Gurugram land deal: Probe at snail’s pace as cops ‘fail’ to get full official record
Investigations in FIR by Gurugram police four years ago against former Haryana CM Bhupinder Hooda and Robert Vadra pertaining to suspected irregularities in a land deal, is crawling at a snail’s pace
Investigations in the first information report (FIR) registered by the Gurugram police nearly four years ago against former Haryana chief minister, Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Robert Vadra, the son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, pertaining to suspected irregularities in a land deal, is crawling at a snail’s pace. The FIR (number 288) was registered at Kherki Daula police station on September 1, 2018.
The land transaction involved Vadra’s Sky Light Hospitality, real estate major, DLF and Onkareshwar properties in Gurugram’s Shikohpur village (Sector 83). The land deal was a major poll issue for the ruling BJP in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha and assembly polls in Haryana and the party vigorously highlighted the alleged corruption and nepotism during the election campaign.
Sky Light Hospitality was granted a real estate development license by the town and country planning department for developing a commercial colony on 2.701 acres in the revenue estate of Shikohpur village (now Sector 83), Gurugram on December 15, 2008, during the Congress rule under Bhupinder Singh Hooda. Later, Sky Light, by way of a sale deed of September 18, 2012, sold 3.53 acres of land, including the licensed area of 2.701 acres, to DLF for ₹58 crore. The licence was cancelled by the department on this March 9, seven years after the BJP took over the reins of the state.
While many police officials did not want to comment on the progress of the probe, some cited non-availability of the complete official record to justify the tardy progress.
Asked about the progress of the investigation in the case, deputy commissioner of police, Manesar, Manbir Singh said they have only got a part of official records from the town and country planning and revenue departments pertaining to the case. “So far none of the accused have been questioned by the police,” Singh said in response to a query.
Do not see much hope, says complainant
Surender Vashisht, a resident of Rathiwas village, who is the complainant in the case, said that the government no longer seems to be interested in pursuing the case. “I do not see much hope. The way the police are sitting on the case, it is obvious that the state government is no longer serious about the matter,” he said.
Vashisht said that the police had called him on a few occasions and sought documents pertaining to the case. “I provided them with whatever papers I had. It was up to them to take the investigation forward. Unfortunately, that has not happened,” he said.
Commission of inquiry to probe the grant of license to Vadra firm comes a cropper
The BJP government in Haryana had set up a Commission of Inquiry in 2015 to probe issues pertaining to the grant of a commercial license to Sky Light Hospitality. The Punjab and Haryana High Court on January 10, 2019, quashed the report of the Commission of Inquiry citing procedural flaws and restrained the state government from making it public. However, the high court said the state government would be at liberty to appoint a new Commission of Inquiry on the same subject matter. The government though did not appoint one.
Legal loopholes in the FIR
The FIR which was registered under provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act and figured a former chief minister as an accused is considered legally unsustainable by legal experts as the police did not take prior approval of the state government under section 17-A of the PC Act before registering it.
Justice KM Joseph of the Supreme Court in a November 14, 2019, order had said that even proceeding on the basis that on petitioners’ complaint, an FIR must be registered as it purports to disclose cognisable offences and the court must so direct, will it not be a futile exercise having regard to Section 17-A of the PC Act.
Left red-faced over this gaffe, the government subsequently on November 29, 2018, took ex post facto approval from the governor to conduct an investigation into the offences alleged to have been committed by the former chief minister in the FIR. The then additional chief secretary, home, SS Prasad in an order said that after going through the contents of the FIR forwarded by the Gurugram commissioner of police, the Haryana governor considers that the FIR reveals offences of serious nature and misuse of officials by former chief minister BS Hooda and others named in the FIR and needs to be probed. The former CM had termed the case baseless and emanating from the “political vendetta” of the BJP.