accusing the Haryana government of favouring Vadra and his family, Kejriwal said, "Khemka is an honest person. It seems the whole transaction was done to get the licence. We want to know from the Haryana CM that is there is any IAS transfer policy in the state? Does that policy allow transfer of IAS officer who is investigating Vadra? The Haryana government is favouring Vadra's family," Kejriwal said.
Kejriwal also tweeted, saying the state government ought to explain the turn of events. "Ashok Khemka transferred by Haryana government because he was probing Vadra's land deals in Haryana. We strongly criticise that," Kejriwal said. Anti-corruption activist Kiran Bedi also said that all honest officers were being transferred. Reacting to IAS officer Khemka's action of cancelling land mutation in the Robert vadra-DLF deal, Bedi said, "I am happy that Khemka raised his voice. This is not his voice alone, this is the voice of all civil servants."
Meanwhile, the Opposition stepped up pressure for an independent inquiry into the land deal between. Former Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala has threatened to move court. "There is no question of a fair investigation under the Congress. The matter has to be taken to court for a fair trial. Khemka's revelations will be applauded. It is not possible for the CBI or the state government to hold an independent probe on Vadra," Chautala said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party also stepped up its attack on the Congress saying the incident shows how the Gandhi family abuses power. "This shows the powers of Vadra and the family. A senior officer investigates him and he's transferred. This kind of protection and corruption has to stop. If you mess with the first family of the Congress party, there is a price to pay - that's the message that this has given to the bureaucracy," BJP leader siddharth Nath Singh said.
Khemka was transferred for reportedly probing the Robert Vadra-DLF land deal. He cancelled the mutation of a 3.531 acre plot of land in Manesar-Shikohpur that Congress President Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra sold to DLF for Rs 58 crore in 2009, befor leaving office.
Senior IAS officer Ashok Khemka was transferred as the DG Haryana Seed Development Corporation, three days after he ordered a probe into the land deals between Vadra and DLF on October 8. Before leaving office, on October 15, Khemka cancelled the mutation of the land, citing irregularities in the transfer of land from Vadra's Sky Light Hospitality Private Limited to the real estate giant. CNN-IBN has accessed the document ordering the cancellation of the mutation. The land deal in Manesar-Shikohpur reportedly had signatures by an unauthorised Haryana official, the document said.
This land deal was, in fact, the first in a series of major land deals between Vadra and DLF and social activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal had referred to it, alleging irregularities. Vadra, who reportedly bought the plot of land for Rs 7.5 crore sold it within three months to DLF for Rs 58 crore. Vadra then reportedly used that money to buy premium DLF apartments.
What is mutation?
Mutation is a record of the transfer of title of property between two entities. It is saved in the government's revenue records. Mutation does not mean a legal title to the person to whom the property has been mutated.
The big questions:
- Did Vadra hold back the land for three years to save on taxes?
- Is it tough for an honest bureaucrat to survive in India?
- Is transfer a tool to tackle officers who don't compromise?
- Should the two year transfer policy be strictly implemented?