PIL in SC accuses PM Modi of corrupt electoral practice

Written by SabrangIndia | Published on: April 15, 2019

A petition filed by Saket Gokhale in the Supreme Court today alleges that the non-disclosure of ownership of a sizeable plot of land in Gandhginagar by Narenda Modi in his affidavits filed between 2012 and 2017 amounts to a “corrupt electoral practice”

 Modi and jaitley
 Image Courtesy: Sonu Mehta/HT PFile Photo

In a historic judgement, the Supreme Court, had, in February 2018 (Lok Prahari  vs Union Of India on 16 February, 2018) passed in writ petition 784/2015, the  Supreme Court bench of Justice Chelameshwar issued an order had observed:

“2. declare that non disclosure of assets and sources of income of self, spouse and dependents by a candidate would amount to undue influence and thereby, corruption and as such election of such a candidate can be declared null and void under Section 100(1)(b) of the RP Act of 1951 in terms of the judgment reported in AIR 2015 SC 1921.”
In a petition filed before the Supreme Court today, Mumbai-based Saket Gokhale, a former journalist,  has alleged that prime minister Narendra Modi, who will shortly file nominations for the 2019 polls, is guilty of “corrupt practices for intentionally hiding the land asset of Plot 411, Sector 1, Gandhinagar, Gujarat in all his affidavits from 2012 to 2017. The detailed petition states that in earlier affidavits of Modi when he was chief minister, Gujarat, the land asset had been declared as owned by him. The petition filed today prays for a court-monitored SIT be instituted to investigate the irreguralities associated with Plot 411, Sector 1, Gandhinagar.
Facts of the Case as stated in the petition filed today:
  • On October 25, 2002, Gujarat CM Narendra Modi was allotted land by the Govt of Gujarat at Plot 411, Sector 1, Gandhinagar. The said land was purchased by him for Rs. 1,30,488 (1.3 lakhs approx). (SourceModi’s 2007 Gujarat Assembly Elections affidavit. Annexure 1).
  • On May 7, 2003, Rajya Sabha MP and then Law Minister Arun Jaitley was alloted Plot number 401, Sector 1, Gandhinagar by the Gujarat Government. He bought it for Rs. 1,30,000 (SourceJaitley’s 2006 Rajya Sabha affidavit. Annexure 2
  • Both these plots were allotted under Rule K4 which states that the property cannot be sold or transferred or gifted without permission of the District Collector. 
  •  In Jaitley’s 2017 Rajya Sabha affidavit, he has allegedly changed the address of the SAME property from 401, Sector 1, Gandhinagar to 401/A, Sector 1, Gandhinagar (SourceAnnexure 3
  • Also, while Jaitley’s 2006 affidavit listed 401, Sector 1 Gandhinagar as his sole ownership, it changed to 1/4th joint ownership in his 2017 affidavit (SourceAnnexure 3
  • In his 2014 Lok Sabha affidavit, Narendra Modi does NOT mention Plot 411, Sector 1 in his assets at all which he had declared in 2007. Instead, he declared 1/4th ownership in Plot 401/A, Sector 1 (which is alleged in the petition to be the same property as Jaitley). In essence, Modi fully owned Plot 411 in according to the declaration made in his 2007 Gujarat Assembly Elections affidavit. Jaitley fully owned plot 401 according to the declaration in his 2006 Rajya Sabha elections affidavit.
  • But in 2014, Modi dropped any mention of Plot 411. Land records today (in the possession of the petitioner)  however, still show Plot 411 listed under the name of Narendra Modi. (SourceAnnexure 4
  • PM Modi, in all his affidavits post 2012, has declared the size of his 1/4 share in Plot 401/A as 3531.45 sq. ft. He has declared the market value of this as “Rs. 1 crore plus”. However, he has allegedly not declared his full ownership of Plot 411 measuring the same size which also amounts to 1 crore plus.
  • Personal visits to the site and satellite images confirm that plots 401, 403, 404, 405, 406, 407, 408, 409, 410, and 411 have all been combined together into a single compound (SourceAnnexure 5)
 The petitioner believes that this is not just a case of hiding assets on an election affidavit but also, prima facie, is a "corrupt practice"" by an elected representative who is the former CM of Gujarat and now the Prime Minister of India. The petitition alleges that this also points to an organized capture of public land against all due process 
In an election affidavit filed in 2007, Modi declared that he was the sole owner of Plot 411, in Sector 1, Gandhinagar, in Gujarat. Mentions of this plot are, however, missing from Modi’s subsequent election affidavits—filed in 2012 and 2014—and declarations he has made on the official prime minister’s website every year since he was appointed to the post. Publicly available land records state that Modi is the present and sole owner of Plot 411.
In an election affidavit filed in 2007, Modi declared that he was the sole owner of Plot 411, in Sector 1, Gandhinagar, in Gujarat. Mentions of this plot are, however, missing from Modi’s subsequent election affidavits—filed in 2012 and 2014—and declarations he has made on the official prime minister’s website every year since he was appointed to the post. Publicly available land records state that Modi is the present and sole owner of Plot 411.

