Wednesday, 22 August 2018 | PNS | Dehradun —
Though the bureaucracy based in Uttarakhand has got stirred after the Special Investigation Team (SIT) – constituted to unearth the National Highway – 74 scam- questioned two officers of the elite Indian Administrative Services (IAS), observers say that it would be difficult for SIT to implicate the duo, given the twisty nature of the Rs 300 crore scam.
SIT is believed to have trained its focus on the role played by the two IAS officers-Pankaj Kumar Pandey and Chandresh Kumar Yadav- then district magistrates of Udham Singh Nagar district, as arbitrators in the disputed cases relating to acquisition of land by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) for broadening NH- 74. The experts opine that though ‘the right to fair compensation and transparency in land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement act- 213 (amended in 2015) is clear that the compensation should be based on the prevailing market rates of the land meant for acquisition there is no definite mechanism to determine the market rate and it is thus difficult to challenge the award of the arbitrator.
Prior to the acquisition of the land, the Special Land Acquisition Officer (SLAO) does the necessary surveys and decides a certain rate per square metre for compensation. If not satisfied by the rate of compensation decided by SLAO, both the land owner and the land acquirer (NHAI in this case) have the right to challenge it in the court of arbitrator. In fact, the award of the arbitrator can also be challenged in the court of law. It is interesting to note that in the NH- 74 case, most of the arbitrations done have been pending in the court. It is learnt that both the IAS officers in their explanations submitted to the government have highlighted the fact that since their awards as arbitrators have been pending in the courts no compensation has been given in most of the cases and there is thus no possibility of any irregularity. The experts believe that the SIT can follow the money trail and proceed to unearth the case. But that too appears a difficult task, they say.
The IAS association has also thrown its weight behind the two IAS officers. It is believed to have conveyed its anguish on the free hand given to the SIT headed by an officer of Indian Police Service (IPS) on the issue. The association has also sought time for a meeting with the state chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat to explain things.
Meanwhile to complicate things further for the government, additional arbitrator R C Pathak has expressed his inability to continue with the task assigned to him. Pathak, a retired IAS officer, was appointed by the state government in June this year to expedite the pending cases of arbitrations in the NH- 74 land acquisition.
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