Thursday, May 23, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

PPSC scam probe: glaring gaps, 31 ‘missing’ names
Hari Jaisingh

Where is the investigation in the Ravi Sidhu case heading towards? Is it on the right track? Or is it getting lopsided and diluted, even derailed? Is a cover-up exercise under way—the fear of which has been in the air for quite some time?

These questions are crucial at this stage of the investigation of the PPSC mega-scam. The slightest slackness or ineptitude, whether natural or sponsored, could be disastrous for the end-result of justice which needs to be done and seen to be done.

The problem in an investigation of this nature sometimes is that invisible hands could be calling the shots to the detriment of the process of unearthing the truth, the stage for which was set by the Intelligence Wing of the Punjab Police.

The way the matter has been subsequently handled by the Vigilance Bureau raises more questions than it answers. This is exemplified in the recording of Ravi Sidhu's principal tout, Randhir Singh Gill alias Dheera's confession under Section 164 of the CrPC before the judicial magistrate at Patiala on May 16.

If one examines closely the latest confession under Section 164 of the CrPC in the light of the earlier disclosures made by the same gentleman during his interrogation by the Intelligence personnel, there emerge some glaring gaps which cannot but cause serious misgivings among those who are keeping a close watch on the case, including the media.

Out of the 63 tainted names disclosed by Dheera in the course of interrogation by the Intelligence Wing in late April, only 32 names now figure in his confessional statement.

Almost 50 per cent of the names taken by him earlier—31 out of 63, to be precise—have been wiped off the memory slate within a fortnight. A staggering omission by any standard!

Of the 31 omissions, 28 belong to the "creamy layer" of PPSC recruitments (PCS Executive and Judicial, PCS nominations, DSPs and BDPOs).

During his interrogation by the Intelligence Wing, Dheera had disclosed 52 mala fide selections to the "creamy layer" positions. Of these 52 appointments, 39 are "paid" appointees and 13 "sifarishis".

He had also disclosed another 11 tainted appointments to non-creamy layer positions (lecturers, doctors, etc), where the bribe money was far less.

Of the 24 tainted selections in the creamy layer still owned up by Dheera on May 16, as many as 17 were routed through touts other than Dheera himself. Of these 17, six were routed through H. L. Bansal (himself a tainted nominee to the PCS), five through Prem Sagar and four through Paramjit Singh Pammi. Only seven of the 24 selections were routed through Dheera himself.

Interestingly, therefore, while Dheera remembered selections made through other touts, his memory failed him when it came to the tainted selections made through himself. Quite the reverse of what one might normally expect.

Of the 28 tainted selections to the creamy layer forgotten by Dheera on May 16, 15 are cases of bribe and 13 of "sifarish". The total bribe amount involved in these 15 cases adds up to Rs. 5. 75 crore.

Four of these 15 missing cases relate to the PCS Executive and seven to PCS nominations, which allegedly fetched Ravi Sidhu Rs 1.72 crore and Rs 1.70 crore respectively.

The other four cases relate to the appointment of a DSP (Rs 1 crore), 2 BDPOs (Rs 93 lakh) and a judicial officer (Rs 40 lakh).

As many as 12 of these 15 selections, now forgotten by Dheera, were routed through himself.

The most significant gainers of this selective amnesia on the part of Ravi Sidhu's principal tout are, firstly, all the 13 "sifarishis" (including VIPs) disclosed by him earlier and, secondly, the nominees to the PCS.

The names of all the 13 "sifarishis" and 11 of the 18 nominees to the PCS were dropped by Dheera on May 16. Four of these 11 were "sifarishis" and seven bribed their way through.

Is this a case of a mere memory lapse or is it a deliberate after-thought? Or the result of some invisible tutoring? Dheera had been in the Vigilance Bureau's custody for almost a fortnight.

I hope this will ring the alarm bells in the right quarters. Is it too much to expect that the powers that be would take due notice and set the investigation house in order?

At stake is the credibility, transparency and accountability of the investigation. And the truth itself.

Perhaps, one way to put things back on the right track is to reassociate the Intelligence Wing with the investigation process. After all, it was the Intelligence Wing which actually unearthed this mega-scam before everything was handed over to the Vigilance Bureau on a platter. The bureau's attempt to shrug off the Intelligence Wing from further investigations needs to be checkmated.

An investigation of this dimension should have an inbuilt system of institutional checks and balances. As things stand today, even the Vigilance Bureau needs perhaps to be kept under vigilance. 

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