FORMER HARYANA Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda Thursday failed in his bid to get the Punjab and Haryana High Court to issue an order restraining The Economic Times from purportedly publishing the contents of the Justice S N Dhingra report on alleged irregularities in allotment of land licences in Gurgaon.
Hooda withdrew his plea after the court said it had no jurisdiction in the matter.
Among the deals scrutinised by the Dhingra Commission were those related to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra, his company Skylight Hospitality and real estate major DLF.
On September 1, 2016, The Indian Express had reported that the Dhingra Commission, constituted by the Haryana government in May 2015 to probe grant of commercial licences in four villages of Gurgaon to real estate companies, including M/s Skylight Hospitality, had found “gross procedural irregularities in allotment of licences”.
Hours after the court turned down Hooda’s plea, Vadra’s wife Priyanka Gandhi Vadra issued a statement that the source of funds for the land she bought and sold in Faridabad “has no relationship whatsoever with Shri Robert Vadra’s finances and/or Skylight Hospitality and no relationship whatsoever with DLF.”
Hooda, the Congress leader from Rohtak, is being probed by the state vigilance department and CBI for allegedly manipulating land allotment rules and regulations in Gurgaon during his two consecutive-term tenure as chief minister from 2005-2014.
In his report, Justice Dhingra, sources said, indicted certain senior officials who were posted in the Town and Country Planning (T&CP) department and the office of the Chief Minister and recommended registration of FIRs against officials in some cases of grant of commercial licences.
However, before the state government could table the report in Vidhan Sabha — a mandatory requirement under Commission of Inquiry Act — Hooda approached the high court challenging the constitution of the commission.
Responding to Hooda’s plea, Haryana Advocate General Baldev Raj Mahajan repeatedly gave undertakings in court that the report’s contents would not be made public. The court subsequently ordered an interim stay and barred the the state government from releasing the report.
In Thursday’s plea, Hooda’s counsel stated: “It has also been reliably learnt that a newspaper i.e. Economic Times… is going to publish tomorrow a news item based upon and containing contents of the Commission of Inquiry Report dated 31.08.2016, publication of which has already been restrained on the categoric assurance of the learned Advocate General, Haryana.”
The press release issued by Priyanka Gandhi’s office stated: “Six years prior to the purported “land deal involving Skylight Hospitality” on April 28, 2006, Smt. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra purchased 40 Kanal 00 Marla (5 acres) of agricultural land in Village Amipur, Tehsil Faridabad, District Faridabad in Haryana.
“The land was purchased for a total purchase price of Rs 15,00,000 paid for entirely by cheque, which is the equivalent of Rs 3,00,000 per acre. The source of funds for the aforesaid purchase was rental income of Smt. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra from property inherited by her from her grandmother Smt. Indira Gandhi. The source of funds for this or any other property acquired by Smt. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has no relationship whatsoever with Shri Robert Vadra’s finances and/or Skylight Hospitality and no relationship whatsoever with DLF.”
“…Smt. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra resold the said land to the original vendor pursuant to a right of first refusal on February 17, 2010 (four years later) for a sale price of Rs 80,00,000 entirely by cheque which is the equivalent of Rs 16,00,000 (Rupees Sixteen Lacs) per acre and was the prevailing market rate at that time.”
Last year, The Indian Express had reported that the Dhingra Commission is said to have cited several instances of approvals and plans being changed to benefit builders. “In many cases, real estate companies were allowed to get revised plans approved while in some cases, the policy was changed to grant benefit to the chosen companies. The files show a clear pattern of senior officers in the office of the previous Chief Minister (Bhupinder Singh Hooda) writing on file,” sources said.
Sources said the files perused by the Commission showed that master plans were changed — in some cases, more than once — to allegedly benefit companies. The Commission also found instances of the government sitting on files seeking grant of licences for unusually long periods.