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Ch Jagjit takes an indirect hit
House panel wants two officials booked for record tampering
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 18
The Privileges Committee of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha has in a report tabled in the House recommended registration of a case against two former employees of the Assembly besides indirectly indicting Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, then minister for local bodies, for tampering with proceedings to mislead the House and cause loss to the exchequer in the alleged Amritsar Improvement Trust scam.

It is perhaps the first reported case where officials of the legislative Assembly have connived with a minister to tamper with records to evade an inquiry into corruption charges.

The committee report recommends that former secretary Nachhattar Singh Mavi and under secretary Tara Singh be booked under the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and their pension and other post-retirement benefits be stopped.

The record pertains to proceedings of the previous (12th) Vidhan Sabha. On March 1, 2006, Bir Devinder Singh asked (through a starred question 1540) if a scheme of 188 acres by the Improvement Trust, Amritsar had been notified under Section 42 of the Punjab Town Improvement Trust Act, 1922 and further if certain areas in the scheme had been exempted ; if so details thereof and reasons for it.

Following Chaudhary Jagjit Singh’s reply, it was alleged the minister was involved in embezzlement of over Rs 100 crore. To resolve the issue then Chief Minister Amarinder Singh announced a committee of members of the House would be constituted to look into the matter and further requested the speaker to constitute a committee. A committee was constituted by the speaker the same day.

However, on April 21, 2006 the Vidhan Sabha secretariat issued a corrigendum wherein the reference to the constitution of an inquiry committee was omitted. A notice of Privilege Motion was brought before the House by SAD members Manpreet Singh Badal, Balwinder Singh Bhunder and Gobind Singh on September 14, 2006, alleging the record of the Vidhan Sabha had been tampered with to protect Chaudhary Jagjit Singh who had been accused of corruption. The notice said the tampering of original record was a fraud on the sitting members of the Vidhan Sabha. They sought an inquiry into the tampering.

Subsequently a Privileges Committee was entrusted with enquiring into the tampering on the complaint of legislators Desh Raj Dhugga, Sukhpal Singh and Jagdip Singh Nakai. The 12-member committee constituted under Surjit Kumar Jiani submitted its report today in which strict action has been recommended against the officials of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha secretariat.

Subsequent to the tabling of the report, SAD legislator Virsa Singh Valtoha, also a member of the Privilege Committee started a discussion on the report that was interjected by Bram Mohindra of the Congress. When the debate failed to take off because repeated interruption from benches on both sides of the House, leader of the House Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal intervened to suggest a committee of the House be formed to look into the acquisition of land by the Improvement Trust, Amritsar in which former minister Chaudhary Jagjit Singh is said to have played a partisan role to help certain individuals.

Accepting the report tabled earlier, speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon also accepted the resolution moved by leader of the House to form another committee. At the same time he allowed expunging of all remarks made by Valtoha and others about embezzlement, etc.

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