M A I N   N E W S

Capt shifts Pandey
Dissidents boycott Cabinet meeting
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 30
The Punjab Vigilance Bureau Chief Director, ADGP, Mr A.P. Pandey, has been replaced by the ADGP, Mr Mohammad Izhar Alam. Mr Pandey is now ADGP, Administration.

Though the orders to this effect were issued by the Principal Secretary, Home Affairs and Justice, Mr S.K. Sinha, the Council of Ministers had also today discussed the issue of ''attempts to implicate the Transport Minister, Mr Tej Parkash Singh, in a false case''.

A press note said without having verified the authenticity of the complaint or seeking approval of the competent authority, the same had been sent to the Chandigarh police. The council, in a resolution, today ''regretted'' this action of the Vigilance Bureau.

Earlier, the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, at a media briefing after the council meeting said when a minister or an MLA was involved or against whom a complaint was received, the minister and the Administrative Secretary concerned, in this case the Chief Minister and the Chief Secretary, should have been informed. ''There was a procedural snag,'' he added.

While the Finance Minister, Mr Lal Singh, dubbed the action of Mr Pandey an ''irresponsible act'', Capt Amarinder Singh appreciated the ''great and good work'' done by Mr Pandey and said he was ''grateful'' to him.

The incident involving Mr Tej Parkash Singh has sparked yet another bitter controversy and equipped the Congress dissidents with new ammunition to fire at the citadel of Capt Amarinder Singh. The dissidents had raised a chorus for the removal of the Home Minister and the Home Secretary, represented to the Governor and threatened to resign in support of their colleague. They perhaps forgot that the Vigilance is now with the Chief Secretary and not the Home Secretary, Mr Sinha. The portfolio of Home is with the Chief Minister, whose removal, nevertheless, is already their main demand. On this, Capt Amarinder Singh said in reply to questions that he did not go by what was demanded but took action on what was right.

With the removal of Mr Pandey, the dissidents claim to have made yet another ''kill'' after seeing both the Media Adviser, Mr B.I.S. Chahal, and the Principal Secretary, Mr Sinha, out of the Chief Minister's Office.

The dissidents did not attend today's council meeting, while, besides the Chief Minister, it was attended by at least 12 others. When asked about this, Capt Amarinder Singh said that no quorum as such was required for holding a meeting of the Council of Ministers. He replied in the negative when asked if he would take disciplinary action against those who had boycotted the meeting.


Transfer of Pandey not our demand, say dissidents
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 30
“Transfer of the Punjab Vigilance Bureau chief A.P. Pandey was not our demand. Only the Chief Minister knows why he has been transferred. Our demand has been that whosoever was responsible for this unsavoury controversy bringing bad name to the family of Shaheed Beant Singh should be taken to task.

“We do not know what the enquiry report says. We as a group have pledged our support to Transport Minister Tej Parkash Singh. In case he is satisfied, we are satisfied. Otherwise, we had made our stand very clear at Beant Singh Memorial in Sector 42 yesterday.”

This was the reaction of Mr Harnam Dass Johar, Minister for Higher Education and spokesman for the group of dissidents of the Punjab Congress Legislature Party. “I am not aware if Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal has been called to New Delhi by the party high command. I am not even aware that she has gone there. She may have gone there for some personal work,” said Mr Johar holding that the dissidents continue to await eagerly the decision of the Congress President, Ms Sonia Gandhi, on their grievances.

Though the dissidents stayed away from the meeting of the Council of Ministers held today, they were either avoiding media or giving a “guarded reaction” to the transfer of Vigilance Bureau chief as well as decision to appoint a retired Judge of the High Court for holding a probe into the alleged intranet company affairs involving the son of the Chief Minister.

The Cabinet took a couple of important decisions, including compassionate appointments for the victims of terrorist violence in the state besides giving 50 per cent of jobs in the police to Special Police Officers.

After the Cabinet meeting, the Chief Minister announced appointment of Mr Izhar Alam as new Chief Director of Vigilance Bureau by shifting Mr A.P. Pande as Additional Director-General of Police (Administration) in place of Mr Alam. He also announced that Chief Secretary in consultation with the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court suggest the name of a retired High Court Judge to look into the Intranet Company and alleged hawala transaction case.

