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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

A (political) case study

10 of the 15 Shiromani Akali Dal MLAs and at least 30 of its former lawmakers have been booked in different cases since 2017 — the year Congress came to power in Punjab.

Written by Navjeevan Gopal | Chandigarh |
Updated: June 3, 2021 5:10:52 am
Over 30 former Akali MLAs face cases dating back to December 2017, when party chief Sukhbir Badal had given a call for a protest against the Congress government. (File)

Ten out of total 15 legislators elected to 117-member Punjab Vidhan Sabha on Shiromani Akali Dal ticket in 2017 Assembly elections have cases pending against them, according to the affidavit filed by the state government in Punjab and Haryana High Court last Monday.

An analysis reveals that more than 30 former Akali MLAs, most of them still in party fold, also face cases, dating back from as long as December 8, 2017 when party president Sukhbir Singh Badal gave a call to party cadre to come out on roads in protest against the alleged high handedness of the Congress government in nagar panchayat elections and a large number of them, including Sukhbir, eight sitting MLAs and around two dozen former MLAs were booked on a single day under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and National Highways Act 1956.

Majority of the cases, as per affidavit are “under investigation” or “under-trial” stage.

Calling registration of cases in such large numbers across various parts of the state on a single day on December 8, 2017 as “unprecedented step in democracy”, Akali Dal leadership is miffed at “frivolous cases”.

“There were peaceful protests in December 2017 against the Congress highhandedness in Zira and human rights violation. The Congress government’s move to register cases in large numbers on a single day was an unprecedented step in democracy. Having won elections earlier that year, the government just wanted to show its might. In democracy, we have the right to lodge protest against highhandedness. Moreover, we did not cause any hindrance in the movement of essential services vehicles during the road blockade,” said Akali MLA from Nakodar, Gurpartap Singh Wadala, who was booked at Lohian police station under Section145 (Procedure where dispute concerning land or water is likely to cause breach of peace), 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 283 (Danger or obstruction in public way or line of navigation), 431 (Mischief by injury to public road, bridge, river or channel), 341 (Punishment for wrongful restraint) of IPC and section 8-B (Punishment for mischief by injury to national highway) of National Highways Act.

Wadala added, “One may justify if it is any other criminal case, but registering a case for holding a protest is frivolous. Farmers are also sitting and lodging a protest in huge numbers for six months now and imagine if similar cases are slapped on them? This is uncalled for.”

SAD MLA from Sahnewal and party’s legislative wing leader in Punjab Vidhan Sabha, Sharanjit Singh Dhillon, who was on that day booked at Ladhowal police station in Ludhiana said, “It is not just Akali Dal, but no party is left with any option than holding a dharna when there are gross human rights violations. When, the government does not lend any ear, the only way is to protest. It was a peaceful protest and there was no violence.”

The other MLAs booked on that day were Dr Sukhwinder Singh Sukhi (Banga constituency), Bikram Singh Majithia (Majitha), Baldev Singh Khaira (Phillaur), Parminder Singh Dhindsa (Lehra), Kanwaljit Singh Rozi Barkandi (Muktsar), Harinderpal Singh Chandumajra (Sanour) and late Ajit Singh Kohar, who represented Shahkot constituency.

Chandumajra, who was booked in another case on July 6, 2020 under Sections 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), (283 Danger or obstruction in public way or line of navigation), 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) and 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object) of IPC and under a section of Disaster Management Act 2005 at Patiala Civil Lines police station, said the case was registered against him as he attempted to raise a public issue.

“Along with activists of Youth Akali Dal, I wanted to meet Chief Minister to request that government should do something to get the fees charged by private schools waived off. It was a very depressing time. Students had started taking online classes for which they incurred internet expenses. Many parents of such students had approached us so we tried to raise the issue with the CM,” said Chandumajra, adding that on the contrary, the ministers and other leaders in the government were not observing the Covid guidelines and had been organising big gatherings even for small functions. “In August 2020, when Covid was at peak, the Congress leaders went in for distributing the phones to students. The Congress leaders and their supporters outnumbered the students while carrying out the exercise. And I am confident that even if the government takes action against only one such violator from among their party leaders, people will follow the guidelines one hundred and ten percent,” he said.

Akali MLA from Adampur, Pawan Kumar Tinu, who was booked on September 10, 2020 under Section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant IPC), 51-B Disaster Management Act, 3 Epidemic Diseases Act 1897 at Adampur police station, said, “We were protesting against the post-matric scholarship scam and we were doing it in a disciplined manner. The case was registered due to vendetta politics and to put a noose around the scam we were protesting against. The members of ruling party are attending marriages and also have been holding political rallies.”

Former Akali MLA Harpreet Singh, who was among those booked along with Sukhbir Badal on April 28 under Section 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) IPC, said “Prevention measures should be there, but government should have also focussed on things making available oxygen supply when it was needed most and should have stopped the loot by private hospitals. Measures like merely imposing fine for not wearing masks. And as far as gatherings are concerned, the government should take action against every violator. The case in which we have been booked was not of any intentional gathering. Robin Brar was appointed president of Student Organisation of India. He just went to meet party president and incidentally some party activists and I also went there.”

The affidavit — which was filed in High Court by the Punjab government last Monday after the court sought details about cases pending against sitting and former MLAs and MPs — stated that 163 such cases were pending.

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