Land-grab slur on Indian prez spouse

NEW DELHI: Indian President Pratibha Patil’s husband has been accused of illegally procuring land belonging to a farmer in western India, reports said today.

The allegations came to light when a court in the president’s home state of Maharashtra ordered the names of Patil’s husband Devisingh Shekhawat, and five other family, to be struck off the local land records, the Press Trust of India news agency reported. The order came in response to a petition filed by farmer Kishore Bansod, who said the Shekhawats had fraudulently added their names to the title deed of a 3.2 acre site he had refused to sell them.

“The Shekhawats own almost 200 acres in the village and were interested in owning this land too,” Bansod’s lawyer, Sunil Gajbhiye, was quoted as saying by the Hindustan Times newspaper. “My client wasn’t willing to sell the land. So the Shekhawats got it fraudulently transferred in their names.” There was no comment from the president’s secretariat or India’s ruling Congress party which nominated Patil for the post of president in 2007. But Shekhawat rubbished the charges of fraud saying: “The land officers measured the land in a wrong manner and showed it as ours when my father bought it.” This is not the first time Patil has been embarrassed by accusations of corruption. Prior to her appointment as India’s first woman president, she was accused of protecting her brother in a murder probe and shielding her husband in a suicide scandal.

There were also charges of nepotism and

involvement in a slew of financial scams.