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Monday, June 14, 2021

Named in pending cases affidavit to HC, AAP MLAs cry foul: ‘Punjab government trying to stifle our voices’

These MLAs however have said that they were unaware of having been booked in such cases, calling the FIRs “politically motivated” and accusing the Punjab government of having “double standards”.

Written by Raakhi Jagga , Navjeevan Gopal | Chandigarh, Ludhiana |
Updated: May 31, 2021 3:45:50 am
In June last year, AAP MLA Saravjit Kaur Manuke had led a protest against the Punjab govt over inflated power bills. (File)

TWELVE OF 20 MLAs elected on Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) tickets during the 2017 Assembly elections in Punjab have cases pending against them, according to an affidavit filed by the state government in Punjab and Haryana High Court last Monday.

These MLAs however have said that they were unaware of having been booked in such cases, calling the FIRs “politically motivated” and accusing the Punjab government of having “double standards”.

Out of the 12 legislators, 11 are first-time MLAs, facing cases largely relating to violation of prohibitory orders and Covid guidelines.

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.

The AAP legislators who have cases pending against them are Sukhpal Singh Khaira (who had won from Bholath constituency), Kultar Singh Sandhawan (Kotkapura), Manjit Singh Bilaspur (Nihal Singh Wala), Kulwant Singh Pandori (Mehal Kalan), Saravjit Kaur Manuke (Jagraon), Jai Kishan Singh Rori (Garhshankar), Gurmeet Singh Meet Hayer (Barnala), Kanwar Sandhu (Kharar), Baljinder Kaur (Talwandi Sabo), Master Baldev Singh (Jaito) Principal Budh Ram (Budhladha) and Rupinder Kaur Ruby (Bathinda Rural).

Except Khaira, all the other 11 legislators are first-time MLAs.

What the 12 MLAs have to say

Meet Hayer told The Indian Express that he did not even know about the case lodged against him until he read news reports relating to the affidavit submitted in court. “I was never called to join any investigation,” he said, adding that he alongwith AAP MLA Jai Kishan Singh Rori had lodged a protest “as police were not arresting the accused in the murder case of an AAP activist”.

“They have double standards. There are different yardsticks for the ruling and opposition MLAs. The government is using the Covid pandemic as a shield to target opposition MLAs. We had gone to lodge a protest against police inaction where our party activist was killed, leaving behind a widow and two children. Covid comes as per their whims. During the wedding of the CM’s niece, there is no corona as Covid guidelines are not followed there. They call corona whenever they want, when we protest, there is corona,” said Hayer, who along with fellow MLA Jai Kishan Singh Rori faces a case under sections 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant, 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease danger), 270 (malignant behaviour which is likely to transmit life-threatening disease infection) and under a section of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, registered at Nawanshahar city police station on June 1, 2020.

AAP MLA from Jagraon Saravjit Kaur Manuke was among party legislators booked for violating Covid guidelines in February this year.

She was booked under sections 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease danger), section 283 (causing danger, obstruction or, injury in any public way or line of navigation) of IPC and a section under National Highway Act 1956. Manuke and 12 others were named in the FIR and 30 more unidentified persons were booked in the case.

When contacted, Manuke said, “We had lodged a protest because the concerned SDM declared the result without satisfying our candidate in Jagraon Municipal Committee elections. We started the protest at around 10.30 am and ended it by noon after police and district administration intervention. However, the case was registered late night that day. The timing shows that it was registered due to political pressure even as we had ended the protest in the noon that day.”

AAP MLA from Kotkapura Kultar Singh Sandhawan, who has five five cases pending against him and under investigation, said the the cases were “politically motivated” for protesting against deaths caused by spurious liquor and dengue cases. “The government tried to muzzle our voice.

But, we will continue to protest for the cause of people even if they decide to hang us,” he added.

AAP MLA and leader of opposition in Punjab Vidhan Sabha Harpal Singh Cheema said, “Majority of the cases are politically motivated. The government should expedite the trial by pressing law machinery into motion.”

