M A I N   N E W S

Complainants drop Ponty Chadha’s name
Punjab liquor auction case
S.S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, September 8
The Supreme Court was today informed by the unsuccessful bidders in the Punjab’s liquor vends auction case that the name of contractor Ponty Chadha, who was accused of “manipulating” the bids through some “benami” vendors, has been deleted by them from the list of respondents.

Senior advocate Joseph Velapalli, appearing for the parties which had challenged the auction, told a Bench comprising Mr Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Mr Justice A.R. Lakshmanan that they had deleted the name of Ponty Chadha as notices could not be served on him.

The hearing in the case was adjourned last time only because all parties in the six transfer petitions, who had not been served with the notices of the court, seeking their replies. Since non-service of the notice on Ponty Chadha was delaying further hearing in the case, the contesting parties today preferred to drop his name from among the respondents.

Punjab’s counsel senior advocate P.P. Rao and state’s Advocate General Harbhagwan Singh stated that with the deletion of Ponty Chadha’s name, the allegations of “manipulation” in the auction did not withstand.

But counsel for the opposite parties submitted that facts of each case were different. The petitioners had challenged the auctions in the districts other than Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur and Nawanshahr, which were struck down by the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Among the six petitions, the transfer of which was sought from the high court to the apex court for hearing along with Punjab Government’s special leave petition (SLP) against the high court’s order, also includes a public interest litigation (PIL) challenging the auction in the entire state. Punjab’s counsel contested the claim of the opposite parties that each case was different from the other, saying there might be some variation of facts but the main points of law were same in all petitions, and therefore, they have to be heard together.

After hearing brief arguments from both the sides on preliminary objections, the court fixed September 15 for arguments in the case.

The auction of liquor vends in Punjab in March last had generated a lot of heat as Opposition as well as some unsuccessful bidders had accused the government of “conniving” with some “powerful” liquor contractors outside Punjab to award the contracts to them. Ponty Chadha’s name had cropped up as one of such contractors amidst the allegations and counter allegations.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court had stuck down the auctions in Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur and Nawanshahr district following writ petitions by some unsuccessful bidders, against which the state had filed an appeal in the Supreme Court.

Since more petitions had moved in the high court subsequently, the state government sought transfer of all cases to the Supreme Court, which had stayed all further proceedings in the high court.

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