The Income-Tax department has written to Punjab’s Directorate of Mining, asking to freeze Rs 17.96 crore deposited as security for two sand mines in Nawanshahr bagged by two former employees of ousted minister Rana Gurjit Singh till the department completes its investigation to check the source of money, a government official told The Indian Express.
Rana Gurjit’s former employees Amit Bahadur and Kulvinder Paul Singh had bagged two and mines in Saidpur Khurd and Mehadipur after bidding for Rs 26.52 crore and Rs 9.21 crore, respectively, during the first ever auction of sand mines held by the Congress government on May 23 last year.
Rajbir Enterprises, an unregistered firm where the duo worked as partners, had deposited Rs 13.34 crore and Rs 4.61 crore (around 50 per cent of total bid amount) as advance deposits after bagging the two mines.
Justice J S Naranag Commission, constituted to look into the allegations of impropriety against Rana Gurjit, while giving him a clean chit, had recommended cancellation of mines.
The government recently tabled Justice Narang Commission report and Action Taken Report (ATR) in the Vidhan Sabha. The ATR stated that the department was in the process of cancelling the provisional acceptance of bids. The government has, however, been tight-lipped on whether they planned to refund the money to the bidders or not.
The mining policy, under which the auctions in the first lot were held, is silent on refund in the event of cancellations of bids.
The Income Tax department had started a probe in May last year when the controversy erupted around the former minister since his former employees had made unrealistically high bids for mines.
Sources said the state government was perplexed at the I-T communication as it would mean the government cannot utilise Rs 18 crore till I-T completes its investigations. “It is being debated as to how to react to the letter. It is state government’s money. If I-T is a government department, it is Punjab government on the other side. So we are discussing what is to be done with the letter,” said a government official.