A former Chief Minister of Haryana, Om Prakash Chautala is already behind the bars because of a JBT teachers recruitment scam for 10 years, and now another is likely to face the consequences of a CBI chargesheet filed against him in a plot allotment case. It is pertinent to mention here that one more 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 about Rs. 5 lakh.
Will another 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 (Haryana Urban Development Authority) plot to his party’s mouthpiece newspaper National Herald, which allegedly incurred a loss of Rs.67 lakh as charged by the CBI?
A special CBI court on January 22, 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 3,206 teachers in the state by using forged documents.
On Saturday (December 1), CBI had 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 IPC and sections 13(1)(d) read with 13(2) of Prevention of Corruption Act.
Haryana Governor Satyadev Narayan Arya had already given his approval for the prosecution of Hooda in the AJL matter a few days ago. CBI has alleged that Hooda, the then Chief Minister and Chairman of HUDA, in 2005 re-allotted a previously cancelled plot to AJL at the original rate, allegedly violating the norms laid down by HUDA, which resulted in a loss of Rs.67 lakh to the government exchequer.
The plot in question was firstly allotted to AJL company in 1982, but the company failed to complete the construction on the plot as per HUDA norms due to which the plot allotment was cancelled by HUDA in 1992 and the plot was later repossessed by the Haryana Urban Development Authority. Later on in 1995, Administrator HUDA dismissed the appeal of AJL against resumption of plot and the revision petition of the company was also dismissed by 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, Haryana Urban Development Authority had re-allotted the cancelled plot to AJL at the original rate plus interest, allegedly violating the norms laid down by the Haryana Urban Development Authority.
Now, as the CBI has booked former Chief Minister Hooda, the then chairman of AJL, Moti Lal Vora, and the company under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), related to criminal conspiracy and provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, the air of reactions has started to gain heat in the political and legal circles.
After Manesar land case 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 using the threat of acquisition by the Bhupender Singh Hooda government during his tenure as CM.
Reacting over the present AJL plot allotment case, Hooda alleged that the BJP government in the state had nothing to show in their achievement card except indulge in political vendetta against him. Hindustan Times (Dec 1, 2018) quotes 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 could not do construction on it. 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.2 lakh. “It was a well reasoned order passed by me in exercise of powers vested in me by the HUDA Act,’’ he claimed.
Randeep Singh Surjewala, Incharge Communication Indian National Congress alleged that BJP and its leaders are using government machinery to harass the opposition leaders and suppress their voice.
In a press conference on December 2, 2018 he said, “These days Modiji, 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 done no dishonesty. 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 working in a revengeful manner. Upsetting over the likely defeat in five states and 2019 elections , PM Modi and Haryana CM Khattar are not only issuing unrestrained statements and using filthy language , but also trying to suppress the voice of opposition through mis-utilization of police and government agencies .”
But on the other hand, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has denied any political vendetta while replying to a question on CBI chargesheet against Bhupinder Singh Hooda in Manesar land deal case, quoted the scriptures saying, “as you sow so shall you reap.”
Hindustan Times reports 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.”
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 or himself, he should be held guilty and must be punished.”
Krishan Swarup Gorakhpuria , a veteran farmer leader from Fatehabad comments , “ Every act is related with electoral politics.”
Sunil Sheoran , an advocate from Bhiwani reacts , “I think what’s going on is due to this political system in India , when the elections are near , all mechanisms are active whether that is CBI or any other cop. This is ridiculous and is happening from the very beginning.”
Legal experts comment that proving or disproving the charges leveled 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.
However, if the charges get proved beyond doubt, the quantum of punishment may go upto an imprisonment of 10 years. Under section 13(1) (d) of Prevention of Corruption Act (as mentioned in the chargesheet) alone, if the criminal misconduct by a public servant gets proved, then he is liable to punishment as under:
13 (2 ): Any public servant who commits criminal misconduct shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than four years , but which may extend to ten years and shall be liable to fine.