December 1, 2023

Delhi Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena has refused to consider a report of Vigilance Minister Atishi alleging “prima facie complicity” of Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar in the Bamnoli land acquisition matter, saying it seems to be “completely based” on the minister’s preconceived assumptions and presumptions, sources in the Raj Niwas said on Sunday.

On its end, the Delhi government said the LG should “allow an impartial enquiry by CBI into the matter and not prejudge the matter and protect certain individuals because of his fondness for them”.

In a file noting the government’s submission of the report to him, Saxena has said the report “could very well go on to hamper the ongoing investigation, instead of facilitating it”.

I have received the ‘Preliminary Report’ on ‘Complaints’, submitted by the Hon’ble Minister (Vigilance) and endorsed by the Hon’ble Chief Minister. It is surprising and unfortunate, to say the least, that this report, which deals with sensitive vigilance-related matters and has been marked to my Secretariat in confidential cover, is already in public domain and its digital/electronic copies are freely available and details thereof have been widely reported in the media,” he has said in the file.

Noting that selective text from the report has been purportedly leaked to the media, the LG has said it appears “prima facie that the whole motive of this supposed inquiry was not to unearth the truth, but to start a media trial and politicise this whole issue”, even as it is before the Supreme Court.

“One is forced to wonder whether the same doesn’t amount to creating a public perception prejudice, aimed at influencing the Hon’ble courts,” he has added.

Saxena has also pointed out that the matter is already being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

“Since the matter is already under investigation by the CBI as approved by me based on recommendations of the Chief Secretary and the Divisional Commissioner, it is my considered view that the recommendation … before me for consideration is prejudiced and devoid of merit and therefore, cannot be agreed to,” he has said.

Saxena highlighted that the proposal for CBI investigation was approved by him on the recommendations received from the chief secretary and the divisional commissioner themselves.

“The thrust of the Hon’ble Minister in this Report seems to be on the alleged connivance of the District Magistrate, the Divisional Commissioner and the Chief Secretary resulting in loss to government exchequer. However even the basic principles of enquiries have not been followed in the instant case,” he noted in the file.

The LG also said the chief secretary and the divisional commissioner demonstrated remarkable “administrative prudence” in the matter.

“Simply, connecting some dots here and there without an unbroken chain of evidence whatsoever, would not serve any purpose. This report seems to be completely based on preconceived assumptions and presumption of the Hon’ble Minister and could very well go on to hamper the ongoing investigation, instead of facilitating it,” he noted.

Calling the report “half-baked”, he said that such “questionable work on the part of the Hon’ble Minister by using her official position for apparent political gains, may make the government vulnerable to legal consequences”.

Saxena also cited media reports that the matter has been referred to the CBI and ED by Kejriwal and underlined that it is “beyond their competence as per law established”.

Reacting to the development, the AAP dispensation said it “is a brazen attempt on the part of the LG to protect his favourite officers, namely the chief secretary and divisional commissioner”.

“If they have done nothing wrong, why is LG obstructing an enquiry against them? The Vigilance Minister’s report was prompted because of a whistleblower complaint and media reports highlighting CS’s role in the scam, yet the LG has chosen to launch a political attack on the government itself. In all fairness, all available evidence should be forwarded to CBI to enable them to conduct an impartial enquiry,” they charged.

Regarding LG’s objection that only he has the power to refer any matter to CBI, the government said that matter is already registered with CBI and now, any citizen, who has any evidence in that case, can send the same to CBI.

“We request the Hon’ble LG to allow an impartial enquiry by CBI into the matter and not prejudge the matter and protect certain individuals because of his fondness for them.

It is a matter of fact that the chief secretary’s son is an employee and a director in beneficiary company. We are surprised that the LG finds nothing unusual in the fact that a 30-year-old son of CS is a director in a web of companies, many of which are registered at the same address, have same email ID and have same set of people as directors working in diverse sectors like infrastructure, healthcare, waste management, real estate etc. Interestingly, most of these companies have their business footprint in Delhi, where CS is the head of bureaucracy and strangely, the companies become beneficiaries of several govt contracts and largesse. LG thinks this is all normal and CS has no role in it?” they claimed.

They accused the chief secretary of appointing Hemant Kumar as the new DM southwest soon after becoming CS.

“It is wrong to say that CS on his own recommended enquiry against the DM. The exorbitant compensation award by DM was given on May 15. It was during the joint visit of Union Minister (Transport), Nitin Gadkari and the LG on 18.05.2023 that the Union Minister and NHAI strongly raised their objections. Left with no option and to save their skin, the CS and Div Com recommended enquiries soon after. Under which law does an accused go scot-free just because he orders an investigation into the crime?” the government alleged.

Kumar has denied any wrongdoing and alleged that “mudslinging” is being done by people with “vested interests” against whom vigilance action was taken for corruption.

The 670-page report of the vigilance minister was submitted to the LG by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s office on Wednesday. The report has demanded Kumar’s suspension and claimed that the scale of “undue benefits” in the matter is more than Rs 897 crore.

“The enquiry itself was compromised because the CS, being the Chief Vigilance Officer, presided over the Vigilance investigation while himself having close connections with the beneficiaries of this scam, they said.

This is a clear case of conflict of interest’ and a violation of Para (c) of Section 11.7 of the Vigilance Manual. Further, the enquiry sought to hide the true scale of the scam by valuing it at Rs 312 Crore instead of Rs 850 Crore as was brought out in the Minister’s report. All these important facts have been conveniently ignored by the LG. Why is the LG so eager and impatient to give a clean chit to his favourite officers without an enquiry?” they asked.

The 19-acre land in question was acquired by the National Highways Authority of India in 2018 for the construction of the Dwarka Expressway.

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