The Central Bureau of Investigation Wednesday told the Punjab and Haryana High Court that former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s then principal secretary Murari Lal Tayal’s petition against trial court’s cognizance of the chargesheet in the Manesar land acquisition scam is merely “an endeavour to delay the proceedings”.
Tayal, who is also one of the accused in the land scam along with Hooda and 32 others, has in his petition sought quashing of the cognizance order passed by the trial court against him and has argued that as principal secretary to the CM he had no independent powers of his own. He has contended that he was only required to “assist” the CM in the disposal of the work. The hearing was adjourned to Thursday for final arguments.
In the reply filed through its standing counsel, Sumeet Goel, the CBI said that the trial court will hear the arguments on January 22 and the accused may take his plea at the stage of framing of charges. In the case, Hooda and 33 other are accused of causing “wrongful loss” of nearly Rs 1500 crore to the land owners in four villages, including Manesar, in Gurgaon and “corresponding wrongful gain to themselves”.
Haryana government had in August 2004 issued notification for acquisition of 912 acre land for setting up an industrial model township in Gurgaon villages, including Manesar. According to the CBI, the private land owners sold nearly 350 acres “at throwaway rates of Rs 20 to 25 lakhs per acre” to private entities under the threat of acquisition by the government at meager rates. The government later issued another declaration for acquisition leading the private builders to acquire the remaining 50-acre land at the rate of “even Rs 1.50 crore per acre”. However, the land was released from the acquisition in 2007 by the government after the “land had been grabbed from the landowners by the land mafia”, according to the prosecution. A total of 459-acre land was acquired by private builders and companies after the date of notification due to the deliberate action of accused which “allowed the land acquisition proceedings to lapse”.
The CBI Wednesday said that the accused, as the then principal secretary, in August 2007 “recorded/conveyed” the orders of the CM saying that the latter has ordered issuance of fresh notification regarding the land, which is available for acquisition “without any encumbrances” as several owners have applied for license or change of land use (CLU) since 2004 and certain parcels have also been released previously from the acquisition. August 24, 2007, was otherwise the final date of announcement of the award, according to the CBI, but the order meant abandoning of the whole acquisition process.
CBI also said that pursuant to registration of FIR in 2015, the agency also conducted searches at the residential and other premises of Tayal during which documents were recovered leading to registration of another case in 2017 against him for having acquired “disproportionate assets to the tune of Rs 9.8 crore, which is under investigation”.
Stating that Tayal could have declined to sign the order dated August 24, 2007, which was issued by him on behalf of the CM for abandoning the land acquisition process if he was not part of the conspiracy in the land scam, the CBI said even the Supreme Court has held the order an “exercise of fraud on power”.
The CBI also said that the accused as a senior IAS officer was required to perform his duties with due diligence. He was part of the conspiracy, the prosecution has said. On Wednesday, Tayal’s counsel senior Advocate Rajinder Singh Cheema argued that any negligence does not amount to complicity. “Their case is not of omission. I may not be a good officer. Don’t give me a Veer Chakra,” he submitted, adding the CBI cannot take refuge behind the apex court order which, he said, is not part of the charge sheet and thus the reliance on it is “wholly unwarranted”.