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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Ex-Minister Rather’s son claims Nirmal Singh’s JMC issued permission to Paradise Avenue

‘Man masquerading as RTI activist demanded Rs 30 lakh from my firm. We recorded his 40 phone calls. This mafia’s hand can be behind the blackmailing drive’

State Times News


JAMMU, Dec 13: Former Finance Minister and senior National Conference leader Abdul Rahim Rather’s businessman son Hilal Ahmad Rather on Tuesday claimed that a story about Jammu Municipal Corporation’s “illegal permission”, as carried in a Jammu-based newspaper, was “completely baseless” and possibly the handiwork of a blackmailing mafia that attempted an extortion of Rs 30 lakh from him and his partners earlier this year. Disputing the ‘facts’ given in the story point-by-point with his documentary evidences, the real estate entrepreneur claimed that the revised permission to hundreds of flats in his 13-floor blocks at Narwal Bala, christened as Paradise Avenue, had been issued by JMC when none other than the BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh was Minister of Housing and Urban Development in the year 2015.

As quoted by the daily, Nirmal Singh has alleged that the building permission to Paradise Avenue construction had been found “illegal” and the matter was being referred either to Crime Branch or to State Vigilance Organisation for criminal investigation. The daily has claimed that the permission had been granted by the “NC loyalist” Kiren Watal when he functioned as Commissioner JMC during Omar Abdullah’s NC-Congress government.

“It is a fact that the building permission was issued during the NC-Congress government in December 2013 in which my father was a Minister. But, there was never a political intervention. We fulfilled all the legal and procedural formalities. We obtained NOCs from all the concerned departments. Revenue Department verified the titles of the land. JDA gave in writing it was not its land or jurisdiction. Even BDO concerned issued his permission. JMC scrutinised everything. Thereafter, we deposited the fees and the building permission was duly issued by JMC. However, when the PDP-BJP regime took over in March 2015, JMC officials working under the new Housing Minister’s control approached us with the plea that the year 2013 permission would have to be scrutinised afresh. They checked and verified the documents and found everything in place. Thereafter, JMC, under Deputy CM’s control, issued the revised building permission on April 29, 2015”, Hilal revealed at a press conference.

“If the Housing Minister still wants FIR to be registered and this case assigned to Crime Branch and Vigilance, we welcome it. We have everything in place and nothing to worry about. But we alone won’t be in the dock. Housing Minister (Nirmal Singh) will be there too as the JMC under him issued the revised permission when none other than the same man was the Housing Minister”, Hilal asserted, while producing to mediapersons all the NOCs issued and both the building permissions---one issued during Omar Abdullah’s government and another during Mufti Sayeed’s government in which Dr Nirmal Singh functioned as Minister incharge Housing, Urban Development and Power.

“It smacks of political vendetta and targets me only for being an ex-Minister’s son. Behind this well-orchestrated vilification campaign, I also suspect the hand of a blackmailing mafia. I fail to understand how a reputed newspaper has been taken for a ride and how the baseless story has been published without attempting to take our version”, Hilal said at a time when Jammu is abuzz with reports and rumours alleging that a Minister of Mehbooab Mufti’s government extorted an amount of Rs 13 crore from an MLC of his own party for the permission granted to construction of luxury flats around the heritage site of Amar Mahal and close to Raj Bhawan.

 While playing a recorded telephonic conversation, in which two unidentified persons settle a deal over a huge amount to be extorted from the Simula partners, Hilal claimed that a blackmailer in the guise of an RTI activist recently attempted to extort an amount of Rs 30 lakh from his firm. He claimed that his firm had recording of 40 phone calls in which so-called RTI activists demanded money from every partner of his firm in exchange for not publishing the information and documents they had purportedly obtained through RTI application.

The conversation played at the press conference makes it clear that an RTI activist settles a deal with an employee of Hilal’s firm. “We two will take 30% each and your share will be 40%”, says a person about himself and another RTI activist and the employee of Hilal’s firm who seems to have trapped the two RTI activists.

“We will produce this entire documentary evidence to the criminal investigation and press for legal action against these blackmailers. We have no weaknesses, no irregularities that would force us surrender or succumb to any sort of blackmailing”, Hilal Rather asserted.

Hilal, who is a Bachelor of Technology from the prestigious Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani, admitted that a ‘gair mumkin khud’, consisting of 99 kanals of land existed on a part of his society. He, however, revealed that his permission had been issued and the construction had started over a year before J&K High Court banned constructions on such lands in July 2014.

“Honourable High Court is adjudicating on this issue. Let us have faith in the judiciary and wait for the judgment. How can someone in the government in advance issue a judgment selectively against Hilal Rather with retrospective effect?”, Hilal said. He clarified that even after JMC issued permission in favour of his firm at Narwal Bala and Jammu Development Authority (JDA) gave in writing in the NOC that it was outside its jurisdiction, his firm Simula approached the concerned BDO and also got his permission to the construction.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

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