A little over two weeks after the Haryana Governor sanctioned the prosecution of Bhupinder Singh Hooda, CBI Saturday filed a chargesheet against the former chief minister, accusing him of conspiracy and abuse of official position in connection with the National Herald case.
CBI had in April 2017 registered an FIR against Hooda for the alleged irregular re-allotment of a 3,360 sq m institutional plot to Associated Journals Limited (AJL) — the company that owns the National Herald newspaper, linked with the Congress party — in Panchkula in 2005.
AJL and senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha member Motilal Vora, who was at the time chairman of AJL, have also been named in the chargesheet.
CBI has said that Hooda, in conspiracy with others, allegedly abused his official position and dishonestly re-allotted institutional plot No. C-17, Sector-6, Panchkula, to AJL at the old rate in 2005, thereby “causing wrongful gain of Rs 67.65 lakh (approximately) to the private company and corresponding wrongful loss to the government exchequer”.
The accused have been charged under Sections 120B (conspiracy) and 420 (cheating) of the IPC, and Section 13(2) read with Section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The chargesheet was filed in the court of the CBI special judge in Panchkula.
Hooda repeated Saturday that the case was political vendetta. “I did not originally allot the plot, only restored (the allotment) while exercising my powers as (chairman of Haryana Urban Development Authority). They (current BJP government) also restored (plots). I did not do anything wrong,” Hooda told The Sunday Express.
The Haryana Vigilance Bureau registered an FIR on May 5, 2016, but at the end of that year, the government of Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar urged the Centre to call in the CBI.
HUDA had allotted a plot to AJL in August 1982 for publication of the Hindi daily Nav-Jivan, but the allotment was resumed on October 30, 1992 for non-construction. The allottee’s appeal was dismissed by the administrator, HUDA, on July 26, 1995. The following year, the Haryana Town and Country Planning Department rejected the company’s revision petition.
CBI has said that the Legal Remembrancer, the top legal officer in Haryana, had opined that the resumed plot could not be re-allotted, since the order had attained finality following the dismissal of the revision petition. “The officials of HUDA had also allegedly proposed that advertisement be floated for re-allotment of the plot by inviting fresh applications, and the private company could also apply for the same. It was further alleged that the then chairman of HUDA (Hooda) and the officials of HUDA entered into conspiracy with the private company and misused their official position by wrongly ordering for re-allotment of the institutional plot at old rates plus interest on August 28, 2005,” says the chargesheet.
Investigations had revealed that the HUDA chairman allegedly overruled the Legal Remembrancer’s opinion and the proposal of HUDA officials to float a new advertisement for the allotment of the plot at the prevalent current rate on “flimsy grounds”, CBI has said. Investigations had also revealed that the resumption order (October 30, 1992) was allegedly passed by HUDA only after the said private company had been given ample opportunities for completion of construction at the site.
“Publication of “Nav-Jivan” had not seen the light of the day and the said premises was left unused and no newspaper was being published from the said premises,” the CBI has said. “It was further alleged that the said plot was instead mortgaged by the private company to Syndicate Bank, New Delhi, and the loan availed against the mortgage of the said plot was used for commercial purpose.”
Further investigations were on, the CBI has said.