Saturday, August 10, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Ex-minister held for graft
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, August 9
The Punjab Vigilance Bureau today arrested former Punjab Minister Mr Ajit Singh Kohar from the District Administrative Complex (DAC) here where he had come to participate in a dharna organised by the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) against the “repression” let loose by the Captain Amarinder Singh government against Akali Dal workers.

He is the third former Akali Minister to have been arrested by the Vigilance Bureau which earlier arrested former Education Minister Tota Singh and former PWD Minister Sucha Singh Langah.

Though no senior Vigilance Bureau officer was available for comment at Jalandhar, the former minister for Jails, it was learnt, was arrested on the charges of corruption and possessing assets, disproportionate to his known sources of income.

The former minister was apprehending his arrest as he felt that a number of “policemen” were shadowing him in six gypsies since last evening, while he was at his native Kohar village. As he felt that same “policemen” kept following him even after he addressed the ‘dharna’ today, he went to Deputy Commissioner K. Shiva Prasad’s office to know identity of police parties following him. As he was talking to the Deputy Commissioner, the Vigilance Bureau teams reached there and asked the former minister to join the investigation in a case. As Mr Prasad left his office after talking to the former minister and his slogan-shouting supporters, officials escorted Mr Kohar to the office of the SP Vigilance Bureau, Mr Lok Nath, where the minister was questioned.

Earlier, talking to reporters Mr Kohar alleged that his house was under siege of “some police men” since last evening to 3 a.m. today. He alleged that though he rang up Jalandhar SSP Paramjit Singh Gill to know the identity of people, who “had cornered” his house, he received no satisfactory answer from the latter. “I was not even told in which case they had arrested me,” alleged Mr Kohar.

He said he was arrested under a conspiracy hatched against him by a Congress leader of his area, who had even challenged his election as an MLA in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Meanwhile, sources in the Vigilance Bureau at Chandigarh said the former minister was arrested under Sections 420/120-B of the IPC, and Section 13 (1-2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The minister, according to VB officials, owned “benami” assets at a number of places in Punjab, which were disproportionate to his known sources of income.

The FIR in the case has been registered by the VB at the Vigilance Bureau Police Station here. The minister and his family own 90 acres of land at Marar Koni village in Faridkot district. The registration deeds of the said land were executed between 1999 and 2002. According to the charges levelled by the bureau, the minister owned an Ambassador, a Qualis, a jeep, which he had acquired after becoming a minister. Other properties acquired by Mr Kohar, after becoming a minister included partnership in a 500-acre farm in Sultanpur Bet, a major share in a petrol pump (Location not disclosed by the VB), two-acre “benami” land in Shahkot, and a kothi in Mohali. Other charges against Mr Kohar, Vigilance Bureau officials said, included, fictitious sale of potatoes worth Rs 30-40 lakh in the Khalsa Cold Storage at Malsian, sale of eight acres of prime land near Mehatpur byepass in Nakodar to a woman through “benami” deal. The minister also allegedly got allotted five power connections in name of his relatives on a priority basis. After his arrest, the supporters of the former minister, shouted “anti Congress” slogans and alleged that a reign of terror had been let loose against SAD workers and leaders.

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