The petition has been filed against the state of Gujarat, the Election Commission of India and prime minister, Narendra Modi. It states, amongst other things that,
It is respectfully submitted that the Respondent No.3 who holds a high executive office has a duty to set the highest standards of fairness probity and transparency in life. By hiding details of his assets and by misrepresentation, the Respondent No.3 is not only guilty of filing false affidavit but has also created a prima facie doubt about the veracity of information about him especially information about his assets. Consequently, the Respondent No.3 has violated the sacrosanct right of the voters/citizens of making an informed choice of the candidate to represent the constituency in the legislature on the basis of true and current information.”

The affidavits and public declarations
Gandhinagar’s Sector 1, comprised of swathes of government-owned land, is a prime locality in the state capital—aside from the prime minister and the finance minister, owners of plots in this area include the BJP president Amit Shah and his predecessor, the former law minister Jana Krishnamurthi, who died in 2007.

In 2007, ahead of assembly elections in Gujarat, Modi filed an affidavit with the election commission declaring that he was the sole owner of Plot 411 in Sector 1. Modi listed the area of the plot as 326.22 square metres, and the cost of its purchase as Rs 1.3 lakh. Based on the market rates prevailing in Gandhinagar, this plot is presently worth about Rs 1.18 crore. Modi, then the chief minister of Gujarat, declared in his affidavit that he had spent Rs 30,363 to construct on the land. Modi’s subsequent land declarations, however, do not tally with the details he declared in 2007, nor with public land records.

Modi next filed an election affidavit in 2012, when Gujarat went to polls again. Plot 411 is absent from this affidavit. Modi instead listed the plot “401/A,” and declared himself a quarter owner. He listed the area of his share of the plot as 326.11 square metres. This declaration is not supported by the land records accessed by The Caravan, which did not have any records of sales or transfer for Plot 411, and still show Modi as its current owner. His next affidavit was filed ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. This affidavit, too, does not mention Plot 411. It lists “Plot 401/A,” with details that match his 2012 affidavit.

Each year since he became prime minister, Modi and his cabinet ministers have declared their assets and liabilities on the prime minister’s official website, PMINDIA. In each declaration between 2014 and 2018, Modi declared that he owns one-fourth of “401/A.” He listed the area of the plot as 14,125.80 square feet—1,312.3 square metres, which is approximately four times the size of the standard plots in Sector 1. Modi listed his share as 3531.45 square feet—equaling 328.08 square metres. He noted that he invested Rs 2.4 lakh on construction on the plot. The value of his share of the land, according to the declarations, is approximately Rs 1 crore.

The Caravan reports that in 2012, while the Supreme Court was hearing an appeal regarding land allotments to government servants in Gujarat, Meenakshi Lekhi, a Bharatiya Janata Party leader who was then the counsel for the state, submitted to the apex court that the Gujarat government had not made any fresh land allotments since the year 2000. Modi was first appointed the chief minister of Gujarat in 2001, and entered the legislative assembly in February 2002, after he won a by-election in the state’s Rajkot-II constituency.

The petition (a copy of which is available with Sabrangindia recounts that, in a suo-moto case challenging the Gujarat government resolutions of 1999 and 2000 remained pending for years. Meanwhile, in 2010, Maulin Barot, a young advocate, filed a new writ petition before the Gujarat high court, challenging the allotment of plots under the government resolutions. But the court dismissed Barot’s petition, ruling that his petition contained “no specific allegation of illegal allotment” and disclosed “no public interest.” Two years later, Barot appealed the high court’s dismissal before the Supreme Court. In November 2012, the apex court directed the Gujarat high court to dispose of the suo moto case “as expeditiously as possible.”

The court added, “We, however, direct that till the High Court disposes of the Suo Motu action, no further allotments or permission to transfer the plots already allotted under the Government Resolutions in question, would be granted without the leave of the High Court.” It was in this order that the court recorded an important assertion by the state government’s counsel—the advocate and BJP leader Meenakshi Lekhi—that the state government “has not made any afresh allotments after the year 2000” and that the entire procedure for allotments was being re-examined.

In August 2017, the suo-moto case before the Gujarat high court remained pending as one judge after the other recused themselves from the hearing, prompting the Supreme Court to transfer the case to itself, and hear it together with Barot’s appeal. The cases are still pending before the apex court.

The court tussle over the alleged irregularities in land allotment meant that between 2001 and 2012, government employees who were alloted land in Gandhinagar would have been allowed to sell or transfer their plots, albeit with the government’s permission. Following the Supreme Court’s orders, after 2012, any sale or transfer would have required the permission of the high court. Revenue-department records for the plots in Sector 1, Gandhinagar, also show that these are governed by “K-4”—a government directive stating that sale or transfer of these plots can only take place with the permission of the district collector.

This raises several questionsif Modi, who was not a government employee until 2001 and not an MLA until 2002, was not alloted this government land, did he purchase it? What happened then to Plot 411, and how was “Plot 401/A” acquired? Did the collector grant clearances for these actions?

Caravan’s on ground Investigation into the matter may be read here :