Monday, July 1, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Did Bedi’s arrest make govt act?
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 30
Was it the arrest of banker K.S. Bedi alone that made the government sit up and order revamping of the Intelligence wing? This million rupee question is now agitating the minds of all those who have been closely following the PPSC recruitment scam. What is so special about this banker that made the government react the way it did?

Intriguingly, the Vigilance Bureau had been throughout toying the line that it had nothing “substantial” against any member of the judiciary. Further, it subscribed to the philosophy that even if certain members of the judiciary had been named, they should not be antagonised. The Vigilance bureau always wanted to play safe for all those whom it either feared or wanted to protect.

The action taken by the Chief Justice in withdrawing work from three sitting judges, who had come under a cloud, following confessions by both Jagman Singh and Randhir Singh Gill, alias Dheera, has put a question mark over the credibility of the Vigilance Bureau.

Developments during the past few days are self-revealing. Did the state government act in a haste in ordering a reshuffle at the top in the Police Department in general and the Intelligence in particular after a case had been registered against K.S. Bedi at SAS Nagar?

It was K.S. Bedi who had introduced suspended PPSC Chairman Ravi Sidhu to his old colleague, a former banker-turned hawala agent, G.S. Manchanda.

He was reportedly in the knowhow of each and every transaction Ravi Sidhu had with G.S. Manchanda for siphoning off his allegedly illgotten money abroad. The revelation by the previous Additional Director-General of Police (Intelligence) , Mr A.P. Bhatnagar, that K.S. Bedi was summoned in connection with the inquiry entrusted to him and Vigilance Bureau Inspector-General Chandrasekhar by the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court is significant.

It means that K.S. Bedi was summoned by the inquiry committee and not the Inspector-General of Police (Intelligence) as was made out at the press conference of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, yesterday.

It was during his quizzing that several startling disclosures about his total involvement in the whole “hawala transactions” were made. Amazed at his free movement, knowing his deep involvement in the whole scam, it may have come as a shock to the inquiry committee in general and those assigned the task of quizzing the banker in particular.

If one looks back at the whole case, one finds several loose ends starting with the unknown reasons for shifting of SP Harbhajan Singh who nabbed Ravi Sidhu while taking a bribe of Rs 5 lakh from Inspector Bhupjit Singh of the Excise Department.

A dispassionate review of the whole case would reveal that most of the key arrests or catches in the case were made either directly by the Intelligence wing or at its instance.

After the Intelligence men were asked to keep off the recruitment scam, hardly any of the major players named in the scam have been arrested. For example, G.S. Manchanda and Shamsher Singh are still at large. Even the former PPSC Secretary, Mr Pritpal Singh, has not been arrested so far.

Even some of the key players, including H.L. Bansal, have not been responding to notices for appearing before the investigation team. No action has been initiated against him or others who have been wilfully staying away from the investigations.

So much so that the first confessional statement made by Randhir Singh Gill, alias Dheera, left out 15 names. Subsequently, he made an application that he wanted to make another confessional statement under Section 164, Cr PC, in which he named most of the remaining “beneficiaries”, the names of whom he had disclosed earlier to the Intelligence wing.

In fact, the efforts of the Vigilance Bureau in nabbing both Reetinderpal Singh Sidhu and Pritpal Kaur, too, have raised questions. As far as transparency is concerned, the Vigilance Bureau has organised only one press conference about the whole scam. And that was the time when a list of 31 or 33 “beneficiaries” of bribe or sifarish was made public.

Of course, there have been leaks. And fingers have been raised at the Vigilance Bureau more than once over the “select leaks”.

Tail piece: If intelligence people are only ears and eyes, they also enjoy continuity. Who does not know Mr A.S. Dulat who spent most of his police career in intelligence agencies ? Fixed terms do not work in intelligence set-ups as it is a specialised job.

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