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BMIC: probe reveals excess land was acquired

Krishnaprasad

— File Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

The Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor project has been hit by controversies.

Bangalore: A preliminary inquiry by the Lokayukta into certain irregularities in acquisition of land for the controversial Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor (BMIC) project has now revealed that at least 1,100 acres of private land around Bangalore was acquired in excess in violation of the framework agreement.

The final scrutiny note, prepared by the Additional Registrar (Enquiries-1) after conducting a preliminary inquiry, and approved by Lokayukta N. Santosh Hegde on April 18, also reveals that the verification of records suggest manipulation of figures by the bureaucrats regarding the extent of land to be acquired as well as the extent of land for which stamp duty exemption was required to be given while allowing the project developer to sell the permitted extent of land in the five townships.

All these land was acquired in favour of the private company, Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises (NICE), which is executing the project on build, own, operate and transfer basis. Preliminary inquiry was conducted based on a complaint by Nagabhushana M.

In the scrutiny note, the Lokayukta has expressed the view that a proper investigation is required of all these issues but desisted from conducting a full-fledged investigation stating that these aspects have to be challenged before the Karnataka High Court in view of the fact that all questions related to land in respect of BMIC project are being decided by the High Court only.

“Though the complaint has shown prima facie that the steps taken in the process of acquisition of private land by giving 100 per cent stamp duty exemption are not proper, these questions cannot be taken up for investigation by this institution as they have to be agitated before the High Court,” states the scrutiny note, a copy of which is with The Hindu.

With respect to granting 100 per cent stamp duty exemption in favour of NICE for selling land in the townships, the inquiry disclosed that the Cabinet in November 2000 approved 100 per cent stamp duty exemption only for 5,850 acres of land out of the 13,237 acres earmarked for the five townships.

However, the extent of land to which 100 per cent stamp duty exemption was to be given was increased to 14,237 acres through a notification merely based on approval of a note by the then Chief Minister in September 2002 and the Cabinet is yet to ratify it. Whether such a notification without ratification of the Cabinet has any force in law is the question raised by the Lokayukta. Moreover, it was found during inquiry that the stamp duty to be exempted was Rs. 56 crore for 5,850 acres and it had come down by Rs. 2 crore even when extent of land was increased.

“It is surprising how the value of stamp duty could come down when the extent of land is increased.

It may suggest manipulation of figures by bureaucrats as contended by the complainant,” the scrutiny note has said.

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