Army tightens rules to prevent land scams

Thursday, January 27, 2011

NEW DELHI - With a series of land scams staring in its face, the army Thursday said it has tightened rules for grant of no-objection certificates (NOC) to transfer defence real estate to prevent misuse of the system for pecuniary benefits.

Senior officers in the Army Headquarters said here that the army has taken a serious view of the land scams that came to light in the last two years, including the Sukna military station in West Bengal and the Adarsh Housing Society in Mumbai, and overhauled its procedures.

As army chief General V.K. Singh outlined during his press conference in the capital Jan 14, the headquarters has issued guidelines under which all lower level formations would have to seek permission from the command headquarters before any NOC is issued to private parties to get defence land transferred to them.

From now on, the formation commanders would not be allowed to decide on NOCs and it would have to be vetted and approved by their senior commanders.

Also, an in-depth study of the transfer proposals would have to be sent to the higher-ups that would be analysed to ensure the interest of the army was protected in all such transactions.

The measures come in the backdrop of Defence Minister A.K. Antony asking his ministry to tighten the screws on NOCs for defence land and to get all records of real estate under it digitised.

The move comes against he backdrop of the Adarsh Society scam in upscale Colaba area in Mumbai where an army land was transferred to a housing society for construction of a 31-storey apartment building which, according to the navy, posed a security threat to its installations in the vicinity.

The housing society obtained the NOC from lower authorities of the army and defence estates department based in Mumbai and got the land transferred to it, without the knowledge of both the ministry and army headquarters here.

It also allotted flats to former army chiefs Deepak Kapoor and N.C. Vij, former navy chief Madhavendra Singh and a relative of former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan, who lost his job over the controversy.

Two years ago, the army was stung by a 70-acre land scam in Sukna, a military station in Siliguri district of West Bengal.

A army court martial held Lieutenant General P.K. Rath, former commander of 33 Corps, guilty of issuing the NOC for transfer of the Sukna land to a private trust to build an educational institution. He, thereby, became the senior-most serving officer to have been found guilty.

Former Lt.Gen. Avadesh Prakash, who was the military secretary to former general Deepak Kapoor, is awaiting court martial proceedings in the Sukna case.

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