Saturday, June 29, 2002, Chandigarh, India


S P E C I A L   E D I T O R I A L

It is a clear case of ‘operation cover-up’
Hari Jaisingh

THE sudden and abrupt dumping of Punjab’s top officers of the Intelligence Wing by Capt Amarinder Singh’s government on Thursday evening is not a routine administrative exercise to improve its working or image. Nor has it anything to do with confidence-building on the security front or getting to the bottom of the Punjab Public Service Commission job-for-money scam. It is a pure and simple cover-up exercise and in a way signifies the “triumph” — howsoever momentary — of vested interests hovering around the charmed circle of the Chief Minister. We understand that the sole motivation behind the order issued by Principal Secretary (Home) S.K. Sinha is to put the Ravi Sidhu affair investigations on an “all-clear, no-stink” safe course. The game of disinformation and misinformation and the messing up of key witnesses have been part of a well-drafted move to marginalise the key Intelligence functionaries honestly engaged in the onerous task of unearthing the truth.

Panic overtook the Vigilance Bureau and their patrons in the Chief Minister’s office when in the last three-four days they learnt that the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Mr Justice Arun B. Saharya, had started looking into the “misdirection of investigation” by the Vigilance Bureau. They were totally unnerved by this dimension of the Chief Justice’s enquiry which would have completely exposed ...

(a) how the Vigilance Bureau had sought to cover up the judges’ involvement in the PPSC scam;

(b) how under the garb of covering up the judges, the Vigilance Bureau had also been working to cover up a host of paid appointees and other appointees on sifarish; and most importantly,

(c) its covert attempt to protect Mr Ravi Sidhu himself.

The registration of a separate case at Mohali under the instructions of the Intelligence Wing against bank officer Kuldip Singh Bedi, who had been handling Mr Ravi Sidhu’s financial affairs right from 1996, threatened to foil the game plan of the scam manipulators and their patrons. They feared that Mr Bedi’s interrogation by the Intelligence men would open up the Pandora’s box and expose the Vigilance Bureau’s real face.

It is significant in this context to mention that the Director, Vigilance Bureau, Mr A.P. Pandey, was greatly upset over the Chief Justice’s nomination of Mr A.P. Bhatnagar to assist him in his fact-finding task. Mr Pandey reportedly met the Chief Minister the very day Mr Bhatnagar was entrusted with this crucial responsibility. He bitterly complained to the Chief Minister about being excluded from the enquiry.

And an equally vital fact is that the Chief Justice opted for Mr Bhatnagar because of total non-cooperation by the Vigilance Bureau with his enquiry. In fact, the Vigilance Bureau virtually stonewalled and defied the Chief Justice’s attempts to collect relevant information, leaving him with no option but to requisition the services of the Intelligence head who was earlier attached with the Justice J.S. Verma Commission of Inquiry that looked into the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. Mr Bhatnagar was then with the Intelligence Bureau in New Delhi. Both Mr Bhatnagar and his immediate colleague IGP Intelligence (till Thursday), Mr S.S. Saini, are known to be officers of unimpeachable integrity and professional competence.

Also pertinent in this context is that there has been absolutely no worthwhile movement by the Vigilance Bureau in the main investigation of the PPSC scam. No attempt has been made to expand upon the breakthroughs earlier made by the Intelligence Wing. Apart from the touts already arrested (thanks mainly to the Intelligence) no other touts, associates or conduits of Mr Ravi Sidhu have been nabbed. Nor has any action been taken to catch the beneficiaries who paid tens of lakhs, even crores. What to speak of other touts or beneficiaries, even Mr Ravi Sidhu’s mother and brother, who were involved neck-deep in his dealings, were allowed to flee the country.

Alas! Poor Capt Amarinder Singh!! He probably does not seem to realise the grave damage that Thursday’s action has inflicted on his political image and credibility as a crusader against corruption. Today he stands unmasked, courtesy his so-called loyalist aides and advisers!

It is now for the Chief Justice to salvage the situation. We have so far refrained from commenting on certain goings-on since the Chief Justice was probing the involvement of some judges.

We understand that three sitting Judges — Mr Justice M.L. Singhal, Mr Justice Amarbir Singh Gill and Mr Justice Mehtab Singh Gill — are in the net. We stand for the strengthening of the judiciary. Judges come and judges go, but institutions are bigger than individuals. The exit of wrong persons cannot and will not weaken or lower the dignity of the judiciary by any stretch of the imagination. Rather, the in-house corrective will only add to the glory and prestige of the judiciary and enhance its standing in the public eye. Society has a high stake in transparency and accountability of all democratic institutions, the judiciary included. We all are under watch right here and beyond.


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