Updated: July 2, 2021 5:44:59 am
The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Thursday stayed the ongoing trial against former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Associated Journals Limited (AJL) in a case pertaining to alleged allotment of a plot to the latter in Panchkula.
The order came on two petitions, one from Hooda and the other from the AJL, the Congress leader’s counsel Arshdeep Singh Cheema said. A single bench of the Justice Arvind Singh Sangwan stayed the proceedings against Hooda in a special CBI court at Panchkula. The court also issued a notice to the CBI. The detailed order was yet to be released by the HC.
On April 16, a special CBI court in Panchkula had framed charges against Hooda in the AJL plot allotment case. The charges were framed under Sections 120-B (party to criminal conspiracy) and 420 (cheating) of the IPC and Section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Hooda and Congress leader Moti Lal Vora, now deceased, had been named as an accused in the case.
Hooda, through his counsel, senior advocates Kapil Sibal and RS Cheema, along with Arshdeep Singh Cheema, argued that the April 16 order passed by the special CBI judge be set aside and the petitioner be acquitted of all charges.
Hooda, through his counsel, contended that the special CBI judge “failed to appreciate the settled parameters applicable to the stage of consideration of charge and thus the matter has not been examined in an appropriate legal perspective”. The CBI court order, the petitioner contended, also “suffers from the vice of selective reading of the material placed on record” and the “cherry picking of evidence favourable to the prosecution” at this stage. The counsel contended that the special judge failed to take the totality of facts into consideration.
It was also contended that “non-application of critical mind and lack of objective approach to the question are palpably apparent on a careful perusal of the order”. “A reading of the order reveals that the judge has framed a charge of conspiracy specifying a period 2005 to 2013. This insertion of a closing date as 2013 has no legal or rational basis and is comprehensible how this date has been arrived at,” the petitioner argued.
The CBI had in December 2018 filed a charge sheet against Hooda and Vora, then chairperson of the AJL, in connection with alleged irregularities in the re-allotment of a plot in Panchkula. The agency had then claimed that the re-allotment of the plot to the AJL caused a loss of Rs 67 lakh to the exchequer.
The CBI had said that the AJL was allotted the plot in Panchkula in 1982, on which no construction took place for 10 years after which the Haryana Urban Development Authority took back possession of the plot.
However, in 2005, the same plot was allotted at the old rate to the AJL, allegedly in violation of the norms. As the chief minister, Hooda was the ex-officio chairperson of the authority.
The Enforcement Directorate too had been probing the case and had earlier filed its charge sheet in the case. “Hooda favoured the AJL by granting them three undue extensions for construction on the said plot from May 2008-May 10, 2012 until the AJL completed the construction in the year 2014,” the ED had earlier charged in a statement.
The agency said Hooda allotted the pot to the AJL by “blatantly misusing his official position”.
The former Haryana chief minister, it alleged “dishonestly allotted the said plot afresh in the guise of re-allotment to the AJL at original rates plus interest in violation of necessary conditions and policy of HUDA (Haryana Urban Development Authority) vide order dated August 28, 2005.”
The ED had filed a criminal complaint of money laundering in this case in 2016 based on a CBI FIR, which had taken over investigation into the case at the request of the BJP government of Haryana and criminal FIRs filed by the Haryana Vigilance Bureau.
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