Panchkula A special court on Friday framed charges against former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda over the allegedly illegal allotment of a plot in Panchkula to Associated Journals Limited (AJL), publisher of the National Herald newspaper.
The trial court acted on a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) charge sheet filed in December 2018. CBI special judge Sushil Kumar Garg ordered the framing of charges under Section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act against Hooda.
Hooda was present in court when the charges were framed. Details of the order were awaited at the time of going to press.
Congress leader Motilal Vora, who died in December 2020, was also an accused in the case. Another accused arrayed was the firm AJL. At the time of registration of the FIR in 2016, Vora was chairman of AJL and Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi were among the shareholders. The newspaper was launched in 1938 by Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of the country.
The CBI probe said Hooda misused his position to favour AJL. An institutional plot spread over 3,360 square metres in Sector 6, Panchkula, was allotted by the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) to AJL in 1982. As construction was not carried out in 10 years, it was taken back in 1992.
In 1995 and in 1996, an appeal and revisions were filed by AJL against resumption of the plot, but these were dismissed by the HUDA administrator and Haryana’s financial commissioner, Town and Country Planning. When Hooda became chief minister of Haryana in 2005, he allowed reallotment of the plot to AJL, according to the CBI.
The CBI said Hooda, who was also the HUDA chairman, “blatantly misused his official position and dishonestly allotted the plot afresh in the guise of reallotment to AJL at original rates plus interest in violation of the HUDA policy vide an order on August 28, 2005. Thus, he caused wrongful loss to HUDA and wrongful gain to AJL.”
In December 2018, the CBI filed a charge sheet against Hooda, Vora and AJL. An Enforcement Directorate probe is also underway in the case.
On May 5, 2016, an FIR was registered by the Haryana vigilance bureau regarding allegations of cheating and corruption against Hooda and others. In December 2016, the Haryana government recommended a CBI probe.