Monday, July 29, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

I was obstructed: Bhatnagar; hits out at Vigilance Bureau
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 28
If his reply to the disciplinary show-cause notice served on him earlier this month is any indication, the Punjab Government has clearly failed to subdue its former Intelligence chief and now ADGP (Security), Mr A.P. Bhatnagar, in the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) case.

A scathing indictment of the government and the Vigilance Bureau, the reply throws new light on the nature of the responsibility entrusted to Mr Bhatnagar by the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in connection with his inquiry against "certain sitting Judges" and has a material bearing on what the Chief Justice has reportedly described as "misdirection" of investigation in the case.

Disclosing what the Chief Justice told him on June 17, when he first reported to him, Mr Bhatnagar writes:

"I was made to understand that no action on anybody's part amounting to interference or obstruction in the inquiry would be acceptable and I will have all the powers I required to ensure discharge of my responsibilities".

The Chief Justice also clarified that he (Mr Bhatnagar) would be "free to take help" of any other official or officials, whether working under Mr Bhatnagar or not. All the "resources" which he required, including resources already available in the Intelligence branch which he was then heading, would be available to him.

Reacting sharply in this context to the sudden transfer ten days later of four Intelligence officers involved in the inquiry, Mr Bhatnagar says:

"These transfers disabled the entire team at once due to the fact that the team was scattered, its resources dried up, and its ability to conduct inquiry discreetly was adversely affected".

This fact, Mr Bhatnagar reveals, was also communicated by him to the Chief Justice both verbally and in writing.

As for the parameters of the inquiry assigned to him by the Chief Justice, two of the areas, says Mr Bhatnagar in his reply, were (a) the relationship between the suspended PPSC chairman, Mr Ravi Sidhu, and one of the Judges, and (b) the "reason behind the Vigilance Bureau's hesitation to investigate allegations against Judges".

Evidence collected during the inquiry led him to believe, Mr Bhatnagar writes, that Mr Kuldeep Singh Bedi, manager of the Sector 22, Chandigarh branch of the Punjab and Sind Bank and a close personal friend of Ravi Sidhu, "could throw considerable light" on these two aspects of the Chief Justice's inquiry.

Therefore, Mr Bedi was called by the former IGP (Intelligence), Mr S.S. Saini, who was assisting Mr Bhatnagar.

As Mr Bedi "kept on telling lies after lies during questioning by Mr Saini", he was handed over to SHO, Police Station, Mohali, as it was felt that "some very useful information connected with the inquiry (on the two points mentioned) could be gleaned" by properly interrogating him.

However, says Mr Bhatnagar, the Chief Director, Vigilance, Mr A.P. Pandey, intervened in the matter "without making an effort to find out from me or anybody else the reason behind our interest in Mr Bedi".

Had Mr Bedi been allowed to be "thoroughly interrogated", writes Mr Bhatnagar, both as regards the empty locker in Punjab and Sind Bank (from which Rs 2 crore were allegedly cleaned out) and as regards his role in transferring Sidhu's ill-gotten money abroad through hawala transactions, "the air could possibly have been cleared" of controversy.

Denouncing the Vigilance Bureau's "successful attempt" to have the case shifted from Mohali as well as the DGP, Mr M.S. Bhullar's instructions to the Intelligence officers not to talk to Mr Bedi, Mr Bhatnagar states, without mincing words, that this "effectively prevented me from taking this part of the inquiry in my hand to its logical conclusion".

"I believe", he adds, "my inquiry was obstructed through these moves".

Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | In Spotlight | Chandigarh Tribune | Ludhiana Tribune
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
122 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |