In the hurly-burly of the elections in Haryana that has seen Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda trumpet all achievements of the Congress government, an important fact has got drowned.
During its four-and-a-half-year rule, Hooda’s government facilitated the withdrawal of more than 100 criminal cases against Congress leaders, some bureaucrats and politically influential leaders of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), according to records accessed by HT under the Right to Information Act.
Most of the cases were registered by the previous government (1999-2005), led by INLD’s Om Parkash Chautala. Hooda could not be reached for comment. His political adviser Virender (he goes by one name) said the government withdrew only those cases that had been registered by the previous regime to persecute opponents.
“Wherever applications were received that cases were politically motivated, the government had an inquiry done. Only the ones that were found to be so were withdrawn. It had nothing to do with which party they belonged to,” he said.
The cases were withdrawn after being classified as “political vendetta”.
They relate to assault, corruption, cheating, damage to public property, misuse of authority, etc. pending in various courts across the state.
Investigation by HT, over the past six months, has shown that the prominent beneficiaries of the government’s review-and-revoke policy include four ministers who are Congressmen now, one current and the rest former (of whom one was at
the Centre). Non-Congress former ministers too benefited from the government’s move.
Also, five Congress MLAs among others in the just-dissolved assembly got legal reprieve.
Similarly, the cases against a retired member of the IAS and two serving IAS officers were withdrawn. BKU activists who led a month-long agitation in which some police officers had been taken hostage were allowed to go scot-free.
The state’s legal authorities cited “lack of sufficient evidence” as the reason for this.
“The cases were withdrawn on the recommendations of district attorneys who were pursuing them, and district magistrates. Besides, the approval of the chief minister and the opinion of the legal remembrancer (the senior-most legal officer) were also taken,” a senior official said requesting anonymity.
However, Hooda’s opponents question the propriety of the “pick and choose” policy. The president of the Haryana unit of the BJP, Krishan Pal Gurjar, slammed the government’s “selective generosity”.
“There is no denying that cases are registered against political opponents to harass them. There were politically motivated cases against me too, but none of those has been withdrawn,” he said, adding that “the government should have shown restraint in such matters”.
Hooda at his first official press meet had announced a “review” of the cases registered against his party colleagues and farmers. The present government is, however, not the first to take such a step. The previous regime had done the same and secured pardon for murder convicts also.