Monday, June 30, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Tough task awaits Vigilance Bureau
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 29
Having failed to find anything “incriminating” in its third successive search of personal properties belonging to former Chief Minister and Shiromani Akali Dal President Mr Parkash Singh Badal, the Punjab Vigilance Bureau may be finding itself in a tight situation as it resumes its search operations of the remaining properties tomorrow.

The bureau has been given permission by a Kharar court to complete the search of all 16 properties it listed in its application by July 20.

The notice issued by the Delhi High Court to the Chief Director, three DIGs and a Superintendent of Police for tomorrow (June 30) after admitting a criminal writ petition filed by Wimpy’s International under Article 226 of the Constitution of India may put the Vigilance Bureau on the defensive. Even the Punjab Chief Minister and the Home Secretary have been made parties by the petitioner.

Though there were indications that the Badals, including Mr Parkash Singh Badal, his wife, Surinder, and son, Sukhbir, may be questioned this week in connection with the case registered against them at SAS Nagar on June 24 for possessing assets disproportionate to their known sources of income, the SAD chief denied having been served with any such notice so far.

“No one has informed me that they want to question me. The doors of all my properties are open to them. Let them come any time and question me or any member of my family. I do not want the Vigilance Bureau to enact any drama. If they want to arrest me, let them tell me. I will come and surrender myself,” Mr Badal told The Tribune, maintaining that he has asked SAD workers not to “interfere in the investigations”.

All Akali Dal MLAs and other senior leaders will march to Punjab Raj Bhavan tomorrow and present a memorandum to the Governor, Justice Om Parkash Verma, said Dr Daljit Singh Cheema, a spokesman of the dal.

It may be mentioned here that before the search of the private residence of Mr Badal in Sector 9 in Chandigarh yesterday, the Punjab Vigilance Bureau had conducted similar search-cum-assessment operations at his Balasar farmhouse in Haryana. A search was conducted at Mr Badal’s native village also. But in all three operations, “nothing incriminating has been found so far”, admit Vigilance officials, maintaining that they are trying to assess the immovable property of the Badals.

The failure of the searches to yield anything “sensational or substantial” must have elated the Badals and put the Vigilance Bureau under pressure as from tomorrow onwards, the agency may also encounter stiff resistance from dal workers.

Till today, dal leaders and workers were busy in the panchayat elections. Their morale has been boosted by the “failure of vigilance men” to find anything to substantiate the charge that the Badals had amassed movable and immovable assets worth Rs 3500 crore during the five-year rule of the SAD-BJP Government in the state.

However, Vigilance officials, on condition of anonymity, maintain that they have “already collected enough evidence to get the Badals and their accomplices prosecuted in the June 24 case.”

“The evidence available with us is irrefutable. We may not take long to file a chargesheet in the case,” they added, revealing that a decision about questioning Mr Parkash Singh Badal and other members of his family would be taken at an appropriate time. “We can question them at any time,” a senior officer in the Vigilance Bureau said.

The chances of seeking a fresh police remand of Narottam Singh Dhillon and employees of Wimpy’s International in the June 24 case cannot be ruled out. All will, however, depend on the outcome of the hearing in the Delhi High Court tomorrow.


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