Bhartesh Singh Thakur
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, April 16
With present and past IAS officers as witnesses, the trial against former Chief Minister and Leader of the Opposition Bhupinder Singh Hooda will start on May 7 for criminal conspiracy, cheating and under the Prevention of Corruption Act in the Associated Journals Limited (AJL) plot re-allotment case.
Some of these officers had closely worked with him during his tenure as Chief Minister.
Hooda still has time to file an appeal before the Punjab and Haryana High Court against the dismissal of his discharge application.
The institutional plot of M/s AJL was resumed in 1992 as the company did not carry out construction as required under the rules. Ramshekhar (IAS officer) as Administrator (Panchkula), Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA), rejected the appeal of the company in 1995.
Former IAS officer ML Tayal, then Secretary, Town and Country Planning Department, had dismissed the revision petition of the company in 1996, and the matter achieved finality.
However, Hooda re-allotted the plot on August 28, 2005, after coming to power in an alleged conspiracy with then chairman of AJL Motilal Vora. He bypassed the opinion given by then Chief Administrator, HUDA, SS Dhillon, then Financial Commissioner, Town and Country Planning Department, Shakuntla Jakhu and even Joint Legal Remembrancer Jagdeep Jain.
Dhillon, Jakhu and Jain are CBI’s witnesses in the case. Jain had given his opinion that the plot could not be allotted once the revision petition had been dismissed by Tayal and if allotment was to be made, it had to be at the current prices as per the procedure.
The 97th meeting of HUDA was held on May 16, 2006, whose chairman was Hooda himself and the ex-post facto approval of the re-allotment had been accorded. Former IAS officer Prem Prashant, who was Chief Secretary in 2006 and had participated in the 97th meeting as vice-chairman, told the CBI that the matter for ex-post facto approval of the Chief Minister’s order, dated August 28, 2005, was not required to be put before HUDA, but instead if any ratification was required, it was to be placed before the Cabinet.
He added that had he been informed about the noting on the files, he would have dissented as its approval by then Chief Minister did not make any sense. Former IAS officer RN Prashar, then Principal Secretary, Power Department, and member of HUDA, and former IAS officer N Bala Bhaskar, then PS to the Urban Development Department and also member of the authority, recorded that ex-post facto approval was a mere formality because re-allotment had already been made. Former IAS officer ML Tayal, then PS to the Chief Minister and member of the authority, told that he had “agitated at the meeting held on May 16, 2006, before the Chief Minsiter of Haryana and other members” that ex-post facto approval for re-allotment “was not correct” as he had himself dismissed the revision petition of the AJL in 1996. However, he was overruled, as he claimed.
IAS officer Mukesh Kumar Ahuja, as Administrator (Panchkula), HUDA, told the CBI that there was no instance at the meeting where members of the authority had shown resentment in writing.
Assistant District Attorney Navneet Singh Sodhi of HUDA told the CBI that the AJL case was the only matter where ex-post facto approval was taken after the orders of the revision authority.
The CBI case is that Hooda could not have exercised the revision powers as the same had been exercised by former IAS officer ML Tayal in the case as the power was delegated to him under the HUDA Act.
The CBI alleged that the AJL availed of two-term loans of Rs42.72 crore from Syndicate Bank, New Delhi, for making payments to the Municipal Corporation, Greater Mumbai, for their construction at Bandra and Mumbai and closure of an existing loan of Rs15.25 crore with a balance of Rs14.60 crore against mortgage of land and building at Panchkula.
According to the CBI, the loan could have been taken only for the purpose for which the plot was allotted.