The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Thursday stayed the trial against former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Associated Journals Limited (AJL) in a plot re-allotment case.
The order was passed on two petitions, one from Mr Hooda and the other from the AJL, former Chief Minister’s counsel Arshdeep Singh Cheema said over the phone.
“The trial proceedings have been stayed and the next date of hearing is August 11,” Cheema said.
Mr Hooda, a senior Congress leader who is at present the Leader of the Opposition in Haryana, had moved the High Court challenging a CBI court’s order.
On April 16, a special CBI court in Panchkula had framed charges against Mr Hooda in the AJL plot re-allotment case.
The charges were framed against Mr Hooda under Sections 120-B (party to criminal conspiracy) and 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Mr Hooda and Congress leader Moti Lal Vora, now dead, had been named as an accused in the case.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had in December 2018 filed a charge sheet against Mr Hooda and Vora, then chairperson of the AJL, in connection with alleged irregularities in the re-allotment of a plot in Panchkula.
The agency had then claimed that the re-allotment of the plot to the AJL caused a loss of Rs 67 lakh to the exchequer.
The CBI had said that the AJL was allotted the plot in Panchkula in 1982, on which no construction took place for 10 years after which the Haryana Urban Development Authority took back possession of the plot.
However, in 2005, the same plot was allotted at the old rate to the AJL, allegedly in violation of the norms.
As the chief minister, Mr Hooda was the ex-officio chairperson of the authority. The Enforcement Directorate too had been probing the case and had earlier filed its charge sheet in the case.
“Hooda favoured the AJL by granting them three undue extensions for construction on the said plot from May 2008-May 10, 2012 until the AJL completed the construction in the year 2014,” the ED had earlier charged in a statement.
The agency said Mr Hooda allotted the plot to the AJL by “blatantly misusing his official position”.
The former Haryana chief minister, it alleged “dishonestly allotted the said plot afresh in the guise of re-allotment to the AJL at original rates plus interest in violation of necessary conditions and policy of HUDA (Haryana Urban Development Authority) vide order dated August 28, 2005.”
The ED had filed a criminal complaint of money laundering in this case in 2016 based on a CBI FIR, which had taken over investigation into the case at the request of the BJP government of Haryana and criminal FIRs filed by the Haryana Vigilance Bureau.