Scams in tow
Will former Chief Minister, Bhupender Singh Hooda, also meet the same fate in the latest chargesheet filed by CBI against Mr. Hooda in a re-allotment case of HUDA land to his party's mouthpiece newspaper, National Herald, allegedly incurring a loss of Rs 67 lakh, as alleged by CBI.
A special CBI court on 22 January, 2013 sentenced former Haryana Chief Minister, Om Prakash Chautala, his elder son, Ajay Chautala, and thirteen other officials to 10 years in jail for their involvement in illegally recruiting 3206 teachers in the state by using forged documents. It is pertinent to mention here that another ex-CM of Haryana and Former Defence Minister, Chaudhary Bansi Lal, was also arrested in August 1977 in his hometown of Bhiwani on charges of embezzlement of Haryana Youth Congress funds totaling to about Rs 5 lakhs.
What is the present case?
On Saturday, December 1, 2018, CBI filed a chargesheet in the court of a special CBI judge, Jagdeep Singh, in Panchkula against Haryana's ex-CM Bhupender Singh Hooda, senior congress leader Moti Lal Vora and Associated Journals Limited (AJL) - a company associated with National Herald newspaper-in a Panchkula plot allotment case under section 120 B and 420 of the Indian Penal Code and sections 13(1)(d) with 13(2) of Prevention of Corruption Act .Haryana governor, Satyadev Narayan Arya, had already authorized prosecution of Hooda in the AJL matter a few days back.
CBI has alleged that Hooda, the then Chief Minister and Chairman of Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA), in 2005 re-allotted a previously cancelled plot to AJL at the original rate, allegedly violating the norms laid down by the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA), which resulted in a loss of Rs 67 lakh to the government exchequer.
The plot in question was previously allotted to AJL company in 1982, but the company failed to complete the construction on the said plot as per HUDA norms due to which its allotment was cancelled by HUDA in 1992. The said plot was later repossessed by the Haryana Urban Development Authority. Subsequently, in 1995, administrator HUDA dismissed the appeal of AJL against reacquisition of the plot and the revision petition of the company was also dismissed by the Commissioner, Town & Country Planning on October 10,1996.
CBI has charged that in 2005, the then Chief Minister Bhupender Singh Hooda in the capacity of Chairman of HUDA, had re-allotted the cancelled plot to AJL at an additional cost, violating HUDA norms.
Now as the CBI has booked former Chief Minister Hooda, the then chairman of the AJL, Moti Lal Vora, and the company under relevant sections of the IPC related to criminal conspiracy and provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.This, as expected, has led to a scurry of reactions gaining heat in the political and legal circles.
In the spot or 'spotlight' before
After Manesar land case was filed in Feb 2018, this is the second chargesheet that the CBI has filed against Hooda. The Manesar case pertains to the alleged fraud committed by the Hooda government with the farmers pertaining to lands worth over Rs 1,500 crore in Manesar, Haryana. According to the charges leveled, the land was allegedly purchased between August 27, 2004, and August 24, 2007, under the threat of acquisition by the Bhupender Singh Hooda government during his tenure as CM.
Pleading 'political vendetta'
Reacting over the present AJL plot allotment case, Mr. Hooda alleged that the BJP government in the state had no progress to report and were targeting him for political vendetta,' the Hindustan Times quoted Mr. Hooda.
"My decision to restore the institutional plot to AJL at old rates was within my powers as the chairman of the HUDA. The AJL had paid up the entire amount for allotment of the plot but had failed on the pending construction. This led to its resumption,'' Hooda said. He further said the plot was restored after charging an interest amounting to over Rs 55 lakhs on the allotment price of Rs two lakhs. "It was a well-reasoned order passed by me in exercise of powers vested in me by the HUDA Act,'' he claimed.( Read more in HT )
Randeep Singh Surjewala, Incharge Communication Indian National Congress, alleged that BJP and its leaders are using government machinery to harass the opposition leaders and suppressing their voice.
In a press conference on December 2, 2018 he said, "These days Modi ji, Amit Shah and BJP are utilizing the ED and Income Tax departments as Dirty Tricks Departments. By allotting plots to newspapers, including National Herald, ex-CM Bhupender Singh Hooda and 90-year-old freedom fighter and veteran congress leader Moti Lal Vora have not been dishonest. Some other newspapers including Indian Express, Dainik Jagaran and probably the Dainik Bhaskar have also been allotted lands. Issuing chargesheet to congress leaders shows that BJP is only being revengeful. Upset over the likely defeat in five states and 2019 elections, PM Modi and Haryana CM, Mr. Manohar Lal Khattar are not only issuing unrestrained statements and using ungainly language, but also trying to suppress the voice of opposition through misuse of police and government agencies."
On the other hand Haryana Chief Minister, Mr. Manohar Lal Khattar, has denied any political vendetta while replying to a question on CBI charge sheet against Bhupinder Singh Hooda in the Manesar land deal case. Quoting the scriptures he added dramatically, "as you sow so shall you reap".
Hindustan Times reports Mr. Khattar saying, "Earlier, the accused were ready to undergo any kind of investigation. But now that the CBI has moved into the matter, they are crying vendetta."( Read more on HT )
The man on the street reflects
A retired bank officer, Bhagat Singh Saini , resident of Hooda's own city , Rohtak says , "If a person in power abuses the powers provided by the constitution and extends unlawful benefits to his near and dear ones or himself, he should be held guilty and should be punished ."
Krishan Swarup Gorakhpuria, a veteran farmer leader from Fatehabad comments, "Every action is motivated by electoral politics."
Sunil Sheoran, an advocate from Bhiwani reacts, "I think the current situation is due to the political system in India, when the elections are near at hand, all mechanisms becomes active whether that is CBI or any other policing body.This is an age-old predicament"
Legal experts comment that the verdict in this case will mainly depend on the documents, their validity and authenticity, rules and regulations of HUDA and the extensive powers conferred by the constitution and by-laws of HUDA on its Chairman. If the charges are validated, the quantum of punishment may be an imprisonment of 10 years.