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Disproportionate assets case: Court orders framing of charges
Maneesh Chhibber & Kiran Deep
Tribune News Service

Ropar, March 9
In a major setback to Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, a Ropar court today ordered the framing of charges against him in the disproportionate assets case.
Special judge G.S. Saran also ordered framing of charges against Sukhbir Badal and Surinder Kaur, the MP-son and wife of the Chief Minister and others for having disproportionate assets amounting to over Rs 78.39 crore.

The cases against the Badals and their associates had been filed during the reign of Capt Amarinder Singh-led Congress Government.

Today, despite protracted efforts by some lawyers in the prosecution team and the defence, the special judge Saran also dismissed the plea by both for further probe in the case in view of the Income Tax Department reports submitted by Badals, which reportedly gave them a clean chit in the case.

The judge has ordered that charges should be framed under all eight clauses cited by the prosecution in its proposed chargesheet, which was submitted by special public prosecutor A.P.S. Deol.

Terming their application as premature, the judge also dismissed the plea of Badal’s counsel to declare the status of the witnesses who were public servants as accused in the case.

Pronouncing his order in a jam-packed court in the evening, the special judge ordered the framing of charges against the Badals and six other accused under Sections 13(1) (a), (d), (e) and 13 (2) 8, 9, 10 and 14 of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Charges under Section 120-B were also framed against Jagnandan Singh in the case.

While Chief Minister, members of his family and another accused Gurpinder Singh Garewal were not present in the court, six accused who were present in the court, included Narottan Singh Dhillon, Nirabhjeet Singh, Pavitar Singh, Darshan Singh, Harbans Lal.

The accused present in court signed a copy of the charges framed against them. As for the Badal family, judge Saran directed them to be present in the court on the next date of hearing on March 13 to sign a copy of the charges framed against them.

The Punjab Vigilance Bureau (VB) had filed a challan against the Badals for accumulating assets worth over Rs 78.39 crore, in connivance with other accused, between 1997 and 2002, when Badal was the Chief Minister. Besides the disproportionate assets, the VB has also accused the Badals of indulging in various other corrupt acts, including the misuse of authority in making postings and transfers of public servants, accepting gratification for government jobs and acquisition of properties in foreign lands.

Apart from the allegations contained in the chargesheet, case had also hit headlines when three lawyers who formed part of the prosecution’s legal team had a bitter war-of-words in the court on the issue of seeking adjournment. The incident happened just before Badal’s swearing-in as the Chief Minister for the fourth time.

Later, in another move, which could have been aimed at helping the accused scuttle the prosecution case, the VB had changed its stand on the income tax reports.

While before the elections, both the VB and the prosecution counsel had termed the IT reports, which purportedly give a clean chit to the Badals, as irrelevant and even denying any knowledge of their existence, after the change of government, investigating officer and VB SSP Surinder Pal Singh had informed the court that about the IT reports as also the letters exchanged between the VB and the IT Department. Even he had stressed the need for further probe in the matter by the investigating agency.

Not only this, Ropar district attorney Pradeep Mehta, while arguing for the necessity of further probe, had told the court that, if found true, the reports could even lead to the discharge of the Badals in the case.



Full faith in judiciary, says Badal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 9
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said today that he has full faith in the judiciary. Referring to today’s order of a Ropar court ordering framing of charges against him, members of his family and others, Badal said he would react only after studying the details of the order.

In a statement issued here, Badal said he has “unimpeachable evidence” in the shape of the quasi-judicial report of the Income Tax Department and evaluations done by them to prove his innocence, which were already with the previous government. “As of now only a charge has been ordered to be framed on the basis of concocted allegations levelled by that government,” said Badal. 



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