In more trouble for senior Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda, the Central Bureau of Investigation booked the former Haryana chief minister on cheating and corruption charges in connection with land acquisition in Gurgaon that favoured private builders and also conducted searches at 20 locations including his Rohtak residence.
The Congress as well as Hooda,71 , hit out at the Centre over the raids by the CBI, calling it nothing but 'political vendetta' to suppress his voice and defame him.
The CBI also named in the FIR Additional Chief Secretary Haryana Trilok Chand Gupta, who was the then chief Administrator, Haryana Urban Development Authority, along with 15 builders including DLF, Emaar MGF, Buzz Hotels, Ansals whose official premises were searched during the operation in morning, officials said.
The searches were carried out in Delhi and Gurgaon.
It booked Hooda, Gupta and the builders for alleged criminal conspiracy and cheating under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act in connection with alleged irregularities in the acquisition of land.
Hooda is already facing CBI probes in two cases that related to Manesar land acquisition and allotment of an institutional plot to Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), the publisher of National Herald, in Panchkula.
In both the cases, charge sheets have been filed.
The third case against Hooda and others was registered on the directions of the Supreme Court on November 1, 2017 when the CBI was entrusted with the probe into alleged irregularities in the process of acquisition of 1,417.07 acres of land between 2009 and 2012 for sector 58 to 63 and 65 to 67 in Gurgaon, CBI spokesperson Nitin Wakankar said.
The government had issued the notification on June 2, 2009, he said. Hooda was the chief minister at that time.
Subsequently, another notification was issued for acquisition of 850.10 acres of land on May 31, 2010, officials said.
The CBI claimed that during the notification period approximately 616.40 acres of land were released in favour of developers.
It emerged during the preliminary enquiry that the objective of the HUDA for acquiring the land to ensure availability of developed land at affordable prices to the public at large and to the economically weaker sections of the society has not been achieved.
The agency alleged that private builders entered into a criminal conspiracy with Hooda, a two-time chief minister, and Trilok Chand Gupta with an intent to cheat land owners.
In pursuance of the conspiracy, notifications for acquisition of land were issued by the government triggering panic sale of land to private developers at a much cheaper rates than the prevalent market prices, officials said.
A large chunk of land was of no use to the Haryana Urban Development Authority(HUDA) but still it was covered in the government notification, the officials said.
The developers used their influence to get licences issued for pockets which were not useful for the HUDA and those lands were released from the acquisition process, they claimed.
Other builders booked by the CBI included R S Infrastructure, Martial Builcon, Marconi Infratech, Commander Realtors, SU Estates Pvt Ltd, Krrish Buildtech, JMD Ltd, Gupta Promoters, H S Realty, DSS Infrastructure, Sana Realtors.
"It's nothing but political vendetta. They want to suppress my voice, in which they will not succeed," Hooda told reporters in Rohtak after the CBI officials left his home.
Hooda said he 'fully cooperated' with the officials, adding, "They found nothing."
"They took a copy of an income tax return filed by my nephew a long time back," he said.
"Nothing was found against me," he added.
"I am from a family of freedom fighters, even the British could not suppress us,” Hooda said, adding he would fight his battle himself.
"I know the legal process and have full faith in the judicial system."
Rohtak MP Deepinder Singh Hooda, who is the son of the two-time CM, was also in the house during the raid.
"The present BJP government is working with political vendetta for the past five years," he said.
The Congress also warned officials of various agencies to be ready for accountability for allegedly working at the behest of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to target his political opponents.
Senior spokesperson of the Congress Anand Sharma said such actions when the prime minister and the ruling dispensation 'target its political opponents by using agencies against them are dangerous for democracy in our country'.
"Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a mindset of targeting his political opponents by defaming them with the objective of muzzling the voice of the opposition and to tarnish the image of their tall leaders.
"We condemn in the strongest terms the action today in the form of raids on former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda with the sole purpose of defaming him," Sharma told reporters in Delhi.
Sharma said the timing of the FIR and the searches are also very clear as it came ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
There was no immediate reaction from the BJP to the allegations levelled by Hooda and Sharma.