The Punjab Vigilance Bureau’s (VB’s) has filed a cancellation report in the alleged Amritsar Improvement Trust (AIT) land scam case against Punjab Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh. The VB’s move has come as a big relief to Amarinder ahead of state elections and may strengthen his claim to be named the Congress party’s chief ministerial candidate. However, it has sparked fresh accusations of a “Badal-Amarinder nexus” from the AAP.
On Friday, the VB filed the 21-page cancellation report in the court of duty magistrate Saru Mehta, an Additional and District Sessions Judge in Mohali as the Additional District and Sessions Judge Anshul Berry, who was hearing the case, was on leave. The report said that there was no evidence against the accused in the case.
The VB stated that the evidence was untraced, no offence was made out against the accused as allegations could not be proved. Amarinder was one of the 18 named accused in the case. The AAP, on Saturday, reiterated its theory that Amarinder had a “tacit understanding” with the Badals (Sic).
AAP’s Sukhpal Singh Khaira, at a press conference, said that it was a case of “quid pro quo” as both Congress and Akalis “feared” an AAP government would put them both behind bars.
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Earlier Arvind Kejriwal tweeted:”Need more proof of collusion betn Akalis and Cong? This happening just before elections. It means Akalis n Cong r jointly fighting elections.”
The alleged scam had rocked the 12th Vidhan Sabha (2002-2007) when former Deputy Speaker Bir Devinder Singh, who was expelled by the Congress six months ago when he alleged Amarinder wanted him to sign an affidavit that he wanted to withdraw his allegations in the same case, had asked a starred question in the last sitting of that House. The then Speaker, in his noting, wrote that the matter should be investigated, if the house agreed.
The 12th house never met after that, it was taken up by the 13th Vidhn Sabha, and a case registered by VB on September 11,2008. The nine-member Harish Dhanda committee of the Vidhan Sabha indicted Amarinder, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, then Local Bodies Minister, Raghu Nath Sahaipuri, then Urban Development Minister (both are now dead) and then AIT chairman Jugal Kishor Sharma on charges of corruption, cheating, forgery, tampering of official record, and criminal conspiracy while granting exemptions for transfering the land to a private coloniser, Veer Enclave. The case was registered at Mohali under sections 420, 467, 468, 471 and 120-B of the IPC, along with provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
After investigating the case, the VB has stated that the indictment of the accused by Harish Dhanda’s committee cannot make the case as the Supreme Court had set aside the report stating that Amarinder had moved the apex court when he was expelled from the Assembly and disqualified for the remaining tenure of 13th Vidhan Sabha after tabling of Dhanda report. The court stated that Amarinder could not be expelled on a committee report constituted on the basis of a question in 12th Vidhan Sabha.
On February 10,2009, the Vigilance submitted challan in Mohali court against 18, including Amarinder, Ch Jagjit Singh, some AIT trustees and the coloniser, accusing them of misusing official capacity and causing loss to the exchequer. Amarinder moved the high court and on December 22, 2014, the High Court ordered a re-investigation into the case, saying that the House Committee report should not be the basis of the inquiry.
On February 2, 2015, Vigilance Bureau DIG Rajinder Singh started re-investigating the case. The investigation on allegations, said sources in VB, has revealed that no tampering of record could be made out as the Speaker was entitled to add to the noting manually. On the allegations of exemption to the coloniser, it was revealed that the there was no exemption as the rules were followed and the AIT was competent of giving exemption. The investigation could not find true the allegations that no resolution was passed by the trust before exemption, and no case of corruption could be proved.
VB sources said Bir Devinder Singh was called by the VB twice for his statement on the issue but he had stayed away. A senior VB official told Indian Express that Singh had WhatsApped his response that he did not want to say anything on the issue.