With Chief Minister at epicenter of suspicion, Chief Secretary should take all land allocation files to his custody immediately

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Allocation of housing plots and houses from discretionary quota were as per orders of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, his former cabinet colleague Samir De has disclosed. This is a serious disclosure.

Concerned files can say whether or not De’s claim is correct. Applications to affidavits, initial clerical notes to final orders of authorities are in the files.

Under Order No. 22188, dated 11.08.2014, Additional Chief Secretary Taradatt, heading a three-member Task Force comprising Commissioner-cum-Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Department as well as Special Secretary to Government in the Department of General Administration as members, had to work under the following Terms of Reference:

I. The scope of review by Task Force will cover the period to from 01.01.1995 31.07.2014 in Bhubaneswar and Cuftack urban areas in respect of (a) all cases of allotment of land/ house/ flat out of discretionary quota and (b) allotment of more than 1 unit of land/ house/ flat to members of the same family; and,
2. The Task Force should submit its findings and recommendations to Government within a period of four months. Simultaneously, the concerned agencies like BDA, CDA, OSHB and GA Department should take action on irregular allotments within this period.

The Terms of Reference is vitiated with serious mischiefs. One is: Making the Secretaries of both the departments where illegal allocations were complained of, members of the Task Force and another is authorizing in the ToR itself “the concerned agencies like BDA, CDA, OSHB and GA Department” to “take action on irregular allotments within this period” of inquiry “simultaneously”.

Such mischief strengthens the suspicion that Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, as disclosed by his former ministerial colleague Samir De, is involved with the illegal allocations of housing parcels and readymade houses in prime locations to persons, some of whom have the potentiality to be used as shock absorbers in his vehicle of corruption and some others, whom he uses as his image builders and/or suppressors of news that might be carrying the capability of exposing his misdeeds.

The Task Force has already attracted criticism for not making any mention of many beneficiaries of the discretionary quota. Tallied with the reply of the concerned Minister Puspendra Singhdeo to a question in the Assembly on 11.07.2014, the TF report looks deficient. Some allege, the TF has deliberately omitted certain names to oblige undisclosed power that be; but the report strongly indicates that some of the relevant files were not made available to TF. Non-availability of files must be the reason of the TF’s inability to locate all the instances of criminal favoritism in land/house allocations. So, the TF has very rightly recommended for further in-depth investigation into the misuse of discretionary power by the Minister/Chief Minister. Either the CBI or Judicial Commission of Inquiry can conduct this in-depth investigation.

Had the Chief Minister been honest, he could have used his prerogative by this time to suspend all the illegal and dubious allocations located by TF and taking the involved properties into Government possession in State interest, should have asked the lease holders as to why the allocations would not be nullified. When the illegality in allocation has been located by the TF, the persons involved with this illegality are also known. Criminal prosecution that they deserve should have been initiated by this time.

But the Government is not moving this way, apparently because, besides influential executives – former and incumbent, and Judges of higher judiciary, and commanding commercial tycoons against whom the Government cannot go, the Chief Minister is also involved in this criminal offense.
When a very abysmally small number of news media persons are acting active sentinels of people in this matter, majority of newspapers and channels have started insinuating on credibility of the TF findings. Crabs are making the water muddy when admittedly the TF has not been helped with all required files to locate the full extent of illegal allocations.

But the good news media personnel and judiciary may not be hoodwinked and time may come, the judiciary may ask the CBI or appoint a judicial commission to investigate into the allocation scam.

It is imperative for the Judiciary to appoint such a Commission of Inquiry, because, there are Judges who have grabbed benefits from discretionary quota by swearing in false affidavits. All of these judges and their modus operandi need be brought to clear light and they need be prosecuted for punishment under criminal procedure if the judiciary is to save its own image. If it happens, the concerned files will be source of information.

Therefore, there is every reason to apprehend that concerned files may be destroyed or tampered with to save the scoundrels.

Unless the Chief Secretary, as chief of the Executive Government, immediately warrants every file of every allotment to his custody for safe-keeping thereof, the high-power investigation, which is now of immense imminence, may be defeated.

It is incumbent upon the Chief Secretary to immediately keep the files under lock and key under his direct control with such meticulousness that responsibility for illegal use of discretionary quota could be fixed and penal prosecution could succeed.

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