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Vigilance bureau arrests horticulture development officer JS Sidhu in guava compensation scam case
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Vigilance bureau arrests horticulture development officer JS Sidhu in guava compensation scam case : The Punjab Vigilance Bureau (VB) on Tuesday has arrested Horticultural Development Officer (HDO) Jaspreet Singh Sidhu, remained posted at Kharar and Dera Bassi, in SAS Nagar district who was accused in the multi crore Guava orchids compensation scam in SAS Nagar.

Vigilance bureau arrests horticulture development officer JS Sidhu in guava compensation scam case

Disclosing this here today an official spokesperson of the state VB said initially, said accused JS Sidhu has availed interim bail from the High Court on 01.09.2023. However, the VB vehemently opposed his anticipatory bail petition and eventually filed 3 affidavits/counter affidavits as replies during lengthy and detailed arguments to seek his custodial interrogation. The VB has categorically highlighted the call detail records showing proximity of JS Sidhu with other accused beneficiaries, statements of various witnesses, tampered and forged documentary records and differences in-between the report submitted with GMADA and office copy of the same report retained in the state Horticulture Department. Besides, category of the same plants was shown to be higher in report submitted with GMADA than that mentioned in the office copy of the same report, he added.

The spokesperson informed that subsequently, the High Court has dismissed his anticipatory bail petition on 24.01.2023. Thereafter, the accused HDO was continuously on the run and the VB was trying to trace him , whereby, he was duly arrested on Tuesday from SAS Nagar.

He added that the said accused had remained posted as HDO, Kharar for past 15 years continuously from 2004 to 2019 and was involved in evaluating market value of fruit bearing trees present on lands acquired by GMADA vide various acquisitions like Aerocity, IT City, Sector 88-89 etc.

Providing more details of this case, he informed that the VB has registered a case FIR no. 16 in 2023 after unearthing huge scam pertaining to embezzlement of about Rs 137 crores released under the disguise of compensation for said Guava orchards situated on the land acquired for development of Aerotropolis city by acquiring agricultural land pertaining to some villages including village Bakarpur and others situated alongside the Airport Road in SAS Nagar city.

He further added that during the investigation it has came to light that certain beneficiaries/ landowners, who have claimed compensation for fruit bearing trees situated in the name of orchids on their land, were familiar with the concerned officials/ higher-ups of Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA) and were having prior information of the land acquisition as well as the concerned villages, where the land was to be acquired. Moreover, they were also aware that the compensation for trees, including fruit bearing plants, would be assessed separately from the value of the land acquired. Subsequently, these individuals or groups in a preplanned way started purchasing and accumulating the land which was going to be acquired by the Authority with intention to exploit the provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 for their own wrongful gain in connivance with the concerned officials of Revenue Department, Land Acquisition Collector (LAC), GMADA, Horticulture Department etc. causing a huge loss to the state exchequer.

He further informed that  the accused persons in order to influence value assessment of Guava trees, showed the age of plants to be 4 years or more than 4 years, so that such aged trees are considered as fruit yielding. To do so, the accused persons get the Revenue/ Khasra Girdawari Register record pertaining to village Bakarpur for the year 2016-17 and tampered with the help of accused revenue Patwari Bachittar Singh and got mentioned in the record that Guava trees were planted since year 2016.

The spokesperson added that under the above said Act, determination of the age and category of fruit-bearing plants is crucial for calculating their market value and this assessment is typically done by horticulture officials.

He further added that detailed survey list pertaining to fruit bearing trees attached with the land under acquisition of village Bakarpur and other villages was prepared and further sent by LAC, GMADA to the Director Horticulture department for determination of market value of said Guava trees.

That, the land under acquisition falls in the jurisdiction of Block- Kharar of the Horticulture Department, where accused Jaspreet Singh Sidhu was posted as HDO at Dera Bassi. However, assessment work of these villages was given to him by his higher authorities without giving any reason/ justification.

That, fruit trees said to be present on about 180 acres of land were required to be evaluated by JS Sidhu, HDO, whereas, he had visited the land under acquisition only once for inspection/ evaluation and had managed to prepare assessment report pertaining to total 207 khasra numbers mentioned separately in the survey list of the LAC, GMADA.

Moreover, he was found to have obtained photocopies of khasra Girdawari record, wherein, over writing/ addition/alteration to mention guava orchard was clearly visible with the naked eye, however, he deliberately ignored these facts and proceeds to prepare tailor made assessment report evaluating 4-5 years of age of said plants.

Giving more details the spokesperson informed that the VB has so far arrested total 21 accused persons including beneficiaries and public servants namely, JS Johal, LAC, Vaishali, HDO, Bachitar Singh, Patwari etc. Eventually, some beneficiaries were given anticipatory bails in lieu of their offer to deposit 100 percent of compensation amount by the High Court and other accused have also started availing parity.

Subsequently, the VB has approached Supreme Court of India challenging the bail orders of the High Court and after considering the facts Supreme Court has issued notices to the accused respondents.

The High Court has ordered various accused beneficiaries to deposit total amount of Rs 72.36 crores out of which Rs 43.72 Crores have been deposited as on date.

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