M A I N   N E W S

CBI set to grill 2 Punjab ministers
Summons issued to Kalia, Swarna Ram 
Khurana’s remand extended by three days
Aneesha Sareen/TNS

Chandigarh, May 7
The SAD-BJP government in Punjab, it seems, is heading for a major image-bashing. After the arrest of its Chief Parliamentary Secretary (Finance) Raj Khurana, the Central Bureau of Investigation is closing in on two state ministers.

Industries Minister Manoranjan Kalia and Social Welfare Minister Swarna Ram have been issued summons to appear before the CBI on Monday. The CBI today claimed that after two days of investigations they now have all the more reason to put the duo under the scanner. The probe agency has been working overtime to uncover the “extra-constitutional powers and authorities” wielded by them.

Convinced by the agency’s arguments to keep Khurana and co-accused Devinder Singh in the police custody longer, the CBI Special Court today extended their remand by three days.

While the Punjab Government has been blowing hot and cold over the CBI action of taking a sitting minister-rank official into custody, the agency told the court that it would go ahead with the sustained and necessary interrogation of Khurana, Kalia and Swarna Ram and would bring them face to face to unearth the truth.

Meanwhile, Kalia said he has received the summons and would join the investigations on Monday.

In an emergency meeting, presided over by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and attended by top BJP leaders, the Punjab Government had yesterday offered to extend co-operation to the CBI in the case. However, it questioned the CBI’s “haste and lack of verification” before raiding Khurana’s house.

Though Chief Secretary SC Aggarwal had said Swarna Ram was not involved in the matter in any way, the CBI seized a “demi-official” letter written to Kalia in Punjabi from the office of Swarna Ram in which he has recommended action against Manpreet, the complainant in the case.

A Xerox copy of this letter was earlier recovered from Khurana’s bedroom on May 4 when the CBI raided his Sector 39 official residence. The note, which has minister’s signature, recommends action against Manpreet for his role in the illegal sale of a 14-acre land in Zirakpur. However, this note (dated April 7, 2011) was never dispatched.

The CBI argued that since the note was never dispatched it is quite possible that a bribe did the trick and the matter was hushed up. CBI Special Public Prosecutor Pawan Dogra told the court that the probe agency would also need to examine whether Khurana’s servant Joginder Singh had any role to play in the entire episode.

“The probe has revealed that the seized amount of Rs 15 lakh was kept in the boot of a car belonging to Devinder by Joginder,” Dogra said.

The CBI pointed out that a file related to the complaint against the co-accused for illegally selling land to the Punjab Motor Mechanic Association has been recovered from the office of Devinder Singh.

‘Complainant a convict’

Calling it a well-planned conspiracy on part of the CBI, Khurana counsel, advocate RC Sharma, said the complainant in the case is himself tainted and was convicted in a theft case registered against him in 2003. He also said in 2008, there was an FIR registered against him in a case of cheating at the Manimajra police station on the complaint of one Manmohan Singh. “The CBI has connived with the complainant for political mileage,” claimed Sharma.

What if ministers fail to appear before CBI?

This issue was raised in the court, much to the amusement of all, including CBI Judge Ritu Tagore. Khurana’s counsel, while opposing the plea for an extending his remand, said, “What if Swarna Ram, who remains in hospital most of the time, does not appear before the CBI? Will my client remain for months together in CBI captivity”?.





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