Robert Vadra: Seven reasons why #VadraNailed is fail

The CAG doesn't even mention Robert Vadra. It merely laments that the regulations weren't strict enough.

 |  6-minute read |   26-03-2015
  • ---
    Total Shares

With the recent report of the CAG tabled in the Haryana Assembly, allegations against Robert Vadra have once again surfaced. But much more is being made out in the media, particularly by the BJP, on what really this report says. Here are the facts sifted from the web of fiction.

Myth 1: The CAG report "nails" Robert Vadra:

Fact: In the 166 page CAG report, there are just a handful of references to M/s Skylight Hospitality Private Ltd along with other firms. There is not a single reference to Robert Vadra. And in every reference to Skylight, the report doesn't speak of it breaking any laws or regulations or using illegal means to influence any policy, politician or bureaucrat but about a general situation of helplessness where the rules and regulations could have been stricter in hindsight. Such homilies are now being spun by some in the media as "proof" to nail Vadra. Well, had Robert Vadra been the chief minister of Haryana perhaps we could have held him guilty of continuing with an allegedly poor policy. But how can a private businessman be held accountable for the legislature and executive failing to have a foolproof policy?

Myth 2: Vadra was a "special" case due to his links to the Gandhi family:

Fact: Was Skylight the only developer to benefit? No. So that in itself tells us how misleading the spin is about Vadra being a "special case". For instance the CAG report shows norms were relaxed or not clearly laid down due to which several private players benefitted and some of them to a much greater extent than Skylight. As on March 2008, 9 firms had applied for 14 commercial licenses. Skylight had applied for one license whereas some like M/s Picaddily Hotels Pvt Ltd and M/s A& D Estates Private Ltd. had applied for two and five licenses respectively. If Vadra's Skylight fit the existing norms and one could argue that these norms could have been tighter or more specific in hindsight, how can he be faulted for getting one license that Skylight legitimately applied for? Is it our argument that merely because Robert Vadra is related to the Gandhi family he does not have the right to do business as per the norms that exist for everybody else?

Still do not take my word for this. Here is what the Supreme court said to bust myth number two when a Public Interest Litigation against Vadra on the very same contention was filed "In the name of the PIL, we will not allow you to destroy the name of a person. Merely because someone is linked to a politician, he can't be called as sinner."

If that isn't enough here is what the Allahabad High Court stated in March 2013 while dismissing a similar petition: It further added that the "petition is driven by a desire for publicity and seems to be actuated by political considerations rather than public interest. We are thus not inclined to entertain this Public Interest Litigation.. there is absolutely no merit and hence it deserves to be dismissed while recording a note of caution against filing of such petitions."

Myth 3: Robert Vadra was "gifted" land by Haryana government:

Fact: Not an inch of government land was given to Robert Vadra. The land deal, involving Skylight, touted to be "controversial", took place between two private entities. Not a single inch of land in the state was sold to Vadra by the Hooda government unlike the benevolence shown by Modi's government in Gujarat which "gifted" over 9,000 hectares of land, at throwaway prices, to one particular business group.

Myth 4: Robert Vadra has committed a crime:

Fact: No the CAG report doesn't say so at all. One of the allegations made is that Skylight violated area norms for setting up of commercial colony. But the same CAG report says that "there were no clearly laid down norms regarding assessment of two acres and whether this was inclusive or of roads and green belt." So the question remains how did the CAG itself assess that Skylight's net area for commercial license was just 1.351 acres? If one were to subtract 0.83 acres which fell in the residential area of the 3.531 acre area applied, you find Skylight fulfils the area norm of two acres with a net area of 2.701 acres.

Another example from the CAG report is that Skylight got the license without being financially adequate. Now just after the CAG report makes that imputation, it contradicts itself by saying that admittedly, that there were no specific parameters to ascertain the capital adequacy and robustness of firms applying for licenses. It also admits that the appraisal was ad hoc and varied. It then also compliments the state government for resolving this situation in 2012 by issuing certain instructions on financial adequacy.

Myth 5: Robert Vadra got rich quick:

Fact: A very famous anchor, who operates under the false and often misplaced notions of knowing what the "nation wants to know" declared that Vadra had made a staggering profit by selling the land for which Skylight had acquired a commercial license. What he did not mention was that the CAG report highlighted that while Skylight sold its property at 7.73 times the cost as per the CAG report, others had managed to sell their lands at 303 and 880 times the cost. Yes, all these companies perhaps made a profit. But isn't that the objective of doing business- be it in Gujarat or Haryana? Should Vadra have been making a loss at a sale because he is related to the Gandhis?

Myth 6: Loss of thousands of crores was caused to the exchequer:

Fact: All that the CAG report says is that few developers earned profit of Rs 215.21 crore over a cost of Rs 52.26 crore on sale of land. Mind you, stamp duty and other taxes would have been paid on this profit and evaluation to the government. So now the question really is that are private profits going to be looked upon as losses to the government? The PIL before the Delhi chief justice had the same arguments. It alleged that several licences were issued to developers and builders for turning 21,366 acres of agricultural land into colonies without complying with the statutory and that this decision caused a "serious financial loss of Rs 3.9 lakh crore" to the exchequer.

The petition was dismissed. Surely, the Delhi High Court verdict, if it was found to be unacceptable by the Centre, it could have appealed against it. It did not.

Myth 7: The CAG report has provided fresh ammunition to act against Robert Vadra:

Fact: Prior to the general elections, the BJP and its spokespersons claimed that they had all the evidence to move against Robert Vadra's illegal land deal. Despite being in power in the Centre for ten months, in Rajasthan for 15 odd months and in Haryana for a few months, no action has been initiated except for regurgitating old facts and orchestrating a hit jobs in the media. In fact, it has been submitted to the Delhi high court that a representation on the very same Robert Vadra land deal had been made to CBI under Modi's government, but it neither registered an FIR nor lodged even a preliminary enquiry in the case. Eventually, a case may ultimately be registered, out of political motives, in Haryana on some flimsy grounds and it does not take much to lodge an FIR by the police at the behest of the state government. But in absence of any criminality or illegality, one wonders if that would stand the test of law and morality.

Whether this strategy of political witch-hunt will pay off in the long run? Past experience says it won't. 

Writer

Shehzad Poonawalla Shehzad Poonawalla @shehzad_ind

Formerly served with ministry of parliamentary affairs, Govt of India. He is a lawyer, civil rights activist and a Congress party supporter. Views are personal.

Like DailyO Facebook page to know what's trending.