M A I N   N E W S

Minister throws his weight around as Dy Director is held
Tribune News Service

Technical Education Deputy Director N.S. Bhatia is led away by the Vigilance Bureau after he was caught while allegedly accepting a bribe in Chandigarh on Wednesday
Technical Education Deputy Director N.S. Bhatia is led away by the Vigilance Bureau after he was caught while allegedly accepting a bribe in Chandigarh on Wednesday. — Tribune photo by Manoj Mahajan

Chandigarh, September 28
The much-publicised anti-corruption drive launched by the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today received a severe blow. One of his ministers, Mr Rakesh Pandey, indulged in a three-hour long drama, directly intervening and questioning Vigilance Bureau officials after they had nabbed a senior officer of the Technical Education Department while allegedly accepting a bribe.

Mr Pandey, who is Minister of State for Technical Education, later, said: “ The Chief Minister had issued directions that the Vigilance would inform the department concerned before carrying out any such operation.” He claimed the bureau should have informed him before carrying out any such operation. The SP, Vigilance, Mr Gurpreet Bhullar, when asked if the Vigilance was supposed to inform the department concerned, said : “We informed our seniors. I cannot comment if we are supposed to inform ministers as these things are not decided at my level.” He also denied that the raid of the vigilance team was adversely affected due to the presence of the minister.

The drama between Mr Pandey and the vigilance officials started at 2 pm at the headquarters of the Technical Education Department here. A team of the bureau had nabbed the Deputy Director, Mr N.S. Bhatia, on a charge of accepting a bribe of Rs 65,000 (Rs 15,000 in cash and a self-cheque for Rs 50,000) to allow re-affiliation to Malwa Arts and Crafts College, Sangrur. Mr Bhatia had allegedly struck a deal for Rs 1 lakh with the college management, Mr Bhullar told reporters.

Minutes after Mr Bhatia was nabbed, Mr Pandey arrived on the scene and prevented the vigilance team from taking Mr Bhatia away. He first asked the vigilance team how it entered the office without his permission. The team reportedly told him that it did not need any permission as it worked independently under the Chief Secretary. The minister insisted on speaking to the Chief Secretary.

During the course of these interactions, SP, Vigilance arrived on the scene and also his senior, the DIG, Mr N.S. Dhillon. The minister was pacified by senior officers and reportedly told why Mr Bhatia had been nabbed.

After the drama ended, mediapersons asked Mr Pandey why he was at the scene. Mr Pandey said: “ I had come on a routine inspection and did not interfere in the working.”

When asked why he expected the vigilance team to inform him and whether this would compromise the secrecy of the raid, an agitated Mr Pandey said “ Politician kya dhol baja dega”.

When asked whether he saw any political undertones in the raid, Mr Pandey said “ You should ask the Chief Minister.”

The Vigilance Bureau arrested Mr Bhatia and booked him under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Further investigation is in progress.

After a search of his house National Savings Certificates and FDRs amounting to Rs 3.86 lakh, 28 tolas of gold, Rs 15,000 and a bank locker key were found, according to the bureau. Mr Bhullar said Mr Bhatia had been arrested earlier also. He was facing a case relating to disproportionate assets.


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