A special court here on Wednesday acquitted Punjab’s former education minister Tota Singh in a 16-year-old case relating to recruitment of 134 clerks in the Punjab School Education Board (PSEB) while convicting four persons, including two former employees of PSEB, who have been sentenced to three years of imprisonment.
The court also imposed a fine of Rs 20,000 each on all the convicts.
The court of Additional Districts and Sessions Judge (ADSJ) Rajnish Garg convicted the then PSEB secretary Jagjeet Singh Sidhu, members of the selection committee Priptal Kaur and Col Zora Singh (retired), and Amar Singh, the then officer on special duty (OSD) to PSEB vice-chairman. All four have been convicted under sections 465 (forgery ) and 467 (forgery of valuable security) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). All the convicts got bail after the court’s decision.
After the verdict, Tota Singh said he had always maintained he was falsely implicated in the case and that he had nothing to do with the recruitment of the clerks.
Tota Singh’s counsel, senior advocate Satnam Singh Kaler, said the case was registered on the basis of wrong facts. He said the PSEB was an autonomous body and the board’s chairman had the powers to take the decision for recruitment and other board related matters. “When the recruitment took place, the then PSEB chairman Kehar Singh did not discuss anything with Tota Singh. He constituted a selection committee for the recruitment. Then, how could the minister be the culprit? He could not have interfered in the working of an autonomous body like the PSEB. We contended the same point during the trial,” Kaler told The Indian Express.
Kaler said Tota Singh was charged for conspiracy, under section 120B of the IPC.
The whole recruitment had also become a political issue. The clerks who were recruited were made to join their jobs in 2002, but suspended the very next day, following which they held a continuous protest outside the PSEB headquarters for around four years.
The recruitment was done when the SAD-BJP government was in power from 1997 to 2002. In 2002, Captain Amarinder Singh became the Chief Minister and ordered a probe into the recruitment, following which the VB registered a case against Tota Singh, Priptal Kaur and Col. (Rtd.) Zora Singh, Amar Singh, the then chairman Kehar Singh, special secretary to the chairman Tej Ram Goel, OSD to chairman Charanjeet Meelu, Assistant Secretary Varinder Kumar and Amarjeet Singh Multani.
However, the VB later gave clean chit to Kehar Singh, Tej Ram Goel, Charanjeet Meelu, Varinder Kumar and Amarjeet Singh Multani.
A PSEB employee, Om Parkash Soni, subsequently filed an application in the court on April 17, 2013, urging it to name these persons in the FIR but the Punjab and Haryana High Court acquitted them.
Soni then approached the Supreme Court against the decision. The next hearing in the case is on August 24.