The Supreme Court (SC) has quashed a probe against a former Haryana official in connection with change of land use (CLU). A Bench led by Justice Dipak Misra said the Punjab and Haryana High Court had erred in dealing with the matter as a civil case. The high court had directed a Special Investigation Team to look into the alleged criminality of Ram Kishan Fauji, who was chief parliamentary secretary during the previous Congress government in Haryana.
“What matters is the nature of the proceeding, and that is the litmus test,” said the bench. It added that nature of a case would not change only because a high court deals with issues of criminal prosecution and investigation in a writ petition.
Haryana Lokayukta Justice Pritam Pal had recommended a case against Fauji in January 2014. The recommendation was based on a video showing Fauji allegedly demanding Rs 5 crore for CLU licence for a plot along a highway in Gurugram. The state vigilance bureau had later registered an FIR against Fauji under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
A single judge bench had in January 2015 quashed the FIR, doubting the authenticity of the video after Fauji moved the high court. But a high court division bench ordered an investigation against him in May 2016.
Fauji challenged the order before the top court. He argued that the division bench could not have dealt with the matter as the SC has the jurisdiction to adjudicate appeal against a single judge order in a criminal matter.
The SC accepted Fauji’s arguments. It said that the appeal before the division bench was not maintainable and quashed the investigation. It added that the Haryana government was free to challenge the single judge order before an appropriate forum.