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HC taps govt on Vadra

- Centre’s views sought on PIL for probe

Lucknow, Oct. 11: The Lucknow Bench of Allahabad High Court today sought the Centre’s reply on whether it should admit a public interest litigation seeking a government probe into the charges levelled recently against Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra.

The Centre has three weeks to state its views on the petitioner’s claims and any arguments it may have against the petition’s maintainability, after which the court will decide whether to admit the petition. The next hearing is on November 21.

The plea was filed on Tuesday by Lucknow-based writer and RTI activist Nutan Thakur, who happens to be the wife of an IAS officer in the Uttar Pradesh government. Both husband and wife are members of the Institute for Research and Documentation in Social Sciences here, which spearheaded the Right to Information movement in Lucknow.

“The petition has sought a direction from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) for an inquiry on the allegations levelled against Vadra by Arvind Kejriwal relating to financial deals between Vadra and DLF,” Thakur’s counsel Asok Pande said.

India Against Corruption leaders Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan had alleged last week that realty major DLF had sweetened land and financial deals for Vadra in exchange for favours from the Congress governments in Haryana, Delhi and Rajasthan. Vadra, DLF and the Haryana government have denied the charges.

Thakur has sought a probe by the income-tax department, enforcement directorate or any other appropriate authority.

Ashoke Nigam, additional solicitor-general, told the division bench of Justices Uma Nath Singh and Virendra Kumar Dixit that Thakur’s petition did not have much merit and would have no relevance after the Centre filed its reply.

In a quirk of history, a different bench of Allahabad High Court had been at the centre of a landmark case relating to the Nehru-Gandhi family that changed the course of Indian history 37 years ago.

Raj Narain, who had lost the contest for Rae Bareli to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the 1971 general election, had moved the high court’s original bench in Allahabad city, 200km from here, alleging electoral malpractices by the victor.

On June 12, 1975, Justice Jagmohan Lal Sinha found the Prime Minister guilty in a landmark judgment that declared her election invalid and barred her from contesting for six years. Days later, she declared a state of emergency.

Thakur today issued a media release saying that before she filed the petition, she had sent a representation to the Prime Minister citing Kejriwal’s allegations.

“I had said in the representation that despite specific denials by the DLF company and Robert Vadra... some of the basic questions remain completely unanswered and the people of this country have the right to know them,” she said, adding that the PMO did not reply.

Jaitley probe call

Rajya Sabha Opposition leader Arun Jaitley has asked for a probe into Robert Vadra’s transactions to “determine whether they are bonafide transactions or favours”.

“The manner in which senior ministers of the (UPA) government have jumped to defend the indefensible commercial transactions of a member of the Congress’s first family indicates that the current controversy is being utilised to display loyalty rather than to enforce probity,” he said, without naming Vadra.

Jaitley agreed that politically connected persons could not be prevented from running a business but said that “where windfall gains are monumental and investment is miniscule”, a probe was necessary.

The call was the first from a senior BJP leader.