Panchkula land transaction: Ambala divisional commissioner made false declaration under conduct rules - Hindustan Times
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Panchkula land transaction: Ambala divisional commissioner made false declaration under conduct rules

By, Chandigarh
Apr 04, 2024 07:00 AM IST

Despite hearing and deciding an appeal filed by the land seller, the IAS officer in a written intimation told state govt that she did not have any dealings with the party (land seller) in her official capacity at any time

Ambala divisional commissioner Renu Phulia, whose 2023 orders to revoke a stay order on the sale-purchase of 14 acres in Beed Firozadi village of Panchkula opened an avenue for sale of the land to her husband and son, gave a false undertaking to the state government regarding not having dealt with the sellers in her official capacity.

Since Phulia as divisional commissioner revoked the 2003 orders of the collector (agrarian), Panchkula, which had stayed the execution of sale deeds for the land in question, her quasi-judicial order of September 13, 2023, under section 24 of the Punjab Security of Land Tenures Act, 1953, enabled the sale-purchase of land involving her husband and son. (HT File)
Since Phulia as divisional commissioner revoked the 2003 orders of the collector (agrarian), Panchkula, which had stayed the execution of sale deeds for the land in question, her quasi-judicial order of September 13, 2023, under section 24 of the Punjab Security of Land Tenures Act, 1953, enabled the sale-purchase of land involving her husband and son. (HT File)

Top officials said Phulia made a factually incorrect declaration violating the provisions of All-India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968, regarding acquisition of movable, immovable and valuable property.

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Since Phulia as divisional commissioner revoked the 2003 orders of the collector (agrarian), Panchkula, which had stayed the execution of sale deeds for the land in question, her quasi-judicial order of September 13, 2023, under section 24 of the Punjab Security of Land Tenures Act, 1953, enabled the sale-purchase of land involving her husband and son. The registration of the sale deed, though, was stalled after the financial commissioner, revenue (FCR), restrained all the registering officers in Panchkula from registering any type of transfer deeds forthwith to avoid litigation.

IAS officer falsely said she did not deal with sellers in her official capacity

However, despite hearing and deciding the appeal filed by the land seller as divisional commissioner, Phulia, a 2003-batch IAS officer, in a written intimation under section 16(3) of the All-India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968, told the state government in 2024 that she did not have any dealings with the party (land seller) in her official capacity at any time.

Rule 16(3) of the All-India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968, mandate that no IAS officer can acquire or dispose any immovable property by lease, mortgage, purchase, gift or otherwise, either in his/her own name or in the name of any member of his/her family without the previous knowledge of the government. The Rules also provide that previous sanction of the government shall be obtained if any such transaction is with a person having official dealings with the IAS officer.

Officials said any IAS officer who wants to acquire any immoveable asset for himself/herself or his/her family has to file a declaration giving prior intimation of seeking previous sanction under Rule 16(3) for transactions in respect of immoveable property.

Officials said the IAS officer had sent a communication to the state government in January 2024 seeking permission for acquisition of the Beed Firozadi land by her family members.

When the chief secretary’s office sought her response in terms of point 11 of the declaration form asking her whether at any point of time, she in her official capacity has any dealings with the party with whom transaction is proposed to be made or is likely to have any dealings with them in the near future, Phulia replied in the negative, officials said. Phulia did not respond to phone calls and text messages by HT seeking her version.

Could have only expressed opinion and submit case to FC

Revenue law experts said the Ambala divisional commissioner also exceeded her jurisdiction by deciding the appeal of landowners under section 24 of the Punjab Security of Land Tenures Act, 1953. Revenue officials said Phulia could have only expressed an opinion on the case and submit the record with her opinion for the orders of the financial commissioner as mandated under section 84(3) of the Punjab Tenancy Act.

Section 24 of Punjab Security of Land Tenures Act, 1953, clearly lay down that provisions pertaining to appeal, review and revision under this Act shall so far as may be the same as provided in section 80, 81, 82, 83 and 84 of the Punjab Tenancy Act, 1887. Section 84 (3) of the Punjab Tenancy Act pertaining to powers to call for examining and revising proceedings of revenue officers and courts say that if in any case in which a commissioner or collector has called for a record and he is of the opinion that the proceedings taken or the order or decree made should be modified or reversed, he shall submit the record with his opinion in the case for the orders of the financial commissioner.

The Panchkula deputy commissioner in a March 28 communication to the FCR wrote that the 14 acres was part of the land inherited by the legal heirs of Bhagwant Singh who was the owner of around 1,396 acres in seven villages, Beed Babupur, Beed Firozadi, Bhareli, Sangrana, Barwala, Jaloli and Fatehpur Viran. The high court on February 24, 2023, had directed the collector, Panchkula, to redetermine the surplus area as per law. “Consequent to revoking of the stay by the divisional commissioner, a plethora of sale deeds are likely to be presented soon, due to which there is possibility of creation of third-party interests and jeopardising of government interest. The matter is sub judice in the court of collector (agrarian), Panchkula, and permissible area is yet to be determined and the surplus area vests with the government,” the DC wrote seeking guidance from the state government.

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