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Thursday, October 22, 1998
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Lok Pal indicts 3 ex-ministers
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH/LUDHIANA, Oct 21 — The Punjab Lok Pal, Justice Harbans Singh Rai, is believed to have indicted three former Congress Ministers and sent his report to the Governor, Lt-Gen (retd) B.K.N. Chhibber. Those indicted are Mr Balmukand Sharma, Mr Lal Singh and Mr Lakhmir Singh Randhawa. The report was sent to the Governor last month.

While details about the Lok Pal's report were not available, both the complainant and the accused have been informed that a report has been made to the Governor in accordance with the Punjab Lok Pal Act, 1996.

Under the Lok Pal Act, the Governor had to decide within three months on the action to be taken in cases sent to him by the Lok Pal. He could either agree with the Lok Pal and send the cases to the government for follow-up action. Alternatively, he could refer the cases back to the Lok Pal for a review. If the Lok Pal sticks to its views, the matter would then be referred to the legislature for discussion and a decision.

This cumbersome procedure has been adopted in order to cut arbitrary powers at all levels.

The sources said that in accordance with the procedure laid down under the Lok Pal Act, the complainant as well as those against whom the complaints were made had been informed by the Lok Pal that investigation of their cases had been completed and sent to the Governor. This seemed to be the root cause of the controversy now sought to be kicked up by the Punjab PCC chief, Capt Amarinder Singh, over the credibility of the Lok Pal.

Interestingly, Capt Amarinder Singh declared at a widely reported press conference at Bathinda on September 9 that the "Congress party would approach the Lok Pal against corruption by Mr Badal and his ministerial colleagues. He added that party workers were collecting facts on government corruption which had broken all records."

But after the Lok Pal completed investigation of cases of three former Congress ministers and informed them after forwarding the cases to the Governor around September 22. The stand of Capt Amarinder Singh, who had been threatening to approach the Lok Pal against the alleged corruption in the Badal Ministry took a u-turn and he began expressing "lack of confidence" in the Lok Pal, pointed out the sources.

The institution of Lok Pal was created by the Congress regime headed by the late Beant Singh but, for some reason, he did not appoint anyone to the post.

It was Mr Harcharan Singh Brar who appointed Justice S.S. Sodhi as the first Lok Pal of Punjab and set the ball rolling. It was during this period that complaints were received against several Congressmen by the Lok Pal which began processing them. Mr Brar's successor, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, tried to abolish the office of Lok Pal, but did not succeed following the intervention of the Supreme Court, which directed that cases filed with the Lok Pal would remain pending and be taken up whenever a new Lok Pal was appointed.

A three-member Lok Pal created by Mrs Bhattal was replaced by a one-man Lok Pal by Mr Parkash Singh Badal, who appointed Mr Justice Harbans Singh Rai. As provided in the act, the government consulted the Speaker of the Vidhan Sabha, the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court as well as the Leader of the Opposition, Mrs Bhattal, then President of the Punjab PCC, before appointing Mr Rai to the post. They all consented to Mr Rai's appointment.back

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