5 July 2021 4:26 AM GMT
The Punjab & Haryana High Court last week stayed the ongoing trial against ex-Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Associated Journal Limited (AJL), which publishes the newspaper, National Herald, for alleged illegal allotment of a plot in Panchkula to AJL. The order was issued by a single bench of Justice Arvind Singh Sangwan staying the ongoing criminal proceedings against Hooda...
The Punjab & Haryana High Court last week stayed the ongoing trial against ex-Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Associated Journal Limited (AJL), which publishes the newspaper, National Herald, for alleged illegal allotment of a plot in Panchkula to AJL.
The order was issued by a single bench of Justice Arvind Singh Sangwan staying the ongoing criminal proceedings against Hooda in a special CBI court at Panchkula.
It may be noted that in April 2021, the special court had framed charges against under Sections 120-B (party to criminal conspiracy) and 420 (cheating) of the IPC and Section 13 (2) r/w S. 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Case against Hooda
The Central Bureau of Investigation has alleged that AJL was allotted a plot in Panchkula in 1982 on the basis of 'No Profit No Loss' by Haryana Urban Development Authority ('HUDA'), however, since no construction took place there for 10 years, HUDA took back possession of the plot.
Further, it has been claimed that in the year 2005, a recommendation was made by the petitioner – Bhupinder Singh Hooda (then CM of Haryana) that the same plot be restored to AJL at original price along with interest due upto the date of restoration of allotment.
It was argued that after a recommendation in favor of AJL, the same was placed before the meeting of the HUDA Authority, which had raised certain reservations that plot may be re-allotted either on the market price or by way of advertising and allowing AJL to participate in the same.
However, when the meeting took place, the officials did not place any such objection regarding restoration of the plot to the petitioner – AJL and its request for restoration of the allotment of institution plot was approved by the 'Authority' without there being any objection raised by any of the member.
CBI concluded that that the accused i.e., the petitioner – Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Sh. Moti Lal Vohra (since deceased) and the petitioner – AJL, in conspiracy with each other, have misused the official position in re-allotment of the plot and thereby causing wrongful loss to State Exchequer and wrongful gain to the petitioner – AJL.
Submissions made before the Court
It was submitted that the trial Court had not even looked into the documents which are part of the challan submitted by the CBI and relied upon by the petitioners to prove their innocence and therefore, the impugned order to frame charges against the petitioners wa based on non-application of judicial mind.
Importantly, it was argued that AJL throughout remained in possession of the plot for 35 years till registration of FIR in the year 2016 and that no efforts were made by HUDA at any level either to seek the possession of the plot back or subsequent to restoration of allotment.
Regarding the offence under Section 120-B IPC, it was argued that there was no allegation of conspiracy even prima facie as per the FIR or the charge-sheet.
It was further submitted that while framing the charge, there was not even a reference to any document as to how the conspiracy between the accused persons was made out.
Regarding the charge under Section 13(1)(d)(ii) read with Section 13(1)(2)(iii) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, it was argued that the same was not made out as mere error of judgment or transgression of departmental norms, would not 'ipso facto' establish dishonest intention.
It was also argued that in the absence of any prima facie evidence that the petitioner – Bhupinder Singh Hooda hds acted in a manner that he obtained a valuable thing or pecuniary advantage from AJL, the charge under Section 13(1)(d)(ii) and (iii) was not at all made out.
Lastly, it was argued that that in the impugned order, the trial Court had framed the charge of conspiracy specifying a period of 2005 to 2013 whereas the closing date as 2013 had no legal or rational basis in the report under Section 173 Cr.P.C.
The High Court, issuing the Notice to CBI, stayed the proceedings before the trial Court. The matter has been listed again on August 11, 2021.
Case title - Bhupinder Singh Hooda v. Central Bureau Of Investigation
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