March 10, 2021 9:57:18 am
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) raid on rebel AAP MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira has come at a time when the former Leader of Opposition had been very vocal in raising the issue of alleged torture in detention of Sikh detainees post January 26 violence in Delhi and demanding probe in the death of a farmer, Navreet Singh, during the protests.
Lately, there has been widespread speculation on his future political move and he was also seen cosying up to the Congress during the ongoing budget session of the Vidhan Sabha. Khaira has strong support base among the Non Resident Indians (NRIs) in Canada, Australia and Europe and has also been very vocal on the UAPA cases registered against Sikh youths.
Though no longer associated with Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Khaira still sits in the Vidhan Sabha on the same side as AAP legislators. However, he and other rebel MLAs, including Kanwar Sandhu, Jagtar Singh Jagga, Pirmal Singh Khalsa, Nazar Singh Mashahia and Jagdev Singh Kamalu, openly differ with the AAP’s stance.
These legislators do not accompany AAP MLAs on their walkouts or participate in their protests inside the House. Kanwar Sandhu had also spoken out openly in the House against AAP MLAs tearing copies of the Governor’s address.
Inside the Assembly, Khaira has been seen crossing the floor of the House to talk to Congress ministers and it has been alleged that he was filming the proceedings on his mobile phone when SAD and AAP MLAs were protesting in the well. At one point, Congress MLAs asked Khaira not to make video on his mobile to which he retorted that the House was adjourned at that stage.
Sources say Tuesday’s raid by the ED teams also targeted Khaira’s daughter and son-in-law’s residence in Delhi. The agency searched a dozen locations — Khaira’s residence in Chandigarh, nine places in Punjab, including his house in ancestral village Ramgarh, and two in Delhi which includes the residence of his son-in-law Inderveer Singh Johal.
Speaking to media persons briefly outside his house in Chandigarh, Khaira denied the allegations of ED that he is an “associate” of the drugs’ racket convicts and fake passport racketeers. “No duplicate passport has been found in my possession. This is a fake news which is being circulated. Please do not spread this fake news anymore,” he said.
Khaira also denied that that he was involved in any way in money laundering. He said that all phones in his house had been confiscated by the raiding teams. “I have never been involved in any wrongdoing. Whatever I have accrued is through bonafide means. This is not the first time that I have been named in fake cases. The Akali government too had filed false FIRs against me. My late father too had raised his voice against wrongdoings and I too will continue to do so,” he said.
Khaira was elected to the state Assembly in 2017 on an AAP ticket and was appointed the Leader of Opposition, replacing HS Phoolka, but he fell out with the central leadership of the party over the issue of apology tendered by Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal to Akali leader Bikram Singh Majithia in a defamation case.
Khaira and Sandhu (MLA from Kharar), were suspended from the AAP. He later launched his own political outfit, Punjab Ekta Party. He resigned from AAP in 2019 and contested the Lok Sabha polls unsuccessfully from Bathinda.
The Bholath MLA has, however, retained his seat in the Vidhan Sabha and had withdrawn his resignation as an MLA citing public sentiments in his constituency. The AAP leadership has complained to the Speaker, Rana KP Singh, to take a call on the legality of his Assembly membership, but no decision has been taken on the complaint.
In November 2017, a Fazilka court had summoned Khaira, along with four others, including his PA and personal security officer, in connection with a drugs case. Khaira was described as the “kingpin” of the drugs’ smuggling case in the application moved before the court by the Additional Public Prosecutor (APP) of Fazilka. The application had said that specific role of Khaira was found in the commission of crime in an ongoing drug smuggling case.
However, Khaira received relief from the Supreme Court, which stayed the summons and referred the matter to a larger bench to be constituted by the Chief Justice of India on points of law.
The SC had opined that there were substantial questions of law arising for further consideration regarding the summons issued to Khaira for trial. The questions raised were whether the trial court has the power under Section 319 of CrPC for summoning additional accused when the trial with respect to other co -accused has ended and the judgment of conviction rendered on the same date before pronouncing the summoning order.
It also questioned whether the trial court has the power under section 319 of the CrPC for summoning additional accused when the trial in respect of certain other absconding accused (whose presence is subsequently secured) is ongoing/pending, having been bifurcated from the main trial.
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