The Robert Vadra land deal case has been at the centre of political mudslinging ever since the Narendra Modi government came to power. After the BJP swept to power in Haryana, where Vadra's alleged shady dealings took place, a probe commission headed by (Rtd) Justice SN Dhingra was constituted in 2015. Just when the one-man panel was to submit its report on Friday, the Congress has played the "victim card" and turned the tables on Justice Dhingra of taking favours from the ML Khattar government.
Here is a quick recap of the genesis of the whole controversy and the key characters in the whole fracas.
Who is Justice Dhingra?
Justice SN Dhingra retired from judicial service in 2011 after serving as a judge in the Delhi High Court since 2006. He joined the Delhi Judicial Services in 1988. He is renowned for his judgements in the Nitish Katara murder and the Parliament attack case.
What is the Justice Dhingra Commission?
This one-man commission was constituted on 14 May 2015 under Section 3 of The Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952. It was constituted to probe alleged irregularities in grant of licence(s) by the Department of Town and Country Planning to some companies, including those of Robert Vadra, in Sector 83 of Gurugram for developing commercial colonies. The villages of Shikohpur, Sihi, Kherki Daula and Sikanderpur Badha came under the ambit of probe. The Commission was expected to submit its report on Friday, but has sought a six-week extension. The deadline has now been pushed to 31 August.
What is the controversy around Robert Vadra's land deals?
The case came into public sphere in October 2012 when then activist and now Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal accused Vadra of buying 31 properties in and around New Delhi from DLF's unsecured loans at prices which were much lower than the prevailing market rate. There were also allegations that realty giant DLF enjoyed a quid pro quo with Vadra which helped it get prime land in Haryana. The Robert Vadra-DLF link just got murkier when another deal came to light. Vadra's company Skylight Hospitality is accused of buying a 3.5 acre plot in Shikohpur village near Manesar for Rs seven crore and then selling it to DLF for Rs 58 crore. The Haryana government, then headed by the Congress, was accused of tweaking rules and regulations to favour Vadra.
Ashok Khemka, an IAS officer, repeatedly raised concerns over the land deal. He also set aside the mutation of the property sold by Vadra to DLF. Mutation is very important as that changes the title ownership of property from one entity to another.
But the Congress government gave a clean chit to Vadra after a probe by Khemka found no irregularities in the land deal.
Later, when the Comptroller and Auditor General report for 2013-14 was tabled in the Haryana Assembly, the audit body slammed the Congress government for making exceptions for Vadra's land deals.
What happened to Ashok Khemka?
The IAS officer, already known for being transferred more than 40 times in his career, was again met with the same fate. From being the director-general, Consolidation of Holdings and Land Records-cum-Inspector General of Registration, he was shifted to the Haryana Seeds Development Corporation.
What has happened after BJP came to power?
The Congress party has been crying political vendetta by the BJP. Former chief minister Bhupinder Hooda, who was summoned to appear before the Commission, failed to appear on two occasions. He has termed the move as 'politically motivated'. It was during Hooda's tenure that Robert Vadra is alleged to have received favours in his land deals. He has also claimed the constitution of the commission to be illegal as it was done without cabinet's approval.
With the report yet to be submitted to the government, the political slugfest over the controversial deal is only set to heat up in the coming months.