HC upholds Dhingra panel appointment, but finds procedural irregularities in serving notice to Bhupinder Hooda

While one of the judges quashed the report and directed no action against Hooda, the other held the report as "honest".

Published: 10th January 2019 07:07 PM  |   Last Updated: 10th January 2019 10:56 PM   |  A+A-

Former Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda (File | AFP)


CHANDIGARH: In a relief to former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, the Punjab and Haryana High Court Thursday quashed the Dhingra Commission report into alleged illegalities in the grant of land-use licences during his term.

Among the alleged beneficiaries of the licences given in Gurgaon was Congress president Rahul Gandhi's brother-in-law Robert Vadra.

The two-judge bench ruled that though there was no malafide intent in setting up of the commission in 2015 but there were procedural irregularities in serving notice to Hooda by it.

While one of the judges quashed the report and directed that no action can be taken against Hooda, the other held it as "non est” - not existing from the very beginning – due to these lapses.

The report cannot be published, the court ruled The judges differed on the next course of action by the one-man commission of Justice (retd) S N Dhingra, which was appointed by Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar who heads the BJP government in the state.

While one judge said a fresh notice can be issued to Hooda, the second judge ruled that the government will have to set up a new commission if it wanted to investigate the allegation because it has already ceased to exist, according to Haryana Advocate General Baldev Raj Mahajan.

The ruling was referred to the chief justice of the high court so that a three-judge bench can be set up to resolve this split verdict.

The verdict was delivered by a bench of justices Ajay Kumar Mittal and Anupinder Singh Grewal.

While Justice Mittal held the report to be "non est", Justice Grewal held it to be "non-sustainable" and quashed it.

The two judges agreed there had been irregularities in the issuance of notice by the Commission to the former chief minister, before starting its proceedings.

Justice Mittal said the commission can issue a fresh notice and proceed from that stage to look into the allegations in the grant of land-use licences.

But Justice Grewal said as the commission has already ceased to exist, only a new commission can look into the allegations.

"It was essential to have issued the notice under Section 8B of the Commission of Inquiry Act which has not been done as the notice which was issued did not fulfil the conditions essentially required thereunder,” Justice Mittal said in his order.

"Accordingly, the report submitted by the Commission is held to be non est and the same shall not be published," he added.

Justice Grewal, in his separate order, however, ruled out issuing of a fresh notice by the commission.

"The Commission is no longer in existence and thus, it would not be possible for it to issue a fresh notice under Section 8-B of the Act," he said.

“As the tenure of the Commission has come to an end and it has submitted the report and ceased to exist only a fresh Commission can be appointed under the Act," Justice Grewal ruled.

He gave the state government the freedom to set up a new commission to look into the allegations.

"In such circumstances, it would be in the interest of justice if the respondent is granted liberty to appoint a Commission of Inquiry on the same subject matter,” he said.

“Resultantly, I would partly allow the petition,” he said referring to plea against the setting up of the Dhingra Commission.

“The report of the Commission is not sustainable and is hereby quashed," he ruled.

Justice Grewal too barred the publication of the quashed report.

"It shall not be published as it cannot be read against the petitioner (Hooda) and no action on the basis thereof be taken against the petitioner,” he said.

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