Shimla: Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s daughter Priyanka Vadra and lawyer Prashant Bhushan are among 881 outsiders who were allowed to buy land in the past three years in Himachal Pradesh, Revenue Minister Kaul Singh said here Monday.
Priyanka Vadra got permission in 2011 under Section 118 of the Himachal Pradesh Tenancy and Land Reforms Act, 1972, to purchase 922 sq m land in Charabra, the minister said in a written reply in the assembly.
The land, meant for building a cottage at a height of 8,300 feet amid thick verdant forests of pine and cedar, is 15 km uphill from state capital Shimla.
Likewise, Aam Aadmi Party leader Prashant Bhushan’s Kumud Bhushan Educational Society was allowed to purchase 4.68 hectare land near Palampur town in Kangra district in 2010.
Both the permissions were granted by the previous BJP government.
In another written reply, the revenue minister said that in the past three years, 246 cases of violation of Section 118 had been registered.
As per the written reply, 61 violations in this period were recorded in Shimla district and 47 in Hamirpur, the home district of former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal.
The 881 outsiders who were granted permissions included 52 educational societies and three private universities to set up bases.
In 2007, Priyanka Vadra bought a three-and-a-half bigha (one bigha is 0.4 hectare) agricultural plot on which she had constructed a two-storey five-room cottage.
However, it was razed to the ground in 2011.
Official sources said it would now be re-constructed in typical hill architecture style with wooden frames and a sloping roof.
The land allotted to Bhushan is under scrutiny of the present Congress government.
“On the face of it, the permission granted to Prashant Bhushan is questionable. We have sent 11 queries to the deputy commissioner concerned,” Kaul Singh told reporters in Shimla last month.
He said the government would act on the basis of the deputy commissioner’s report.
According to the state’s laws, land-use of a tea garden could not be changed as these are exempted under the ceiling act.
It was alleged that the land, worth several crores of rupees, was given to the educational societies for just a few lakh rupees.
The minister had said that the state government will probe all land deals where it suspects that there is a violation of Section 118 during the BJP regime.
Under Himachal Pradesh’s land laws, only the state’s permanent residents can buy land in the state. Others who want to purchase land for non-agricultural purposes have to seek relaxation under Section 118.