Himachal panel seeks details of Priyanka Vadra’s land deal

Shimla, June 30 (IANS) The local administration of Shimla has been told to provide within 10 days information about the land purchase by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s daughter Priyanka Vadra near this popular hill station, the Himachal Pradesh Information Commission has ruled.

“Provide information about Priyanka Vadra’s land deal at Mashobra (near Shimla) within 10 days to an RTI activist. The decision to impose penalty on the officials who failed to provide information within stipulated timeframe would be decided on July 23,” the commission said on Monday.

The order by the full bench comprising Chief Information Commissioner Bhim Sen and Information Commissioner K.D. Batish came after an application of Right to Information activist Devashish Bhattacharya came up for hearing.

The information under the RTI Act was sought in July 2014, but it was denied by the deputy commissioner of Shimla saying that Priyanka Vadra was a high-profile person and providing information could have a direct bearing on her security provided by the Special Protection Group.

The information commission also issued a show-cause notice to the deputy commissioner and others that why penalty should not be imposed on them for not providing the information.

Priyanka’s counsel Gautam Sood said he would soon file a judicial review against the commission’s order in the state high court.

The Vadras purchased a three-and-a-half bigha (one bigha is 0.4 hectare) agricultural plot in 2007. In 2011, they purchased additional land near the existing one.

The cottage, just 15 km uphill from the state capital Shimla, is located close to The Retreat, the summer holiday resort of the Indian president, and the Oberoi Group’s luxury spa Wildflower Hall.

In 2007, the then Congress government in the state had relaxed norms to enable the Vadras to buy the land.

Under the Himachal Pradesh land laws, only the state’s agriculturalists can buy land in the state. Non-agriculturists in the state and outsiders seeking to buy property other than what is offered by the state housing board will have to seek permission from the government under the Himachal Pradesh Tenancy and Land Reforms Act of 1972.

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