A special court on Friday framed charges against former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda in the alleged illegal allotment of a plot in Panchkula to Associated Journal Limited (AJL), the publisher of National Herald newspaper.
The trial court acted on the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) chargesheet 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 the court when charges were framed.
The detailed order is awaited.
Congress leader Motilal Vora, who died in December 2020, too was an accused in the case. Another accused arrayed was the firm, AJL.
At the time of registering the FIR in 2016, Vora was the chairman of AJL and Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi were among the shareholders. The newspaper was launched in 1938 by Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister.
An institutional plot, C-17 spread over 3,360 square metres in Sector 6, Panchkula, was allotted by Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) to AJL in 1982, but because the construction was not carried in 10 years, it was taken back in 1992. In 1995 and in 1996, appeal and revisions were filed by AJL against resumption of the plot, but these were also dismissed by the HUDA administrator and Haryana’s financial commissioner, Town and Country Planning. However, when Hooda became the chief minister in 2005, he allowed the re-allotment of the plot to AJL, according to the CBI.
The CBI claimed that Hooda, who was also the HUDA chairman, “blatantly misused his official position and dishonestly allotted the plot afresh in the guise of re-allotment 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 had filed a chargesheet against Hooda, Vora and AJL. An Enforcement Directorate probe is also underway in the case.
On May 5, 2016, the 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 the CBI probe.