“Individually I welcome it as we all have faith in the independence of the judiciary and probe by a retired Judge of the High Court. The Congress will emerge as a stronger party in case the Chief Ministers’ son gets a clean chit from the enquiry. For us the decision of the retired judge will be satisfactory,” Mr Johar said holding that dissidents have already announced their line of action in the pledge they took at the Beant Singh memorial yesterday.

“Mr Pandey has been a good officer who investigated several major cases of corruption against the Badals and other Akalis. In case the enquiry committee has held that he was responsible for causing embarrassment to the family of late Beant Singh, then it should be made known. But transferring Mr Pandey does not meet our demand,” added Mr Johar hoping that “in the New Year we will be able to provide the governance the people of Punjab expect from us. We will once again make Punjab number one State in the country.”

Mr Johar also clarified that the dissidents had camped in New Delhi only when the High Command called them there. When we had apprised the High Command of our problems, they asked us to wait till the elections in five states were over. Then we were called and we apprised the high-powered committee comprising Dr Manmohan Singh, Mr Ahmed Patel and Mrs Mohsina Kidwai. The committee was constituted by the Party President, Mrs Sonia Gandhi. Subsequently we met Mrs Sonia Gandhi also and left it to her to give her decision.

“We are waiting for that,” he added.

Efforts to reach Mr Tej Parkash Singh were not successful.


Probe ordered into intranet deal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 30
To come out clean, the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today announced a judicial inquiry into the alleged involvement of his son, Raninder Singh, in the controversial $ 100,000 telecommunication networks deal in collaboration with some foreign company.

Simultaneously, he also released a letter and an affidavit, purported to have been received by fax from their family friend, Deonard Freeke, describing the August 12 letter as ''complete fabrication''. It had first appeared in Hindustan Times and had named Raninder Singh as a ''consultant'' to Punjab Intranet Company (PIC) and on whose behalf the said money was received.

While Capt Amarinder Singh had on December 28 categorically denied existence of the PIC or any payment having been made or involvement of his son, the same day the Akali Dal President, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, had demanded an inquiry either by the CBI or the Directorate of Revenue intelligence and had later also met the Prime Minister in this regard.

Yet to be doubly sure that his family's name was not besmirched in any such scam, Capt Amarinder Singh today discussed the issue with his colleagues at the meeting of the Council of Ministers, showed them the relevant documents and offered a judicial probe. Having taken his colleagues into confidence, he released the two fax copies to the media and announced institution of a commission of inquiry.

While the ministers, present at the media briefing, endorsed the Chief Minister's announcement, the Finance Minister, Mr Lal Singh, said the allegations against the Chief Minister's son were ''baseless'' and the judicial inquiry was suggested by Capt Amarinder Singh himself.

At the crowded press briefing, Capt Amarinder Singh said he had left it to the Chief Secretary, Mr Jai Singh Gill, to appoint a ''willing'' retired judge of the High Court. The necessary notification will be issued shortly and probe into the entire episode completed within three months. The proposed commission of inquiry would get to the bottom of the episode and identify who all were behind such acts.

''The purpose of the commission is three-fold — clear my son's name, restore my credibility and pin-down those, who have tried to paint me black with the same brush as Mr Badal and the BJP were painted,'' he added.

Nevertheless, Capt Amarinder Singh alleged that the Badals were behind this episode and they had yesterday met the Prime Minister and released several ''documents like invoices of some companies'', linking his family to the shady deal. ''Such acts,'' he said, ''are an attempt aimed at putting a lid on the government's anti-corruption drive and damage our credibility and my image''.

Both in the letter as well as in the attested affidavit that Freeke has faxed, it was reiterated that the company named in the letter of August 12 did not exist and was not legally formed till September, 2003. On the Punjab Government, the letter, addressed to Raninder Singh, said, ''We have not heard from them for more than four months, therefore, we do not consider our earlier investment offer valid any longer.''

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