M A I N   N E W S

Badal, Sukhbir sent to Patiala jail
Ropar Special Judge orders judicial remand till December 13
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Ropar, December 1
Declining the prayer for interim bail in an alleged corruption case, Ropar’s Special Judge today created history by remanding Punjab’s former Chief Minister-cum-Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) President Parkash Singh Badal and his Member of Parliament son Sukhbir Badal in judicial custody till December 13. Never before has a former Chief Minister of the state been sent to jail even for a day.

The Judge also fixed December 3 as the date of hearing on their application for regular bail. The court further issued fresh notice to Mrs Surinder Kaur Badal for December 13. She was not present in the court as she had not been served notice. The former Chief Minister, meanwhile, turned down his counsel’s suggestion to move an application for getting himself admitted in hospital on medical grounds.

As soon as Special Judge for corruption cases S.K. Goel pronounced the order in an open court at about 2.45 pm, at least a thousand Akali supporters, camping around the court complex since morning, converged in. The baton-yielding cops, clutching protective shields, could pose little resistance as they pushed their way through the jostling crowd of journalists towards the main gate.

The blaring sirens and wild honking were drowned in the din as the aggressive workers raised slogans against the Congress government and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.

Ignoring the police personnel trying to take control of the situation, they surrounded the white Ambassador car in which the Badals, escorted by Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) President Gurcharan Singh Tohra, were to leave for Central Jail in Patiala after being remanded.

Anger was writ large on their faces even as senior Akali leaders, including Captain Kanwaljit Singh, tried to pacify them.

The order, meanwhile, failed to shake the Badals, at least visibly. Soon after the Judge read out the directions, Mr Sukhbir Badal — with a saffron siropa around his neck — picked up a mobile phone to utter “dismissed” before smiling back at the advocates around him.

“We would have listened to some nice songs had Mr Daler Mehndi been in”, he laughed. Later, he said,: “The Chief Minister, by creating such a situation, is simply trying to save his seat”.

The former Chief Minister, meanwhile, took a little time to, perhaps, comprehend the situation. But then he too laughed before answering questions. “Throughout my life I have not kept track of two things...,” he quipped. “I do not know my date of birth and I have never counted the number of times I have been to jail in public interest”.

Cleaning the glasses of his spectacles, senior Mr Badal, clad in a blue long coat with matching turban, added: “And I have never worn a watch.” As far as Mr Sukhbir Badal’s remand was concerned, he said lightly, “I have been to jail, now he too will be accompanying me. The licence is being renewed. He will also be getting a certificate”.

Regarding party’s control in his absence, he said, “The party work will go on. It never stops. I am sure it will be taken care of.” Commenting on the court directions, he asserted, “We have full faith in the judiciary and we know we will get justice from the courts”.

On the move to stop the supporters from reaching Ropar in the morning, he said, “We condemn the act in the strongest words. They had been told to protest peacefully and that’s what they were doing. The government, by blocking the roads, have taken away the right to peaceful protest from us”.

For the Chief Minister, the order was, perhaps, a battle won. All along he had been saying that the Badals would not be arrested during the investigation by the police, and they would wait for the court orders.

The directions, on the other hand, provided the Akalis an opportunity to display their strength, potential and unity. Throughout the day, Mr Tohra remained next to Mr Badal. In fact, he sat with senior Mr Badal on the rear seat, while Mr Sukhbir Badal made himself comfortable on the front seat, in the car before leaving for Patiala jail where the father and son were to be lodged. The BJP leaders, along with Akali leaders, too addressed a gathering outside the court complex.

Also present at Ropar were SGPC’s former President Kirpal Singh Badhungar, senior Akali leader Prof Prem Singh Chandumajra and Chandigarh’s former Mayor Harjinder Kaur.

Earlier during the proceedings, the Badals, accompanied by their counsel, appeared before the Judge at about 10.30 am and applied for regular bail as suggested by the Political Affairs Committee.

Seeking the grant of bail, they submitted that the first information report (FIR) in the matter had been lodged “on the basis of a totally false, vague and motivated complaint procured at the instance of the Chief Minister from Mansa district resident Balwant Singh”. He had been “duly rewarded for signing the complaint with the Directorship of the Punjab State Land Development Corporation”.

In the application, his counsel added, “The mala fides of the Chief Minister and the Punjab Vigilance Bureau are further apparent from the fact that no preliminary inquiry of any kind, as mandated by the Supreme Court, was made into the allegations. The FIR was lodged in a tearing hurry”.

Giving details, they added, “Persons arrested by the Vigilance Bureau, including a relative, associates and a number of SAD ministers were tortured and pressurised to implicate the applicant and his family”.

Arguing before the court, they added that only the courts at Chandigarh had the jurisdiction to try the offences referred to in the FIR. The court here was debarred from taking cognizance of the case due to “absence of proper sanction for prosecution”.

Moreover, “the alleged disproportionate assets shown by the prosecution were patently false and were duly accounted for in the income tax and wealth tax returns”. The applicants, counsel added, were not required for interrogation or investigation as the chargesheet had already been filed. The applicants were not arrested throughout the investigation. Now, they had willingly come to court, but still their remand was being sought to satisfy the Chief Minister’s ego.

The lawyers accompanying the Badals included Punjab’s former Advocate-General Hardev Singh Mattewal, former Additional Advocate-General Gurminder Singh and senior advocate Baldev Singh. The application on behalf of senior Mr Badal was filed by Mr Gurminder Singh and advocate Sant Pal Singh Sidhu. Mr Sukhbir Badal’s application was filed by Vikram Chaudhary and former DAG H.S. Sidhu. Advocate N.S. Minhas was also accompanying the lawyers.

The prosecution, on the other hand, sought time to argue following which the Court fixed December 3 as the next date of hearing. Badals’ counsel then sought interim bail. Taking up the prayer, the court reserved order till after lunch. The verdict was, subsequently, pronounced at about 2.45 pm.

Soon after the Badals were remanded in judicial custody, their counsel moved an application for retaining the security cover provided to him. The Public Prosecutor stated that the cover by the National Security Guards (NSG) would continue till they reached Patiala.

Disposing of the application, the Judge directed that the applicants should be given security as per the rules and the public prosecutor’s statement, following which the Badals were allowed to leave for Patiala in their car amidst heavy security.

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