The Haryana state vigilance bureau (SVB) has registered an FIR against former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda for his alleged involvement in the National Herald case, furthering cornering his party, the Congress.
Hooda, who as CM was the ex-officio chairman of the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA), has been accused of allegedly illegally transferring land to Associated Journals Ltd (AJL) — which published the National Herald newspaper — at Panchkula in 2005. He has been charged with cheating and breach of trust under the Indian Penal Code and also criminal misconduct under Prevention of Corruption Act.
The FIR registered at the SVB police station, Panchkula, on Thursday had no names, but SVB director general Parminder Rai told HT it mentioned “the then HUDA chairman, the chief administrator, the administrator (headquarters), the then Principal Secretary, Town and Country Planning, besides AJL office bearers and others.” “Names of the accused will be known as we proceed with the investigation,” Rai added.
Hooda could not be contacted for comment. Haryana Congress president Ashok Tanwar called the case “politically motivated”. “We believe the then government followed all the norms and procedures and there was no irregularity in allotment of the plot. We hope truth comes clear out of this artificial controversy being created by the BJP government,” he said.
The National Herald case has already seen Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son and deputy, Rahul Gandhi, facing prosecution after BJP leader Subramanian Swamy moved court in 2012.
Swamy alleged the Gandhis and other Congress leaders were among the directors of Young Indian Pvt Ltd (YIL), which acquired AJL after the newspaper ceased operations and also its assets worth crores of rupees. Swamy had accused the Gandhis of cheating and breach of trust. It was also learn that the Congress party had given a loan to AJL, which also had Congressmen as directors, to revive it.
In Haryana, however, when Hooda was CM, the AJL was reallotted a plot (no C-17), measuring 3,360 square meters, in the prime Sector 6 of Panchkula on June 29, 2005. The SVB has named key HUDA officials in the FIR despite their opposing the allotment and Hooda’s overruling their advice.
The SVB registered the case on a reference from the state government. It came just days after leader of opposition and Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leader Abhay Chautala wrote to chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar on May 2, seeking a criminal case against Hooda and others in re-allotment of the plot in violation of rules.
The HUDA-AJL plot case is the second instance in a fortnight when the Khattar government has acted on a letter written by the INLD leader. Earlier, Abhay had sent a letter on April 21, last, demanding withdrawal of Cabinet minister rank and all the facilities being provided consequently to former chief ministers at state headquarter. The state Cabinet had withdrawn the same merely a week after the INLD leader’s letter.
This is the second case registered by the SVB against Hooda and HUDA officials. The first pertained to 14 industrial plots case in Panchkula, in which it was alleged that these plots were given to a chosen few at throw-away prices. The government had made a reference to CBI to probe the industrial allotments.