LE Correspondent

Chandigarh, July 15: The Punjab and Haryana High Court has directed the trial court to defer proceedings against former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda in a case filed by the Enforcement Directorate against him, for alleged money laundering in re-allotment of a plot in Panchkula to the Associated Journal Limited (AJL), publisher of the National Herald newspaper.

The plea was taken up by the bench of Justice Ajay Tewari and Justice Vikas Bahl on Wednesday. The High Court will hear the matter again on August 18.

The order is a temporary relief for Hooda as the trial court was about to frame charges in the said case on July 15 and had asked for his personal appearance in court.

An Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) was registered by the ED on July 15, 2016. It filed a prosecution complaint (charge sheet) before the Panchkula trial court on August 26, 2019 and the trial court took note of it on September 26, 2019 and summoned Hooda as accused.

On July 5 this year, the trial court passed an order that it would hear arguments on framing of charges on the next date of hearing — July 15.

In view of this, Hooda filed the plea in the high court seeking staying of the trial as well as quashing of the ED case. Hooda argued that there is neither any legal sanction nor any material warranting his prosecution under the offence of money laundering.

The former Haryana CM claimed that the complaint is liable to be dismissed as same is violative of constitutional protection granted under Article 20 (1) of the Constitution of India against the retrospective operation of penal provision.

He also claimed that no prosecution can be lawfully launched on the basis of a complaint which, admittedly from respondent side, is subject matter of further investigation before the prosecuting agency. 

Hence, he has sought quashing of the August 2019 complaint and the September 2019 proceedings under which cognizance was taken by the trial court. 

The money laundering probe against Hooda was based on allegations that the property was allotted to AJL in 1982 but was taken back by the Estate Officer, Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) a decade later on October 30, 1992 since AJL did not comply with the conditions of allotment.

In 1995 and 1996, an appeal and revisions were filed by AJL against the 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 on old rates.

It was during the BJP government’s tenure that the case was opened up. 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. Based on the CBI chargesheet in this case, a special CBI court in April this year paved the way for the trial after framing charges against Hooda and AJL under Sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

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