M A I N   N E W S

Final touches to challan against Badals
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 16
Aided by outside experts, senior functionaries of the Chief Ministers’ Secretariat and the Punjab Vigilance Bureau have been working late in the night to give the finishing touches to the challan in the disproportionate assets case registered against former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and members of his family, besides others, in June this year.

Though the filing of the challan has legally nothing to do with the assembly elections in five states, the overtime effort of the investigators, legal experts, assessors and the Home Department has been to use the charge sheet against the Badals for maximum mileage in what the Congress Government in the state has been claiming to be a “crusade against corruption in high places”.

Though the Shiromani Akali Dal in general and the Badals in particular have been accusing the Chief Minister and his Secretariat of “fabricating cases of corruption against them out of political vendetta”, the government has maintained that “corruption was rampant during the previous SAD-BJP rule and the Badals had amassed assets (Rs 3500 crore) disproportionate to their known sources of income”.

Looking at the events since the present government assumed office in March last year, the first step was initiated when Mr Balwant Singh, a Congress leader of Mansa, filed a complaint against Mr Parkash Singh Badal and some others, alleging that the SAD leader resorted to large-scale corruption during his tenure as the Chief Minister. Though the complainant has remained elusive afterwards, an FIR was registered on June 25 this year within a few days of his filing the complaint.

The arrest and interrogation of many close to the Badal family in one case or the other, including the cases of corruption registered against the ex-Officer on Special Duty to Mr Badal, Mr Hardeep Singh Bhamra, continued simultaneously.

An officer of the rank of Deputy Inspector-General went abroad to collect evidence of properties the Badals alleged to have amassed in North America. In fact all those associated with the investigation of the case against the Badals were rewarded, including the appointment of their wards or close relatives as Law Officers or by giving the officers themselves prized postings in the Police Department.

On the other hand, the Badals filed two cases against the Chief Minister. In one of the cases, the Chief Minister had to seek bail and is yet to file reply to the notice served on him.

Not only that 42 Akali legislators presented a memorandum to the National Human Rights Commission. The Chief Secretary and the Director-General of Police sought an extension in filing their reply to the memorandum. In the meanwhile, SAD leaders submitted another 50-page addendum to the earlier memorandum. The extended time ends tomorrow and the Punjab Government is yet to file its reply.

Interestingly, all cases pertain to corruption. While the Congress Government maintains that it will file the challan against the Badals for amassing assets more than Rs 3,500 crore through corrupt means, the Badals insist that the Chief Minister and his Secretariat, by assuming the role of investigator, prosecutor and even as an adjudicator, was out only to “fabricate evidence” against them as a defence in the criminal defamation case against the Chief Minister.

The Badals allege that the arm-twisting tactics were being resorted to extort statements under Section 164, Cr P.C. They held such witnesses were being “promised prized postings” at a meeting with the Chief Minister and members of his Secretariat in the flat of one of his Advisers.

On the other hand, the state government has assailed the role of the BJP-led NDA Government, blaming it for trying to scuttle the probes against the Badals and other ministers of the previous government facing corruption charges.

The investigations in to the present case against the Badals were supported largely by outside agencies, including those in the private sector. For example, the vetting of the challan is being done by legal experts who are not a part of the 120-member strong team of Law Officers of the state. Even the Director (Prosecution), Legal Remembrancer and others are not being associated. For assessing the properties of the Badal, private agencies were hired though the state has a big Public Works Department as well as urban development authority.

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