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Posted at: Jan 11, 2019, 7:03 AM; last updated: Jan 11, 2019, 12:51 PM (IST)

HC holds Dhingra panel report invalid

Bans publication, reprieve for Cong
HC holds Dhingra panel report invalid
‘Notice not issued’ Draft ruling said that notice under Sec 8-B of Commission of Inquiries Act was essential as the report affected Hooda’s reputation. But it was not done.

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 10

In a reprieve for the Congress months before the parliamentary polls, the Punjab and Haryana High Court today held the Dhingra Commission report “non est” or invalid, putting a bar on its publication. The commission was set up in May 2015 to look into the Gurgaon land deals, including those involving Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s brother-in-law Robert Vadra.

Disposing of a petition filed by former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, a Division Bench of Justices Ajay Kumar Mittal and Anupinder Singh Grewal said the report did express opinion on Hooda’s conduct, affecting his reputation. It also held that ample objective material was available with the state government for the commission’s appointment.

With the Bench differing on whether further proceedings should be carried out by the same or a different commission, the matter was referred to Chief Justice Krishna Murari “for appropriate orders”. It will now go to a third judge, and the majority opinion will prevail. The original record and the commission’s report in a sealed cover were directed to be returned to Haryana Advocate General for producing it as and when required by the court.

The 80-page draft judgment authored by Justice Mittal asserted that issuance of notice under Section 8-B of Commission of Inquiries Act was essential as the report affected Hooda’s reputation. But the same was not done. The notice issued did not fulfill the 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 and to produce evidence in his defence. 

Justice Mittal left it to the commission to proceed further from the stage notice under Section 8-B was required to be issued before submitting a fresh report in accordance with the law. In a separate judgment, Justice Grewal differed on the issue of notice by the commission while agreeing that the report made it apparent that the petitioner’s conduct as minister in charge of Town and Country Planning in issuing licences for colonisation/change of land use was in question. “There were adverse observations and findings which would certainly affect his reputation.” 

  He said the commission was no longer in existence and it would not be possible for it to issue a fresh notice under Section 8-B.  “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,” Justice Grewal concluded.


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