Allahabad HC orders removal of NOIDA officials and CBI probe
Senior IAS officials Sanjeev Saran and Rakesh Bahadur were allegedly involved in irregularities in land allotment in Noida
Virendra Nath Bhatt
In a major set-back for the Samajwadi Party-led Akhilesh Yadav government in Uttar Pradesh, the Allahabad High Court on Thursday 8 October ordered immediate removal of the two senior IAS officers, the Chairman and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of New Okhla Industrial Development Authority (NOIDA) and has directed the state government to recommend to the Union home ministry for a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation, into the irregularities committed by both the officials.
A division bench of the HC comprising Acting Chief Justice Amitabh Lala and PKS Baghel gave in their judgment in which they directed state government to transfer Noida’s CEO Sanjeev Saran and Chairman Rakesh Bahadur. The court also said that the duo should not be posted in Western Uttar Pradesh. The petition challenging the appointment of the two officials at NOIDA was filed by Madha Samaj Nirvan Samiti. The court observed that there were definite evidences that the irregularities were committed in allotment of land to the hotel industry in NOIDA. Both officials were posted in NOIDA from 2005 to 2007 when Mulayam Singh Yadav, father of the present chief minister, headed the Samajwadi Party government in UP.
Both officials are the close associates of Ram Gopal Yadav, the national general secretary of the Samajwadi Party and uncle of the UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav. According to a SP leader, while the CM was reluctant to appoint the two officials in NOIDA, he had to do so in deference of the wishes of his uncle. The two officials have been indicted for alleged irregularities in allotment of the land for the hotels ahead of the Commonwealth Games (CWG) held in Delhi in August 2008.
In a further indictment of the Samajwadi Party government of UP, the Allahabad high court directed the state government to recommend a CBI probe with retrospective effect from year 2001. The high court, in its directions to the UP government, further said the CBI probe into the irregularities of these officials should be completed within six months' time and the report be submitted in the court. If the investigating agency needed more time for the probe, then they could approach the court, the bench said. In its previous hearing, the high court bench had asked the state government whether a CBI inquiry should be ordered into the allegations against Chairman and CEO of NOIDA, or they should be allowed to continue in their post.
The two officers had allegedly conducted irregularities when they were first posted in the NOIDA, by the previous Samajwadi Party government between 2005 and 2007. However, ignoring the charges, the present SP government again posted them there. The two officers were re-appointed on 4 May after the top offices of the NOIDA remained headless for almost 45 days.
The PIL was filed by Madhav Samaj Nirman Samiti and the intervener’s application sought a CBI probe in June last year. Petitioner's counsel demanded that the two officials be removed from their current postings because they had been accused of wrongdoing while being on the same post. However, the state government has so far not given any consideration to the issue, even though the court had questioned the propriety of allowing them to continue in their capacities.
Earlier, the division bench had appointed court commissioners and asked them to submit a report on the current status of the plots that were allotted to the members of the hotel industry by the accused officers. The commissioners concerned have already submitted their reports. The officials in question had been posted between 2005 and 2007, during which they were accused of causing loss to the exchequer to the tune of over Rs 4,000 crore by allotting plots to the hotel industry at Rs 7,400 per square metre, while they were meant to be allotted at Rs 74,000 per square metre.
An FIR was registered in this connection against the two when the BSP government came to power in 2007. While a closure report was filed in connection with the FIR, the court did not accept the same.
The Bahujan Samaj Party, which was voted to power in May 2007, and the then chief minister Mayawati had removed both the officials from NOIDA and had also placed them under suspension. Mayawati had also cancelled the allotment of plots to the hospitality companies. The present chief minister Akhilesh Yadav reinstated both the tainted officials and also gave them lucrative postings at NOIDA.
Incidentally, during the last two decades, the posting in NOIDA for the IAS officials has proved to be a Waterloo. Earlier, the former CEO of NOIDA, Neera Yadav, who is also the former chief secretary of the state, was also probed by CBI and she was convicted by the special CBI court in Ghaziabad and she had to remain in jail for over two months. Mohinder Singh, another senior IAS officer, who has since retired and was chairman of NOIDA during the previous BSP regime in UP (2007-March 2012) is also under investigation by the Lokayukt of UP, for the alleged irregularities in allotment of the land for the farm houses in NOIDA to the high and mighty of UP and Delhi.
Virendra Nath Bhatt is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.