Six months on, new Investigating Officer in Bhola drug case yet to take charge

Enforcement Directorate says he has other important assignments

Written by Anju Agnihotri Chaba | Jalandhar | Published: December 1, 2017 11:46 am
jagdish bhola drug case, Raja Kandola, punjab drugs, enforcemene directorate, ed, investigating officer, deputy director, indian express Alleged drug kingpin Jagdish Bhola (45) being escorted among tight security (Express Photo By-Ganesh Shirsekar/Archives)

The high-profile Bhola drug case has been at a standstill for over six months as the new Investigating Officer of the Enforcement Directorate (ED), the agency investigating the case, has not taken charge of the case, while the earlier IO, promoted to the rank of Deputy Director, has only a supervisory role in the case.

ED official Niranjan Singh was an IO in the Bhola and Raja Kandola drug related cases since 2014. He was promoted from Assistant Director as Deputy Director in October, 2016. Only Assistant Director-rank officers of ED are IOs.

As an IO Niranjan Singh was also transferred to Kolkata by the ED in January 2015. The transfer was stayed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court then. The court said Niranjan will continue as IO of this case.

After Niranjan Singh’s promotion, the ED had moved an application in the Punjab and Haryana High court seeking permission to change the IO in the Bhola and other drug cases. In the application, a copy of which is with The Indian Express, it is explained that Niranjan Singh in his capacity as Deputy Director is required to supervise the investigation, hence two officers not below the rank of Assistant Director are to be appointed to carry out the investigation in drug cases.

Following this petition, High Court on May 2, 2017, directed ED to entrust the investigation to the two officers not below the rank of Assistant Director to investigate the matter under the active supervision and monitoring of Niranjan Singh. Court also said that interim stay regarding transfer of Niranjan Singh shall continue to operate. Even the court on July 31 had not accepted the plea of ED about assigning additional duty to Niranjan at Delhi office and maintained that attention of Singh cannot be diverted by assigning him additional responsibilities at Delhi office.

ED appointed Assistant Director Deepak Chauhan as IO of this case to work under supervision of Niranjan Singh, but till date the IO has not assumed the responsibility of drug-related cases.The last big development in the case was on May 15, with the arrest of Amritsar businessman Jagjit Singh Chahal. Property belonging to him and two members of his family worth Rs 65 crores was attached.

ED Joint Director, Jalandhar Zone, Dr Girish Bali said that Chauhan, the new IO, had several other important assignments to handle. Asked if another offcier could not be be given the responsibility of IO for the case, he said that it was an internal matter of ED.

The Jagdish Singh Bhola drug case is alleged to be a multi-crore synthetic drug racket, in which, according to investigators, precursor chemicals (ephedrine and pseudoephedrine) and other ready-to-use rave party drugs were prepared in Punjab and then smuggled internationally to United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands and other countries, since 2009.

The racket came to light with the March, 2013 arrest of NRI Anoop Singh Kahlon by the Fatehgarh Sahib police. Kahlon’s disclosures to the police led them to Arjuna awardee and Punjab Police Deputy Superintendent Jagdish Singh Bhola.

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