The CBI has registered an FIR against former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and others on the allotment of a plot in Panchkula to Associate Journals Limited (AJL), the publisher of the National Herald newspaper. AJL is owned by Young India which in turn is run by the Gandhi family.
In its FIR, the CBI alleged that Hooda, as chairman of the Haryana Urban Development Corporation (HUDA), had “misused his official position” to give a piece of land to AJL whose allotment had been cancelled in 1992. This violation of rules caused a loss of Rs 62 lakh to the Haryana government, CBI said.
Calling the CBI FIR against him an attempt by the BJP government in Haryana to divert attention of the people from real issues, Hooda told The Indian Express that re-allotment of the plot in Panchkula to AJL in 2005 was strictly as per rules.
“It is wrong that the plot was allotted on original rates, which was just Rs 2 lakh. But we decided to re-allot it with additional cost of Rs 58 lakh as interest,” Hooda said. “Moreover, the plot was not allotted to any individual but to a newspaper, National Herald, which had played significant role during the freedom struggle of the country.”
The Indian Express was the first to report on alleged irregularities in the allotment of the plot in Sector 6, Panchkula, to AJL. The plot was allotted by the Hooda government six months after it came to power in Haryana in 2005.
The CBI registered the case on the request of the current Haryana government and its FIR is based on a May 5, 2016 case registered by the State Vigilance Bureau in the matter. Others accused in the case include then chief administrator of HUDA; then administrator of HUDA; then financial commissioner, town country planning department, Haryana, AJL and some officials associated with it.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is already investigating a case with regard to the issue under sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
“It was alleged that the Institutional Plot No.C-17, located at Sector 6, Panchkula measuring 3500 square meters was allotted to New Delhi based Journals Company by HUDA on 24.08.1982 and the possession was delivered on 30.08.1982,” a CBI statement said.
Sources in CBI and ED said the allotment under the scanner was related to AJL’s Hindi newspaper “Navjeevan”. In 1982, AJL was allotted the plot by the Haryana government on the condition that it would complete construction within two years. At that time, the plot was bought for Rs 57 lakh, an official said.
However, AJL did not begin construction and in 1992, the allotment was cancelled. AJL’s subsequent appeal against the move was rejected in 1995. “The money was returned to AJL after 10 per cent was deducted as penalty,” the official said.
The company appealed to the office of the then Chief Minister, Bansi Lal, which rejected the plea in 1998.
“As per the terms and conditions of allotment, it was necessary for the company to start the construction over the plot within six months from the date of delivery of possession and to complete the construction within two years. The company failed to raise the construction within the given time. Hence, the allotment was cancelled. The appeals filed against cancellation of allotment have been dismissed,” the CBI statement said.
In 2005, AJL submitted another plea, this time to the Congress government under Hooda in 2005.
Hooda alleged political vendetta, saying the Haryana BJP government has become “a government of badla and badli ( revenge and transfers)”.
Senior IAS officer S S Dhillon expressed surprise over the inclusion of his name in the FIR along with two other IAS officers, Vinit Garg and Shakuntala Jakhu (now retired). Like Hooda, these officers have been booked as per their designations, and not named.
“I don’t know why I have been booked in the case while I had opposed the re-allotment,” said Dhillon who was chief administrator of HUDA when the re-allotment was made in 2005. Jakhu was financial commissioner of the department and Garg the HUDA administrator. Dhillon and Jakhu had told the State Vigilance Bureau that they had opposed the proposal to re-allot the land. Garg, according to sources, had stated that he was on election duty when the file was moved.