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Chhattisgarh govt protecting 2 officers in PDS scam, says BJP

The state BJP's accusation against the Baghel government comes on the back of the ED's submission before Supreme Court that the state government has weakened the case against the two officers accused in the NAN (Nagrik Apurti Nigam) scam.

Written by Gargi Verma | Raipur |
Updated: September 29, 2021 5:38:11 am
Raman Singh, Chhattisgarh, BJP, Indian Express, Indian Express news, current affairsFormer Chhattisgarh CM and senior BJP leader Raman Singh. (File)

Former Chhattisgarh CM and senior BJP leader Raman Singh on Tuesday alleged that the Bhupesh Baghel government in the state is trying to protect two senior bureaucrats accused of being part of a multi-crore civil supply scam unearthed in 2015.

The state BJP’s accusation against the Baghel government comes on the back of the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) submission before Supreme Court that the state government has weakened the case against the two officers accused in the NAN (Nagrik Apurti Nigam) scam.

Addressing the media, Singh accused the Congress government of hypocrisy, as the party had sought an ED investigation in the case while in Opposition.

Singh said, “Bhupesh Baghel and T S Singh Deo had written to the PM then against corruption by these officers. They had asked for ED and CBI inquiry. Why is the ED then accusing them? The Congress government has been trying to save these officials and they will have to answer why.”

Congress spokesperson Shailesh Nitin Trivedi, however, said, “The BJP was part of the scam for 15 years, and took its share of the Rs 36,000-crore scam. Before levelling any allegations, they should disclose details hindering the investigation. Will Raman Singh tell us why his own party members have applied to stay the investigations?”

In 2015, the then BJP government faced allegations that kickbacks were paid by rice millers and agents to allow distribution of substandard rice through PDS. The government had then started a probe by Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB0 and Economic Offences Wing (EOW). The ACB raided NAN offices, claimed to have recovered cash and documents, and eventually charged several officials, including senior IAS officers Alok Shukla and Anil Tuteja.

The recoveries allegedly included a “diary” with details of kickbacks paid, and references to various individuals, including, the Congress alleged, aides of then CM Raman Singh.

The ACB said that these references were not to the family or aides of Raman Singh but to officials. The Congress has maintained that the ACB probe was a sham and protected political beneficiaries of what the party alleged was a Rs-36,000-crore scam.

In its campaign before the Assembly elections, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Bhupesh Baghel had raised the issue of the scam. Within days of taking oath as CM, Baghel had announced formation of an SIT. The Congress said the SIT would look at political beneficiaries.

The SIT registered a case against former Additional DG of ACB and EOW, Mukesh Gupta, and SP of ACB and EOW, Rajnesh Singh. Both officers, now suspended, have been accused of criminal conspiracy, forgery, and illegal phone-tapping. According to SIT officers, Gupta and Singh allegedly fiddled with government records to legitimise phone-tapping, a charge Gupta has denied.

Both Tuteja and Shukla, senior bureaucrats in the Baghel government, got anticipatory bail from Chhattisgarh High Court in August 2020. The officers had moved the court after ED issued summons to them. In their petition, they alleged that ED officials were working in a “mala fide (and) whimsical manner” and are “motivated by political vendetta”.

While Tuteja is joint secretary, Industries, Shukla, a retired IAS officer, has been appointed principal secretary by the state government on contract. He heads multiple departments, including Health and Education.

In its submission before the Supreme Court, seeking custody of Tuteja and Shukla, the ED has alleged that the two officers have affected the case, allegedly in connivance with successive chiefs of prosecuting agencies, a very senior law officer in Chhattisgarh HC and members of the SIT, along with CM Baghel’s intervention. In a sealed envelope, the agency submitted transcripts of purported messages on mobile phones seized by the Income Tax Department.

“The transcript of such messages clearly reveal the nature of misuse of power in Chhattisgarh, tampering of evidence and influencing witnesses going on and a potential conspiracy involving some constitutional functionaries,” the ED said in its affidavit.

Avi Singh, lawyer for both accused officers, said: “The Enforcement Directorate is conducting a practice of selective leaks in a case in which it has no relation. The Income Tax (department) conducted a mala fide raid on my client’s house where they, along with their families, were detained illegally…were subjected to coercive investigation. Nothing was found. No money (was) seized. No benami properties (were found). No criminal prosecution has resulted from that raid even after more than 2 years.”

He stated, “My clients have been granted anticipatory bail in an entirely fabricated ED case almost 2 years ago. They have joined the investigation even at the peak of Covid-19, as have their family members. No properties have been attached and the case once again has no leg to stand on. It is unfortunate that when the agency won’t even share the basis of their investigation or the prima facie justification for it with my clients, they are happy to share it with certain journalists.”

Singh stated, “The case against them is pending hearing in the HC of Chhattisgarh as well as the trial court, and we look forward to demonstrate that the case is built on conjectures, fabrications and political mala fide.”

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