University owned by AAP MP in Punjab cleared of cheating charges in land deal

Chandigarh, Nov 17: The Department of Rural Development and Panchayats, Punjab, has come to the conclusion that the Lovely Professional University (LPU), Jalandhar, committed no ‘fraud’ in exchanging 13 acres of land belonging to Chahru village panchayat in 2010 with another chunk of the equivalent measurement. Aam Aadmi Party’s Rajya Sabha member Ashok Mittal is the owner of LPU.

Harjinder Singh Sandhu, District Rural Development and Panchayats Officer (DDPO), Kapurthala, explained to that the LPU had, in a legally correct manner, exchanged the land with the then panchayat of Chehru village. The entire panchayat passed a unanimous resolution in favour of the exchange deal. It was later in 2013 that the village split into two, and Nanak Nagri village came into existence.

‘A decision agreed upon by the entire ‘parent panchayat’ cannot be declared unacceptable by the progeny (read new panchayat of village Nanak Nagari) after several years of its execution,’ he stressed.

To a question, the DDPO said that he had not yet formally submitted his report to the Director as he was waiting for the record from the revenue department. It would show the complete history of ownership and the subsequent exchange of the land.

After this matter of ‘cheating’ by LPU was raised by the Congress MLA Sukhpal Khaira, the Punjab government ordered an inquiry in July this year.

Khaira had alleged that as AAP MP Mittal owned LPU, nothing positive would come out of the inquiry. ‘We will take the matter to the Punjab and Haryana High court,’ he warned.

Advocate Mehtab Singh Khaira, counsel for Nanak Nagari panchayat said that a restoration petition had been filed in the High Court to revive the petition that was earlier ‘unauthorisedly’ withdrawn by a suspended sarpanch Parshotam Lal. The matter is fixed for a hearing early next year.

Sarwan Singh Deo, sarpanch of Chehru told India Narrative that the then Deputy Commissioner of Kapurthala while ordering the division of over 13 acres of joint panchayat land, gave ownership rights of 5 acres to Nanak Nagari.

In view of the DC’s order, Nanak Nagri was entitled to get an annual lease money for this agricultural land given on contract for cultivation. ‘It is only recently that I paid the panchayat of Nanak Nagari its share of over Rs 8 lakh from the accounts of Chehru village panchayat,’ he discloses.

Deo further argued that if the exchange deal was unacceptable to Nanak Nagari panchayat, why did it continue to accept lease money for 5 acres of land falling in its share? The acceptance of the lease money implied that the land exchange agreement stood amicably executed.

The Nanak Nagari Panchayat had accused LPU of wrongdoing as it took away costly land priced at around Rs 5 crore per acre in exchange for an inferior chunk. It was done allegedly in connivance with the previous joint panchayat of Chehru village.

Ram Lubhaya, sarpanch of the village, claimed that 13 acres of panchayat land were shown as barren by bribing the revenue officials. And in lieu of the barren land, another chunk of lowly priced 13 acres of land was offered by LPU to the village. The LPU land given in exchange was priced at about Rs 50 lakh an acre only.

The present panchayat has demanded, either the university return its land or buy another chunk of 5 acres near the village. The new chunk should match the value of the land exchanged with the university.

The LPU management, on the other hand, claimed that it did nothing wrong as it exchanged barren land with the cultivable piece. The deal was executed after taking legal opinion from top revenue lawyers.

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