Just hours before the submission of the Justice SN Dhingra Commission report to the Haryana government, former chief minister BS Hooda and Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra have launched an ugly political attack on the state government.
The Congress’ three-pronged attack includes playing political victim, alleging the constitution of the Commission to be illegal (on grounds that it was done without Cabinet approval), while additionally going so far as to accuse Justice Dhingra himself of seeking and becoming a beneficiary of the states’ largesse.
On Friday, 1 July, 2016, the Dhingra Commission will be submitting its findings on Hooda’s role in the illegal grants of licences to hundreds of private companies, including the Robert Vadra case, involving Vadra’s company Skylight Hospitality and real estate major, DLF.
Charge 1 - Dhingra Commission illegal
The Dhingra Commission was constituted on 14 May, 2015 under Section 3 of The Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952.
Over a year later, on Wednesday, 29 June, 2016, the eve of the submission of its report, Hooda suddenly woke up to write a letter to Governor Kaptan Singh Solanki, accusing the constitution of the Committee itself to be illegal, on grounds that cabinet approval had not been obtained for it.
He further alleged that the terms of reference were changed midway to target him and other Congress ministers and officers who served under him between 2004-14.
Unfortunately for Hooda, its too easy to call his bluff.
According to state government sources, the Terms of Reference of the Dhingra Committee were issued on 29 May, 2015 and approved by the Cabinet on 1 June, 2015. The notification was later amended on 14 August, 2015 to extend the scope of the commission to four villages including Shikohpur, Sihi, Kherki Daula and Sikanderpur Badha which brought sector 78 to 86 of Gurgaon under its ambit.
Detailed justification for this has also been provided. Since not a single licence application for this sector mentions the sector, but names these four villages, the Commission felt the notification, too, needs to be amended to include these villages as the areas of the licences to be considered. It was also “modified in respect of nature of licence as even in residential licences, commercial licences were granted. Therefore the notification should be in respect of licences granted in above four villages whether residential, commercial or composite”.
This amended notification, too, was cleared by the Cabinet - on the very same day, but only after getting the changes first approved by the Advocate General, Haryana and vetted by the Legal Remembrance department.
Given the expansion of the brief, the Haryana government on 7 December, 2015 further extended the term of Dhingra Commission for six months till 30 June, 2016.
The Commissions of Enquiry Act 1952, shows that the government is perfectly within its right to do all of this, especially given the seriousness of the charges against Hooda and Vadra and its desire to introduce “remedial measures for systemic improvement, with a view to preventing loss of revenue to the public exchequer and undue private enrichment in future”.
Here’s the Commissions of Enquiry Act 1952: “Section 3. Appointment of Commission. (1) The appropriate government may, if it is of opinion that it is necessary so to do, …. appoint a Commission of Inquiry for the purpose of making an inquiry into any definite matter of public importance and performing such functions and within such time as may be specified in the notification, and the Commission so appointed shall make the inquiry and perform the functions accordingly”.
As a chief minister of 10 years, Hooda would know well that none of this is illegal. On the other hand, it is an essential and appropriate exercise towards eventually “taking corrective action” and meeting “the ends of justice”.
Charge 2 - Vadra victim of political vendetta
On Friday, 30 June, 2016, Robert Vadra, chose to play up the victim card, his only defence since he first came into the public eye for his questionable business/land dealings, by posting on Facebook:
“Almost a decade of governments false and baseless accusations on me ! They cannot prove anything without proof, and there is nothing there to prove… I will always be used for political gains, I know ... But I will walk with my head held high, as in time and with the truth which will conquer incorrect perceptions, that are created about me.”
Vadra would have been better advised to wait for the release of the release of the Dhingra Commission report before deciding it had no proof. Everyone knows that government records do not lie and most of the records in Vadra’s particular case are already in the public domain.
Charge 3 - Justice Dhingra is compromised
The third strategy, to muddy the waters by sullying the reputation of Justice Dhingra himself, has been the most vicious.
Hooda has alleged out-of-turn favours/benevolence extended by the Haryana government towards a Gurgaon-based charitable trust headed by retired Justice Dhingra after he was appointed head of the Commission.
Documents available with Firstpost confirm that Justice Dhingra did indeed make a request to the deputy Commissioner, Gurgaon, to construct a paver-blocks road in place of a kachcha road leading to a school for the underprivileged children. The school is run by a trust headed by Justice Dhingra. But it doesn’t show any illegality or impropriety in the grant of this permission. While Rs 95,40,000 was sanctioned for the construction of the road, Rs 47,70,000 has been sanctioned so far.
It is the government’s mandate to build roads and launch welfare schemes and developmental projects and no rules were bent in this case. Further, Justice Dhingra is not the beneficiary of the money released by the state government to build the road.
The Congress spin-machine, it seems, will drag even a school for the underprivileged into the debate, if it helps to undermine the judge and the commission, if it helps Robert Vadra’s case. Brace for more of this in the days to come when the contents of the report become public.
Your guide to the latest election news, analysis, commentary, live updates and schedule for Lok Sabha Elections 2019 on firstpost.com/elections. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram or like our Facebook page for updates from all 543 constituencies for the upcoming general elections.
Updated Date: Jun 30, 2016 18:54:04 IST