HC to Khemka: Why did you refer to court by name?

The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Tuesday issued notices to Ashok Khemka, a 1990-batch IAS officer of Haryana cadre, who was given a non-cadre post managing director of Haryana Seeds Development Corporation after he cancelled the mutation of a land deal between a company owned by Robert Vadra and DLF, asking him why he had referred to the court by name in the print and electronic media.

Asking Khemka to respond by December 19, Justice Ranjit Singh said: "The officer had referred to this court by name while appearing on some electronic media or while the issue was covered in the newspapers. Let notice be issued to the officer as to why and in what authority he had referred to this court by name, while making reference to the order passed and whether it would lead to violation of any norms or would be of the nature of contempt."

The order added that in this case (surplus land), the special collector (Khemka) had appeared before the court on October 1 and expressed difficulty in not deciding the matter, despite a direction issued by this court. "Finding the explanation to be reasonable, the respondent government was required to take a decision to give the charge of this appointment to an officer, who could competently exercise such powers of special collector. Subsequently, on the basis of this order, the special collector challenged some action of the government in directing his transfer from the appointment held by him. This would be an issue between the officer and the government. But the officer had referred to this court by name," the court added.

The directions were issued on a petition originally filed by one Jai Bhagwaan, who had alleged that the land allotted to him by the government already stood sold to a private company. He had submitted that the land nearly 50 kanals in Gurgaon belongs to him and should be released from the Hyderabad-based company in question. Since the officer failed to appear, the high court in September had issued bailable warrants against him.

According to the ceiling on Land Holdings Act, a landowner or landlord cannot retain a land beyond a permissible limit. The "surplus" land stands vested with the government, which can further sell it to people.

In the current case, the Haryana government had declared 110 kanals of land as "surplus" in Gurgaon. The land was originally registered in the name of two women. Of the total land, 22 kanals and 2 marlas was allotted to Jai Bhagwaan in 1994. However, a few years later, a Hyderabad-based company moved court alleging that the said land was already sold to it by the original owners in 1988.

After several bouts of litigation at the district and state level, the two parties had finally reached the high court. While the company claimed that it is the bonafide owner, Jai Bhagwaan had cried foul stating that if the land was already sold in 1988, the government authorities should have informed him and could not have allotted the land to him.

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