National herald case: IAS officers named in FIR despite clean chit from Haryana vigilance bureau

In its letter to the Centre for CBI probe, the state government, it appears, focused only on Hooda.

Chandigarh | Updated: April 8, 2017 9:57 am
Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Hooda, national herald case, CBI Hooda, india news, indian express news The plot in Sector 6, Panchkula, that was given to AJL in 2005 by the previous Hooda government six months after it came to power in Haryana. Jaipal Singh

THE CBI has filed an FIR against three Haryana IAS officers apart from former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda for re-allotment of a plot in Panchkula to Associate Journals Limited (AJL) — publisher of the National Herald newspaper — despite the bureaucrats getting a clean chit from the State Vigilance Bureau (SVB) in 2016.
Apart from Hooda and AJL, the CBI on Wednesday also filed an FIR against three IAS officers (one of them now retired) on charges of cheating, criminal breach of trust, cheating and misuse of official position by public servants during their tenure in the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA).

The bureaucrats have been booked by their designation like the then chief administrator (SS Dhillon), the then administrator (Vineet Garg) and the Then Financial Commissioner, Town and Country Planning Department (Shakuntala Jakhu). Dhillon is currently Haryana Additional Chief Secretary (transport) while Garg is managing director of Haryana Vidyut Prasaran Nigam. Jakhu had retired after a brief stint as chief secretary in 2014.

During the investigation by SVB, the officers said, “They never recommended for restoration and re-allotment of the said plot to M/s AJL.” “They have also explained that they were not in favour of or involved in the re-allotment of the said plot,” said the state government, in a note sent to the Centre on February 22, 2016, recommending CBI probe into the matter.

“In course of the investigation, no incriminating material has been found against (them)…as such they have been found to be innocent,” the note further mentioned.

In its letter to the Centre for CBI probe, the state government, it appears, focused only on Hooda.

“During (vigilance) investigation, it was found that the said institutional plot, No. C-17, Sector-6, Panchkula, was re-allotted by the then HUDA Chairman (the then Chief Minister Sh. BS Hooda) in an arbitrary manner and in complete violation and disregard for rules and HUDA Act and against the advice rendered by the HUDA officers to re-advertise the plot as such, causing wrongful loss to the exchequer and wrongful enrichment to the company,” said Madan Lal, Deputy Secretary, Haryana vigilance department, in a letter to the Centre, which has now became the base of the CBI FIR.

Requesting anonymity, a senior CBI officer said, “The premier investigating agency has just taken up the FIR as lodged by the SVB earlier. It’s re-registration of the FIR. Any addition or exclusion from the list of the accused will be done only when the CBI would file a chargesheet in the court after completion of its probe.” He added, “We take on record the outcome of the state investigating agencies’ probe during our investigation. But, at this stage, we don’t look into such aspects.”

Probably keeping in view such technicalities, SS Dhillon, in August 2016, had urged the state government to delete his name from the FIR filed by the SVB. Then, Dhillon had written to the chief secretary, saying, “I have played no role as per the allegation in the above said FIR.”

Further explaining his position, he said, “I have learnt that the government intends to refer this matter for investigation by some central agency. Keeping in view about the fact, it is requested that there should not be any reference of undersigned even by designation as the then Chief Administrator, HUDA, if at all any such matter is referred to the Government of India.”

One of the accused officers said, “Why were we forced to face investigators again and again despite being at no fault.”

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