HP high court appoints counsel for RTI activist in Priyanka Vadra’s land purchase deal case

HP high court appoints counsel for RTI activist in Priyanka Vadra’s land purchase deal case

Shimla, February 6: The High Court of Himachal Pradesh on Saturday appointed a counsel for RTI activist into Priyanka Vadra’s land purchase deal case. Notably, the high court has appointed a senior advocate, R.K. Bawa as petitioner’s counsel along with an assistant, Jevan so that the case could be brought to a logical conclusion.

Earlier in September 2016, the activist expressed his inability to represent any of the counsel before the court. The activist stated that because of the fear Gandhi family no advocate from Himachal Pradesh came ahead to take the case. Moreover, the RTI activist stated that he was not kept informed even regarding the appointment of the counsel and he had to file an RTI to obtain the information. Earlier, the Public Relation Officer of HP High Court, who was alleged of leaking court order prior to the official date was also given clean chit without any proper inquiry, activist alleged.

Still the court directed the activist to produce a counsel or otherwise, the case will be concluded in next hearing. But now activist’s plea seeking counsel is finally accepted by the high court. It is worth noting that the senior counsel Bawa has served as the General Attorney during the regime of former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for March 2017.

RTI activist Dev Ashish Bhattacharya had filed an RTI application in 2014 seeking the details of land purchased by Priyanka Vadra in Charabra, about 13 km from capital city Shimla. But he was denied information by the district administration of Shimla. The denial of release of information by the administration was challenged by the activist in his first appeal to the Chief Information Commissioner of Himachal Pradesh.

However, the Commissioner found the denial unlawful and immediately ordered the district administration to provide the sought information to the applicant under RTI Act, 2005 within 10 days. But Priyanka anyhow managed to obtain a stay on the order and since then the case remains in the court.

Interestingly, the sought information by activist included relaxation given to Priyanka under Section 118 of the Himachal Pradesh Land and Tenancy Act 1972.  This particular section prohibits the sale of land to people who are not residents of Himachal. There is only one exception to this rule via which it allows the sale to an outsider for the purely agricultural purpose.  However, Priyanka built a beautiful Bungalow on the purchased land.

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