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City Centre Scam
Capt, Jagjit named in VB challan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh/Ludhiana, December 12
The Punjab Vigilance Bureau today filed a challan against 36 persons in the Ludhiana City Centre scam, including former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and former local bodies minister Jagjit Singh. They have been charged with connivance to cause a loss of Rs 2,644 crore.

According to the bureau, an illegality in the project had been done by changing the design of the project to add more area than permitted to financially benefit “Today Homes” and permitting the sale of properties of the project, in violations of the conditions the project.

The challan, filed in the court of district and sessions judge G.K. Rai, says Amarinder, his family, Jagjit Singh and former trustees of the Ludhiana Improvement Trust (LIT) and its former chairman, Wing Commander P.S. Sibia (retd), pocketed about Rs 12 crore in kickbacks. The former Chief Minister took Rs 5.5 crore in April, 2005. The transaction took place at the Delhi residence of his wife Preneet Kaur and the sum was deposited in his family account run by Chetan Gupta. Jagjit Singh took Rs 1 crore, Sibia pocketed Rs 30 lakh while trustees pocketed Rs 5 or Rs 15 lakh each.

The name of Bharat Inder Singh Chahal does not figure in the challan and nor does it include the name of former president of the PPCC H.S. Hanspal. Capt Rajesh, once termed as the main conduit in the scan by the Vigilance, does not figure in the challan even.

The challan was filed this morning by SSP (Vigilance) Ludhiana, Kanwaljit Singh. Sections 409, 420, 465, 467,468, 471, 201 and 120-B of the IPC have been invoked along with Sections 7,8,9, 13 (i), 13 (i C &D), 13 (ii) and 14 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, in the challan.

The development comes just five days ahead of the scheduled start of the winter session of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha and also lays to rest all media speculations about a compromise having been stuck between the leaders of the Shiromani Akali Dal and Amarinder Singh during October.

The challan also names Amarinder’s son Raninder Singh, his family friend Chetan Gupta, his relative Raminder Singh, alias Richi, former chairman of the LIT and former additional advocate-general Harpreet Singh Sandhu. Today Homes’ MD Gulshan Gambhir and Infrastructure Private Enterprises (consultants to the project) MD Ashwajit Singh have also been named in it.

Others who’s names figured in the challan are the seven former trustees of the LIT, Gurdayal Kaur Khangura (she is the mother of sitting Congress MLA Jassi Khangura), Navkar Jain, Bhupinder Singh Basant, Surinderpal Singh Bindra, Sanjay Talwar, Malkiat Kaur and Vijay Kumar Parti; two employees of the LIT, Manmohan Singh (SE) and Dyal Chand Garg (EO); nine employees of Today Homes, two employees of the Infrastructure Private Enterprises, five partners of GPC Properties that includes the wife and daughter of Today Homes’ boss Gulshan Gambhir and two partners of Karishma Estates.

According to the 106-page challan, major concessions were allowed to Today Homes. The eligibility criteria was relaxed and diluted to accommodate the company without which the company could not have even qualified as per the original parameters set by the LIT.

Chairman of the LIT P.S. Sibia illegally allowed Today Homes an increase in the built up area of the project and gave permission for including an additional area running into several lakh square feet. The original approved design was prepared by “Arkitectural Grid”. Once the change of land use was allowed and the bidding was done, the LIT took upon a new design made by HoK Consultants. This firstly increased the covered area and within the covered area it reduced the area under the library, the museum and a recreation centre for children as part of the project. The challan says taking up a new design, that was not approved, was illegal.

This increase in area alone allowed a benefit of Rs 1,144 crore to the authorities concerned, the challan says, quoting a report of the Chief Town Planner, Punjab. The LIT allowed Today Homes to sell the property of the project even though the original bidding had said that the bidder and the LIT would enter into a joint venture. The bidder was to construct and use the place for 24 years before handing over the project back to the LIT on the pattern of a build-operate-and-transfer basis. By permitting the sale of properties within of the project, a loss of Rs 1,500 crore was caused as the property could not get reverted back to the LIT.

The chairman of the LIT ignored written advice of the department of local bodies to stop the opening of financial bids. The then principal secretary (local bodies) B.R. Bajaj also opposed the project whereas the minister first called for cancellation of the agreement between the LIT and Today Homes and later allowed it.

The district and sessions judge G.K. Rai has fixed December 15 as date of next hearing for scrutiny of the charge sheet.

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