The Enforcement Directorate (ED) Wednesday informed the Punjab and Haryana High Court that former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda “misused his official position” and caused losses worth crores of rupees to the state exchequer when he “illegally re-allotted” a prime plot in 2005 to Congress-linked Associated Journals Limited (AJL), publishers of the National Herald newspaper.
In an affidavit filed in the High Court, ED Deputy Director Surender Kumar Kantiwal said investigations revealed that when Hooda became Chief Minister, he re-allotted the plot in gross violation of existing policy and legal position. The affidavit was filed in response to a petition by AJL chairman and Congress leader Moti Lal Vora who sought quashing of a money laundering case.
According to the ED, the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) and the Financial Commissioner of the Town and Country Planning Department (FCTCP) had advised against re-allotment of the plot in Panchkula to AJL. But Hooda “in order to show favour to petitioner” bypassed recommendations of both government departments, the agency said.
“The investigation has revealed that Sh Bhupinder Singh Hooda, the then CM, was desperate enough to extend favour to the petitioner (Vora). Therefore, despite the recommendations of the Chief Administrator HUDA and FCTCP that there was no merit in the case, the then CM Sh. Bhupinder Singh Hooda overruled the recommendations of Chief Administrator as well as FCTCP,” the ED stated in its affidavit.
The Hooda government had allowed re-allotment of a plot in Sector 6 of Panchkula to AJL at a cost of Rs 59 lakh, including interest, in 2005 after the same had been denied by successive state governments since 1992. The plot, initially allotted to AJL by HUDA in 1982 for starting a newspaper, was taken back later for violation of allotment conditions on the construction time period.
The ED said AJL acquired the plot “as a result of criminal activity” which is an offence under provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). Hooda, according to the ED affidavit, extended the time limit for construction of the plot three times in violation of policy.
“The re-allotment of the aforesaid plot was completed in 2014 as the allottee completed the construction after availing several extension granted by Sh. Bhupinder Singh Hooda, the then CM. Therefore, the offence… continued till 2014,” the ED stated.
Last year, the ED registered an Enforcement Case Investigation Report under the PMLA in the case after the Haryana Vigilance Bureau registered an FIR on charges of corruption and cheating against Hooda and some officials of HUDA and AJL. Both Vora and Hooda were questioned by the ED in April.