On 3,360 square metres of prime space in Panchkula, opposite the Haryana police headquarters, a swanky four-storey building is waiting for occupants.
This is the property of Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), which got this plot from the previous Congress government, led by Bhupinder Singh Hooda, barely six months after it came to power in Haryana in 2005. At the time, AJL was the publisher of The National Herald newspaper.
On August 14, 2014, two months before the assembly polls, an Occupation Certificate was issued for the four-storey building on the plot, according to records maintained by Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA), which allotted the land.
Sector 6 is considered as one of the prime sectors of Panchkula and is home to palatial houses, a government hospital and the offices of HUDA, Haryana State Industries and Infrastructural Development Corporation (HSIIDC), the state marketing board, the forest department, etc.
The AJL plot is categorised as a “government office”, and HUDA records show that the authority had valued the property at Rs 59.3 lakh when it was allotted.
“AJL made an application to the government seeking allotment of the plot and it was allotted to the land by HUDA. All the dues of the plot have been cleared by the allottee — M/s Associated Journals Limited,” a HUDA official, who did not wish to be named, told The Indian Express.
This is what HUDA records, examined by The Indian Express, show on the Panchkula plot:
* HUDA allotted the plot C-17, Institutional Area, Sector 6, Panchkula to AJL by way of a “Direct Transfer” on September 28, 2005. The allottee took possession of the property on the same day.
* The allottee’s permanent and temporary address is recorded as “Herald House, 5-A, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, 110002”.
Incidentally, AJL’s records show that on March 20, 2015, previous CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s son Deepender Singh was appointed as Additional Director in the company.
When contacted, Deepender Hooda confirmed that he has been “a director with AJL since 2015”. “Besides and beyond this, I have nothing further to say on this,” the Congress MP from Rohtak told The Indian Express.
The empty plot is now being taken care of by a security guard, Dinesh Singh, who directed queries to “manager S K Sharma in the New Delhi office”.
When The Indian Express contacted Sharma at Herald House in New Delhi, he said, “The building is lying locked. We are going to start our operations from there soon. I do not know the exact details about the operations.”
The acquisition of AJL by Young Indian Pvt Ltd, in which Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi hold 38 per cent shares each, is at the centre of a political storm with a Delhi court summoning both the Congress leaders on December 19.
The court issued the summons on a complaint filed in 2012 by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, alleging cheating and breach of trust in the acquisition. The Congress leaders have denied the charges.