The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has named former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda as the “main conspirator” in the alleged Manesar land scam. In its chargesheet submitted to a CBI court, the agency elaborated the role Hooda and several state bureaucrats played in the alleged scam which caused a loss of “over Rs 1,000 crore”.
The chargesheet against 34 accused, accessed by The Indian Express, also named senior IAS officers including Murari Lal Tayal (then principal secretary to CM), Chhattar Singh (then additional principal secretary to CM), Sudeep Singh Dhillon (then Director, Town and Country Planning Department), various other officers of Town and Country Planning Department, colonisers and private individuals.
At the time, Hooda was also the minister in charge of the Town and Country Planning department. A CBI probe was ordered after allegations that after issuing a notification under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 in three villages, Lakhnaula, Naurangpur and Manesar, private builders had started to purchase land from farmers using the threat of acquisition, while the government dropped the acquisition process.
“The then chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda in criminal conspiracy with the officials and private builders abandoned the acquisition process and later on issued the licenses to the otherwise ineligible applicants. Thus, causing wrongful gain to the private builders and loss to public exchequer and farmers,” said the chargesheet.
According to the CBI: “Investigation also established that the reasons given by the then CM to release the land were neither germane nor valid. Investigation proved beyond doubt that the grounds cited by CM were specious”.
Referring to the alleged criminal conspiracy that involved Hooda, bureaucrats and builders the chargesheet said, “The state government, on pretext of public purpose, forced the landowners to sell away their land in panic. Having ensured changed of title, the government granted licenses to the very private builders who purchased the land at throwaway prices during the state-induced panic selling. It is nothing but blatant abuse of official power in gross violation of statutorily laid down process.”
The chargesheet mentioned several instances, where at least 439 acres of land under acquisition were allegedly released in favour of colonisers, builders and private individuals on Hooda’s orders, while several officers who dealt with such files kept opposing the same.
Elaborating the role of New Delhi based Aditya Buildwell Private Limited (now known as ABW Infrastructure Limited) and its Director, Atul Bansal, the CBI alleged ABW and its associated companies invested Rs 169.07 crore in purchasing 239 acres of land under acquisition, obtained licenses on it and then allegedly sold the same for Rs 397.36 crore.
The CBI chargesheet said, “Investigation revealed that most of the land was purchased by ABW. ABW invested a total amount of Rs. 169,07,86,383 on account of purchase of land and obtaining of licenses. ABW had sold the licensed/unlicensed land and licenses to the private persons/developers for Rs. 397,36,67,920, thus making a profit of Rs. 228.28 crores approximately”.
According to the CBI chargesheet, the Department of Town and Country Planning in 2007 processed the applications of Aditya Buildwell Pvt. Ltd. for grant of licences, “despite the fact that these applications were liable to be rejected as per the policy/guidelines of the department”.
In one particular instance, the CBI named Hooda for his alleged involvement in the release of five acres of land and grant of change of land use (CLU). According to the chargesheet, the CBI claimed to have established a link between Hooda and a real estate company.
The chargesheet said, “Payment of Rs. 57,39,750 on account of conversion charges and EDC (external development charges) made to Town and Country Planning Department by Sh. Gaurav Choudhry in respect of CLU granted in 5 acres to M/s Flair Realtors Pvt. Ltd and other were made from the account of another company M/s Millenia Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd.”
“The Directors of M/s Millenia Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. are Sh. Sukhinder Singh Hooda (nephew of ex-CM Haryana Sh. BS Hooda) and Sh. Arvind Walia (maternal uncle of Gaurav Choudhry). Thus, it revealed that the family of Sh. Bhupinder Singh Hooda had business interest and this was also one of the vested interest of Sh. B.S. Hooda for release of land and grant of licenses/ CLU”.
Asked about the charges made by the CBI Hooda said, “My nephew did not take any CLU. There was no family business interest into it. I have yet not got copy of the chargesheet. All I can say at this stage is that no illegality was committed. I can comment further only after seeing the chargesheet. We shall reply in the court.”
The CBI also sought to counter Hooda’s defence that land was released from acquisition after residents or land owners had begun protests. The chargesheet has mentioned cases where such representations were found to allegedly “forged” by builders.
“The land was purchased by them [builders/ colonisers] through their brokers/ agents. Farmers were deceived under the impression that government will pay meagre rates of their land and the builders will pay more than the compensation amount. The farmers were also put under fear of acquisition of land, as in these villages earlier also the Government of Haryana had acquired the land 2-3 times, and the acquisition process was not dropped,” the CBI chargesheet reads.