LE Staff

Chandigarh, July 2, 2021: The Punjab and Haryana High Court has stayed the trial against former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Associated Journal Limited (AJL), the publisher of National Herald newspaper, in a case pertaining to illegal allotment of an institutional plot in Panchkula to AJL.

While a detailed judgement is awaited, advocate Arshdeeep Singh Cheema, who appeared for the former chief minister, told media persons that two petitions — one from Hooda and the second from AJL — were taken up on Thursday and the order was passed, staying trial.

It was on April 16, 2021 that a special CBI court paved the way for the trial in this case 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.

The charges were framed based on the challan filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in December, 2018.

According to the CBI, an institutional plot in Sector 6, Panchkula, was allotted by Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) to AJL in 1982, but because the construction was not carried out in 10 years, it was taken back in 1992.

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 chief minister in 2005, he allowed the re-allotment of the plot to AJL on old rates.

As per the CBI, 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, the CBI said.

The FIR against Hooda and AJL was registered in 2016; a year after the BJP government came to power in the state in 2015. 

At the time of the registration of the FIR, senior Congress leader Moti Lal Vora was the chairman of AJL and Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul were among the shareholders. Vora, who too was named as an accused in this case along with Hooda, died last year. An Enforcement Directorate (ED) probe is also underway in the case.

National Herald newspaper was launched in 1938 by Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister.

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