Sunday, June 30, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Badal picks holes in CM’s theory
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 29
The justification given by the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today for revamping the intelligence wing of the Punjab police notwithstanding, the Shiromani Akali Dal President, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, and a senior BJP leader and former minister, Mr Balramji Dass Tandon, have assailed the government saying that the summary and highly controversial transfers of top ranking intelligence officials have blown the lid off the so-called crusade against corruption in the state.

These leaders of opposition have been joined by a number of senior police officials, both serving and retired, who maintain that such a “drastic action on the part of the government was unprecedented” and for the success of any Intelligence Wing “continuity of key officials was a basic thing”. They say that there were other ways and means of diffusing the ongoing tussle between the “Intelligence Wing and the Vigilance-Bureau” than handing out exemplary punishment to only one.

“This has also fully exposed Capt Amarinder Singh’s massive cover-up conspiracy. It has at the same time clearly established what we had been saying for so long – that honest men or officers have no place in Amarinder Singh’s scheme of things,” said Mr Badal in a statement, claiming that “the true face of the person who came to power on the strength of crores charged for distribution of party tickets is now coming into the open. His claims of providing a corruption-free and transparent administration lie in tatters in just over a hundred days.”

The Akali leader further said that the Chief Minister stood totally exposed in the public eye today. It was clear to everyone now that his so-called drive against corruption was nothing more than vendetta against his political rivals.

Mr Badal further said that the concern expressed by the learned Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court over the manner in which the probe was sought to be influenced by shifting honest officers away from the Ravi Sidhu investigations was a severe indictment of the way the Punjab Government had handled this sensitive case so far. It was a personal moral defeat for the Chief Minister himself. “Nothing else could have been expected from a government that does not trust even its own Chief Secretary or its Intelligence Wing”

The former Local Bodies Minister, Mr Balramji Dass Tandon, while talking to newsmen both at Jalandhar and Phagwara, said that the government in its efforts to save certain VIPs had made the top brass of the intelligence unit as a scapegoat.

“The Intelligence had played a commendable role by unearthing the job scam. By using vigilance as a tool, the Punjab Chief Minister has virtually exposed his intentions to target only specific political personalities instead of ensuring free, fair and professional investigation in the scam,” Mr Tandon said questioning the timing of the transfers.

Describing the transfers in the Intelligence Wing’s top brass as proof of government’s keen-ness to hide the truth, Mr Badal said, “From the very start, the Chief Minister and his men were using the Ravi Sidhu affair as a camouflage to hide their own corrupt deeds. They were also using the scandal as a publicity gimmick to cover the stark fact of their total non-performance on all fronts. The government’s action stinks of corrupt motives. It has also vindicated the stand of SAD that all skeletons coming out of the Ravi Sidhu cupboard belong to the Congress . But the game is up and the cat is now out of the bag.”

The Akali leader said if the Chief Minister was not satisfied with the progress of investigations in this case, he should have called his Vigilance Bureau to question. If anyone, it was the vigilance top brass that was responsible for the progress or the lack of it in the case. But by targeting honest officers in the Intelligence Wing, the Chief Minister had sought to send a signal that anyone refusing to serve the Chief Minister’s personal and political aims would be punished. The move designed not only to affect a search for truth in not only in this case but also to politicise almost the entire bureaucracy, he said.

Mr Badal said that he and his party had strong evidence that the Chief Minister’s Office in Chandigarh had been converted into a parallel mandi for doling out favours, Mr Badal lauded the role being played by the Punjab and Haryana High Court as well as the media as guardians of people’s interests.

The CM, however, justified revamping of the Intelligence Wing at a press conference today. But opinions differed.

“Everyone feels concerned about the upkeep and well being of one’s baby. And the recruitment scam has been basically the baby of the Intelligence Wing. It was but natural for the intelligence men to react as and when they found that something was missing from the expected level of upkeep and well being,” said a former police officer. He maintained that though he had been following the case closely, he was not aware of any press conference called by the Intelligence Wing. Rather, at times, he said he was surprised that it was the Vigilance which had been leaking out information only to a select few.

“Why the Vigilance did not make a hue and cry over delay in getting sanction for prosecution of Ravi Sidhu ? Why the issues which the government feels were raised by intelligence men over handling of investigations have not been answered so far. These questions — about missing Rs 2 crore, who helped Reetinderpal Singh Sidhu and Pritpal Kaur to escape and who helped in getting prohibited bore weapons far in excess of permissible limits taken from the house of Pritpal Singh to arms dealers in Ropar and Patiala — have remained unanswered.

From day one the PPSC Chairman landed in the Vigilance net in response to efforts of the Intelligence Wing, trouble started. Shifting of Superintendent of Police Harbhajan Singh was the first step followed by shifting of the DSP. Then came the DGP, Vigilance Bureau, and now the entire intelligence set-up. Even if one concedes the government’s viewpoint that senior officers were leaking information, what was the justification of transferring SP Harbhajan Singh and his Deputy, asked the police officer now living a retired life.

No action has been initiated, the sources point out, against all those in the Vigilance Bureau who either “fumbled” in investigations and let some of the “main suspects in the Ravi Sidhu case and recruitment scam slip away besides facilitating grant of bail to Ravi Sidhu for non-presentation of a challan in the stipulated 90-day period” or had been earning the wrath of the Punjab and Haryana High Court for mishandling the case as well as the court officials.

The impression given by official sources is that the executive wants cordial and good relationship with judiciary and that it has been the main reason for the reshuffle. So does the government want to say that what Vigilance officials did to the Warrant Officer appointed by the High Court the other day was an exercise in achieving that objective?

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