Updated: March 10, 2021 9:40:57 pm
Taking exception to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) raids on residence and offices of rebel Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira and his relatives “compelling” him to remain absent from the House, the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Wednesday passed a resolution condemning the “unwarranted and unconstitutional interference by the Central agencies” while urging Centre to “refrain from infringing upon the rights of the elected representatives of the people”.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Brahm Mohindra moved the resolution after another rebel AAP member, Kanwar Sandhu, raised the demand during zero hour. Sandhu’s found a strong support in Congress member and former minister Navjot Singh Sidhu and Speaker Rana KP Singh.
“This House expresses concern on the current role of the central agencies such as CBI, ED, NIA etc which have been set up to ensure transparency in public life. Unfortunately, there have been apparent instances wherein these agencies have been used to harass innocent people including farmers, artists and politically elected representatives and even some government officials,” the resolution read.
It further said, “During the ongoing session of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, a member of this House has been compelled to remain absent from participating in the proceedings and discharge his constitutional obligations as an elected representative of his constituency due to an unwarranted and unconstitutional interference by the ED, which has been noticed and condemned by the august House unanimously”.
“This House strongly condemns such unwarranted and unconstitutional interference by the central agency and urges upon the Government of India to refrain from infringing upon the rights of the elected representatives of the people by subverting the due process of law and uphold the tenets of democratic set up in the country,” it summed up.
The Speaker announced the resolution was passed unanimously. The two BJP MLAs were not in the House at the time of the voting on the resolution.
Khaira who was present in the House, termed the raid as a “well-planned vilification and character assassination campaign” against him by the Centre and also denied doing anything wrong.
Stating that there was a stay by Supreme Court in the drugs case, Khaira refuted allegations relating to money laundering and fake passport. He said the ED sleuths made him sign papers, which included details of sweets he distributed for a marriage function in the family and details of charity made by his son-in-law for cancer patients. Alleging that Centre wanted to gag his voice, Khaira said, “I would continue to raise my voice for the farmers and against rights violations.”
Earlier, while raising the issue during zero hour, Sandhu termed the raids as “unfortunate” and “an interference in the House functioning.” He pointed out that Khaira was not allowed to attend the House proceedings during the “important budget session”. He said an attempt was being made to link Khaira to an old FIR.
Demanding a resolution or at least “displeasure” of the House over the raids, Sandhu said the timing of the raids was linked to farm agitation and that everyone including politicians, activists, singers and journalists were being targeted for voicing concerns for the farmers.
Navjot Sidhu backed Sandhu. “Are we allowed to question the Centre or not? Are we a free society? Are we a fear society,” he asked.
Sidhu added that when there was actual need to take action in drugs cases, [ED official] Niranjan Singh was transferred out. He hit out at the Centre for adopting “double standards” and being “autocratic”.
Mohindra termed the raids as “an attack on the institution of MLA”. He said it was “highly deplorble and condemnable [that raids were conducted] when session is on.”
After Speaker referred to the demand of a resolution, Mohindra said, “You are the custodian of the House. Let it come from chair.” Rana, however, said a member in the House move the resolution.
Mohindra also noted that neither Speaker was informed nor his permission taken before ED conducted the raids. “Every member has a fear, the way Centre government is moving,” added Mohindra.
Rana, meanwhile, said that legally ED was not supposed to take permission from him to carry out raids, but the agency was not supposed to stop a legislator from attending the ongoing session.
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