Sh. Joginder Singh ji
(Former Director – C.B.I.)
Wherever there is a chance to make money, despite their having bags full of it, some people plunge into such enterprises with gusto and enthusiasm. Hardly any area of life has been left unexplored by scamsters, whether it is the stock market or the housing sector. For those who are greedy, nothing is sufficient. There is enough in the world to meet everybody’s needs but not greed.
Hence, almost anything, which provides an opportunity to make money becomes scam-prone. An eminently sensible and desirable Delhi Development Authority scheme to provide inexpensive housing has given rise to a scam of epic proportions. The draw of lots for 5,238 DDA flats took place December 16 last year. Prices ranged from Rs 7 lakh to Rs 77 lakh, depending on the location and size of the flat.
Soon after the draw of lots, Delhi Police launched investigations after a man who was allotted a flat said he had neither applied for it nor did he have a PAN card. Six persons have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the flat allotment scam, which would not have come to light but for the greed of former DDA employees and some real estate agents who applied for the flats under various categories.
Interestingly, more than five lakh people had applied for these flats, which means that only one in a hundred stood a chance for getting a home of their own in Delhi at less than a third of what private builders would have charged for similar property.
Advance money had to be deposited with the application forms. So the scamsters caught hold of gullible people who thought their money would be doubled within months. So they were inveigled into providing the money for booking the flats. As 1,000 flats had been set aside for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, applicants in this category stood a better chance than the others.
As has been revealed during the investigation, documents were forged in the name of bogus applicants or they were fooled into lending their names and particulars as a consideration for submitting applications in their names. As a result of this scam, or so the charges go, a fairly large number of flats have been bagged by real estate agents using this route.
Like most other agencies of the Government, the DDA does not have either the wherewithal or the means to verify whether the applications for flats are genuine or fake. It is neither practical nor feasible to verify the particulars provided by each applicant, and the scamsters made use of this fact. Some of those who have been arrested had submitted as many as 1,200 applications, ostensibly by those belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes category. Of them, 40 happened to be lucky winners at the draw. The accused invested more than Rs 90 lakh as earnest money that had to be deposited with each application. The money was raised either from banks or taken from individuals who were promised handsome returns.
The resale of DDA flats is not illegal, nor is there any lock-in period during which it cannot be resold. Even if a lock in period is there, documentation of power of attorney can be made, and there ends the issue of resale.
This particular scam was facilitated by the simple law of demand and supply. If adequate housing had been available at reasonable prices, nobody in his right mind would do anything illegal. But the demand for housing far outstrips the supply of affordable flats.
The Delhi Police till now have been investigating the allotment of flats meant for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes which is alleged to have been tainted by some property dealers in connivance with DDA officials. The property dealers had applied for these flats under fictitious names. It is believed the police will also also look into the possibility of fraud in the non-reserved or ‘general’ category also.
There is so much corruption in an organisation like the DDA, there is no way the entire CBI or Delhi Police can tackle it. This is not to suggest that they should stop their investigations but to highlight the point that they should focus on the big fish and make an example of them. There is nothing new about such scams. In May 2008, a Delhi court framed charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act against a former Delhi High Court judge, Mr Shamit Mukherjee, and four others, including the former vice-chairman of DDA, Mr Subhash Sharma, in a land scam case.
The former judge is in the dock for allegedly giving an order favouring a person accused of encroaching on DDA land and was involved in a legal battle with the land-owning agency. According to the CBI, the former judge granted an interim stay in favour of the accused which prevented the DDA from repossessing the encroached land from him.
The CBI chargesheet says that it had short-listed around 100 calls of Mr Mukherjee and other accused to support its allegation that they had abused their official position to extend benefits. Police investigation can only lead to the conviction of the accused, but it cannot end scams.
Every time there is a scam, the Government comes up with the convenient explanation that there has been a ‘system failure’. All Governments and all political parties claim to serve the ‘common man’, but every scam exposes the hollowness of their claim. The plight of the ‘common man’ remains unchanged.
The only way to fight corruption and scams is to have prompt investigation and quick disposal of cases, which appears near impossible with 2.92 crore cases pending in various courts and with sufficient loopholes in the law for the guilty to get away on technical grounds.
The Government should become a facilitator instead of doing everything itself. If the Government becomes the sole supplier of people’s needs, there is no limit to the needs that will be voiced as basic rights. There is in each of us a strong disposition to believe that anything lawful is also legitimate. This belief is so widespread that many people have begun to erroneously believe that things are ‘just’ because the law makes them so. This perception must be reversed.