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Wednesday, April 01, 2020

As Oppn seeks reopening of old cases against Ashu, CM backs minister

The Opposition members staged a walkout from the Vidhan Sabha amidst sloganeering seeking immediate removal of DGP Dinkar Gupta and Ashu

Written by Man Aman Singh Chhina | Chandigarh | Published: February 26, 2020 5:13:40 am
Food and Supplies Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu at Vidhan Sabha, Tuesday. (Photo: Jasbir Malhi)

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and SAD-BJP legislators Tuesday demanded re-investigation into those the cases that were registered against Food and Supplies Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu during the days of terrorism in Punjab but were not taken to their logical conclusion.

The Opposition members staged a walkout from the Vidhan Sabha amidst sloganeering seeking immediate removal of DGP Dinkar Gupta and Ashu. However, after the CM issued a statement on DGP’s remark, the Opposition appeared to go soft on Gupta but continued with its attack on Ashu.

Speaking in the House, Leader of Opposition (LoP) Harpal Cheema said that there were several cases, including the blast at Gur Mandi in Ludhiana in 1992 in which the prosecution had not been of a satisfactory level. “In these cases justice has not been done. Why was the challan not presented in these cases against Ashu? These cases should be re-investigated,” he said.

A suspended Punjab Police DSP, Balwinder Singh Sekhon, has accused Ashu of masterminding the bomb blast at Gur Mandi in which three women and a head constable were killed.

The LoP said that if an Akali leader could be prosecuted 32 years after a crime had been committed then why could the state not act against the Ashu. “Who will prosecute Ashu for possession of AK-47 rifles,” he asked.
Speaker Rana KP Singh expunged the name of the Akali leader. The Speaker also berated the LoP. “You are an advocate…a case decided by TADA court 26 years back, rightly or wrongly…can the government re-open that case,”
he asked.

Cheema answered back saying, “Any case can be re-opened. A case which has not been tried in court can be re-opened. There has been no trial in the Gur Mandi blast case,” he said.

Senior Akali Dal leader Bikram Singh Majithia said that the suspended DSP who is now being targetted for having outed the allegations against Ashu, had been given a probe against the minister by then local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu.

“Government treasury was being looted. And the minister’s name came up in that probe report. You gave an inquiry to him to conduct. You did not like it when he blamed your minister,” he said.

Majithia was reprimanded at this stage for his choice of language by the Speaker. “Do not threaten me,” he said following which Majithia expressed regret and withdrew his statement.

“An FIR cannot remain pending for 20 years till the same is not cancelled by a magistrate,” the Speaker said referring to the case against Ashu.

Talking to media persons after the walkout, Cheema alleged that there were umpteen criminal cases pending against Ashu.

State AAP president Bhagwant Mann, who visited the Vidhan Sabha, said if Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh continued to dilly-dally on reopening the cases pending against Ashu, including those involving his alleged links with terrorists, then the AAP, if voted to power in 2022, would reopen the cases against the minister.

CM backs Ashu

Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh Tuesday backed his Food Minister, Bharat Bhushan Ashu, completely while questioning the confessional statements made under TADA Act.

Punjab Police’s suspended DSP Balwinder Singh Sekhon had produced a statement by Ashu under TADA Act in which he had confessed to having harboured two terrorists who were later involved in Gur Mandi bomb blast in Ludhiana. The Opposition had sought removal of Ashu from Cabinet.

Amarinder said had someone like Balwinder Singh Sekhon made such charges against a senior commander in the Army, he would have been court martialled and dismissed by now. “Unfortunately, this is not the Army and Sekhon could not be court-martialled. I will personally ensure his dismissal if departmental inquiry, currently in progress against him, finds him guilty.”

He said Ashu had already been given a clean chit at every level, by the TADA court and other courts. He said TADA
cases against him were examined by the Commission set up by the then Akali government and Ashu was duly exonerated.

“This man (Sekhon) was thrown out of police force and even dismissed from duty on many serious charges. But he was reinstated later, and he is now making charges against my minister,” he said.

The CM described Ashu as a competent minister who had the difficult charge of handling food security.

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