Kulwant Singh Pandori, AAP MLA from Mehal Kalan, Barnala district, said: “I am surprised to know that I was booked on August 26, 2020. I alongwith other AAP leaders had brought up the issue of deaths due to spurious liquor. If seeking justice for the families of affected persons is a crime, then I am not bothered about this FIR. Moreover, I never got to know about this FIR till now. Cops include our name and later submit details in an affidavit calling it a pending case. I am bound to play the role of opposition and I will continue to do that.”

Pandori was booked under sections 188 (disobedience to order promulgated by a public servant), 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection), 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) and 51 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, at Tarn Taran.

Manjit Singh Bilaspur, MLA from Nihal Singhwala, Moga said: “I was with MLA Pandori at Tarn Taran on August 26, 2020. We had gone to submit a memorandum to the SSP to seek justice for the families whose persons had died due to spurious liquor. I came quickly after that. I had no knowledge about the case lodged against me. I had heard that an FIR against unknown persons was lodged. Till date no one told me about such an FIR.” 

Master Baldev Singh MLA from Jaitu constituency, Faridkot said he didn’t know he was booked in an FIR registered on July 24, 2020 under section 188 at Faridkot police station.

“We are public figures and hence we have to help when the public is suffering. First of all, I don’t know when was this FIR was lodged. Let them keep lodging such FIRs…we cannot stop reaching out to the public. If their MLAs and ministers come in public to inaugurate projects gathering hundreds…no case is lodged but if we protest against their flaws, we are booked.”

Garshanker MLA Jai Kishan Rori was booked in an FIR lodged on June 1, 2020, under IPC sections 188, 269 and 270 and the Disaster Management Act, 2005, at Nawanshahr. 

“It has been a year since such an FIR was lodged against me and I had gotten no information about it till now. I had gone with the area’s residents to protest outside the SSP’s office when culprits in a murder case were not being arrested. Lockdown was imposed at that time as well, but should we stay quiet despite the fact that police was not making arrests in a murder case and SSP was not even coming out to take a memorandum? For public issues, we have no choice but to come out on the roads…why are no such FIRs lodged against Congress MLAs who do gatherings every other day in the name of handing over appointment letters or to inaugurate projects? FIRs are lodged to snub voices against the government, but we will not keep quiet.” 

An FIR was lodged on December 24, 2015, under sections 166, 167, 218, 465, 466, 468, 471, 120-B of IPC and 54 of the Prisons Act, 1984, at Tripuri Jail, Patiala. Among those booked was Kharar MLA Kanwar Sandhu.

“So far, I remember that I had gone to meet Balwant Singh Rajoana in jail to interview him. I was not an AAP MLA at that time. I am not aware if any case was lodged against me at that time. However, I did not hear anything from police after my visit,” said the MLA.

AAP legislator from Talwandi Sabo of Bathinda district Baljinder Kaur was booked in an FIR lodged on August 14, 2020, at Sangrur, another on June 24, 2020, and a third registered on September 4, 2020, at Kotwali Bathinda under sections 188, 269, 270 of IPC and 51 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

“In August, I sat on dharna alongwith students of class X who had appeared for open school exams but their result was not declared. So we had sat outside the residence of Education Minister Vijayinder Singla as he was not meeting the students, nor making any announcement in this regard. So I had no choice but to sit on the road with them as their future was at stake…In Bathinda, many MLAs of AAP sat on dharna over the decision of selling the Bathinda thermal plant in June while in September…I don’t remember the reason for being booked. In all the cases…I am only hearing about being booked from you…for public issues we have to sit on roads and if needed I will sit again.” 

Booked in an FIR lodged FIR lodged June 24 last year at Kotwali Bathinda under sections 188, 269, 270 of IPC and 51 of the Disaster Management Act, AAP MLA from Bathinda Rural Rupinder Kaur Ruby said: “Lockdown was imposed last year as well…but AAP MLAs were protesting against the decision to sell Bathinda thermal plant land and demolishing the constructed structure. We had protested, asking why Rs 750 crore was spent a few years ago if it was to be closed? Why do they take such decisions for which we have to come out on roads? If Covid is there, why do their ministers keep holding gatherings? They organised local bodies elections, held political rallies…I was not even aware of this FIR, but even if it is lodged…I am not bothered…I will continue to raise public issues and government cannot mute our voice.”

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