November 13, 2021 9:55:53 am
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) Friday accused Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi and his deputy Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, who also holds the home portfolio, of “hatching a conspiracy to implicate” party president Sukhbir Singh Badal “in a false case” by holding “a secret meeting of the special investigation team (SIT) probing the sacrilege cases on October 22 in the Punjab Raj Bhawan annexe”. Randhawa and several officials named by the SAD as having attended the meeting later rubbished the allegations as “ridiculous” and “preposterous”.
Addressing a press conference at party headquarters here, senior Akali leader Maheshinder Singh Grewal said, “CM and Randhawa are responsible for hatching the conspiracy. They held the secret meeting in the Raj Bhawan annexe between 11.30 am to 1.30 pm on October 22. The meeting was attended by DGP Iqbal Preet Singh Sahota, Home Secretary Anurag Verma, [former] Advocate General APS Deol, SIT chairperson IG SPS Parmar, AIG RS Sohal, SSP Mukhwinder Bhullar, DSP Lakhbir Singh, Inspector Dalbir Singh, retired police officers R S Khatra and Sulakhan Singh and Congress legislators Kushaldeep Dhillon and Kulbir Zira”.
Grewal said that the purpose of the meeting was to “neutralize the anti-incumbency” being faced by the Congress government by diverting the attention of the people “by fixing the political opposition, especially the Badal family, by implicating it in false cases”.
“Former IG RS Khatra, who was promised a constitutional post, had been entrusted with the responsibility of creating deposition through false witnesses against the Badal family. As part of the deal, Khatra had prepared a Congress worker to get a false case filed against the SAD president”.
Former MP Prem Singh Chandumajra and Akali Dal spokesperson Daljit Cheema were also present during the press conference.
Detailing the alleged conspiracy, Grewal named the woman and claimed that she “will hold a press conference and ring up the DGP” to ask why her complaint was not being registered. “The cooked up complaint is that the Congress worker, who had temporarily even joined the Akali Dal, had visited Sukhbir Badal’s residence in Badal village before the 2017 Assembly elections where she had witnessed him in the company of three Dera (Sacha Sauda) workers”.
He claimed that subsequently the woman will claim that “she had seen the same leaders in [Sukhbir] Badal’s residence after the 2017 polls and had heard Sukhbir Badal sayinhg that ‘the new government is ours and I will not let anything wrong happen to you’.”
The Akali leaders said party would urge the Governor to provide with the CCTV footage of the Raj Bhawan annexe. Grewal said, as per law, the party will also obtain tower locations of those who attended the meeting.
“The CM and the home minister should disclose why a meeting of the SIT was held in such a secret fashion and why retired police officers were associated with it,” Grewal said.
He also asked why the CM and Randhawa “were interfering in the probe” as well as “functioning of the SIT” when the high court had stipulated that there should not be any such interference”.
The Akali Lad also asked retired IPS officer RS Khatra to “explain his conduct as he had earlier headed the SIT during the course of which he had claimed that the previous SAD-BJP government did not interfere in the functioning of the probe”. They said Khatra should tell why he had not investigated the issues being raised now earlier.
“Did he conduct a dishonest investigation earlier or was becoming part of one now,” Grewal asked. He also asked “if there was any link between the recent resignation of his son Satbir Khatra, who had earlier contested the 2017 Assembly elections on the party ticket, from the SAD with his latest actions”.
Khatra was not available for comment despite repeated attempts.
Randhawa, however, termed the allegations as “ridiculous”.
“As home minister, I meet IGs and DIGs. Today, also I met all the IGs and DIGs. I want to ask Sukhbir Badal whether he, as then home minister, used to tell the IGs and DIGs to arrest some person during his meetings,” said Randhawa.
Asked if there was any meeting on October 22 at Governor House, Randhawa said, “All the meetings held so far have taken place at the annexe of the Raj Bhawan only as we try to avoid the rush of people intending to meet us.”
APS Deol, whose resignation from the post of AG was accepted on November 9, said, “I am not aware about this. I used to give opinions in meetings related to farm laws and on the issue of increase in the jurisdiction of BSF in Punjab. I don’t know about this [meeting].”
Home Secretary Anurag Verma termed the allegations as preposterous. “I am a professional bureaucrat with an image of honesty & impartiality. I can not even think being a part of any political conspiracy,” the IAS officer said.
Parmar too dismissed the allegations. “The SIT, till date, has been performing its duty professionally. We don’t want to be a part of political slugfest,” the IG rank officer said.
While Kulbir Zira was not available for comment, Kushaldeep Dhillon said, “This press conference shows that Akalis have just lost the plot. They are behaving like cry babies. No one called me for any such meeting nor did I attended any such meeting. Akalis know they were hand in gloves with Captain Amarinder Singh and now when their wrong deeds are getting exposed one by one, they are trying to cover up.”
The Akali Dal, meanwhile, also asked DGP Sahota if he stood with his earlier statement during the previous SAD-led government about those involved in the sacrilege. “Sahota even held a press conference on this issue. He should tell what was right. His earlier press conference or the contents of the conspiracy being hatched now,” the Akali Dal asked.
Sahota said, “I have no idea what meeting they (Akalis) are talking about.”
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