Jammu and Kashmir Assembly Speaker Nirmal Singh and his wife Mamata have dismissed reports that they violated rules in building a house next to an Army ammunition depot in Nagrota. Nirmal Singh called the Army’s objection to the construction “politically motivated”, while Mamata Singh said on Sunday she was open to investigation. The house being constructed is in her name.

On Saturday, The Indian Express reported that top Bharatiya Janata Party leaders in the state, including Nirmal Singh, had bought 12 acres of land next to the Army’s ammunition depot in Nagrota through a company in 2014. An Army officer wrote to Nirmal Singh on March 19 that a house he was building on a 2,000-sq-metre plot on that land was illegal and was a security threat.

Nirmal Singh was the deputy chief minister of the state when the letter was written. The commander of the Army’s 16 Corps, Lieutenant General Saranjeet Singh, had written the letter.

The Army’s letter to him had cited the Works of Defence Act, a central government notification from 2002, and a state government notification from 2015 to state that the construction activity within 1,000 yards of the boundary wall of the ammunition depot was prohibited. Nirmal Singh’s under-construction building is about 580 yards from the depot, the letter said. The Army has moved the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, reported The New Indian Express.

‘Being singled out’

On Sunday, Mamata Singh told reporters that the family had not violated any rules and had started construction only after getting permission from authorities, PTI reported. “It is private land in my name and the issue will be decided by the court,” she said. “Please don’t lend ear to the rumours. We are nationalists and can never say anything against Army. Visit the place and investigate on your own and you will come to know about the real position.”

Nirmal Singh told NDTV: “The issue is politically motivated and I am being singled out when there are many houses in the vicinity of the army installation.”

Speaking to The Indian Express on Saturday, Nirmal Singh had said: “I have no legal binding that I cannot do the construction. What the Army is claiming, it is their view and not binding on me.’’ He said he had the right to use his property the way he wanted, and the Army could not encroach on this right. He had got the plan of his house approved, he said.

Company’s bad loans

Meanwhile, it has emerged that the company through which the BJP leaders bought the land next to the Army establishment has defaulted on loans given by Jammu and Kashmir Bank, The Indian Express reported on Monday. The bank declared the Rs 29.31 crore owed by the company as non-performing assets in December.

The company, Himgiri Infrastructure Development Limited, was incorporated in 2000. Kavinder Gupta, now the deputy chief minister, Nirmal Singh, and BJP MP Jugal Kishore are shareholders in the company. Until recently, Nirmal Singh held the power ministry – a sector that the company has interests in.