CHANDIGARH: In a major relief to former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda the Punjab and Haryana High Court today held Dhingra Commission of Inquiry report to be invalid and asked the government to not publish the report, which was set up by Manohar Lal Khattar led BJP government to probe grant of licences for development of commercial colonies in Gurgaon, including those of Robert Vadra & DLF.
Disposing of a petition filed by Hooda, a Division Bench of Justice Ajay Kumar Mittal and Justice Anupinder Singh Grewal made it clear that the report did touch and express opinion on Hooda's conduct and affected his reputation.
It also held that objective and ample material was available with the State Government for the Commission's appointment, on the basis of which opinion was formed that the petitioner's act and conduct constituted a definite matter of public importance requiring full inquiry.
The division bench could not come to a unanimous conclusion as there was a difference of opinion in this matter over the issue of further proceedings by the same or different commission, following which the matter was referred to the Chief Justice Krishna Murari for further orders.
Justice Mittal maintained that issuance of notice under Section 8-B of the Commission of Inquiries Act was essential as the report affected his repute. But the same was not done.
The notice issued did not fulfill the essentially required conditions. Accordingly, the report submitted by the commission was held to be "non est". Section 8-B requires a commission to give a person reasonable opportunity of being heard during the inquiry and to produce evidence in his defence.
The order further stated it would be open for the commission to proceed further from the stage notice under Section 8B was required to be issued before submitting fresh report in accordance with law. Meanwhile, Justice Grewal differed on the issue of notice, while agreeing that the report made it apparent that the petitioner's conduct was in question and the adverse observations and findings could certainly affect his reputation.
"As the tenure of the Commission has come to an end, it has submitted the report and ceased to exist, only a fresh commission can be appointed under the Act. The Commission's report is not sustainable and is hereby quashed. It shall not be published as it cannot be read against the petitioner and no action on its basis be taken against the petitioner The respondent would, however, be at liberty to appoint a Commission of Inquiry on the same subject matter," he stated.
The original record and the Commission's report in sealed cover were directed to be returned to Haryana Advocate-General for producing it as and when required by the Court. The one-man Justice SN Dhingra retired Commission of Inquiry was set up by the BJP Government in May 2015 to probe the controversial grant of licences for prime commercial properties in Gurugram, including those to Congress President Rahul Gandhi's brother-in-law Robert Vadra. It had submitted its 182-page report to the Khattar government on August 31, 2016.
The report has pointed out irregularities in grant of licences and allotment of land to individuals and companies, including Vadra and his companies, in prime areas of Gurgaon during the Hooda Government from 2005-2014. Hooda had challenged the findings in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.