Updated: January 23, 2021 7:42:07 am
Four years after chargesheets were filed against three bureaucrats, including an IAS officer — who is now retired and is an advisor to the Rajasthan Cricket Association led by Vaibhav Gehlot, son of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot — for corruption in an alleged land scam, the state government has moved an application at the trial stage to withdraw the case against them at a special court set up for hearing cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Two chargesheets against the three officials — GS Sandhu, IAS (now retired), Nishkam Diwakar (now retired, Rajasthan Administrative Service) and Onkar Mal Saini (serving RAS officer) — were filed in 2015 and 2016 when the BJP was in power in the state.
The chargesheet, filed on July 8, 2016, by the Anti Corruption Bureau then, said Sandhu, who was Principal Secretary in the Urban Development and Housing (UDH) Department in 2010-11, Diwakar, then Deputy Secretary, UDH, and Saini, then Deputy Commissioner, Jaipur Development Authority, were part of a “criminal conspiracy” in allotting land belonging to a housing society to a private construction company.
Sandhu and Saini were charged under sections 409, 420 and 120B of the IPC along with relevant sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, in the 2016 chargesheet. Diwakar too was chargesheeted i. The three were arrested, but were subsequently granted bail.
In its January 19, 2021, application before the special court, the state government has recommended that the case against Sandhu and the two others be withdrawn. In July 2019, Sandhu and Diwakar had made a representation to the government after the Congress returned to power. The UDH department set up a committee which recommended the withdrawal of the case.
Sandhu did not respond to calls and messages.
Incidentally, Shanti Dhariwal, UDH Minister in Gehlot’s Cabinet, was also called for questioning in the same case by the ACB in 2015. When asked if a committee under his ministry recommending a clean chit to the three bureaucrats amounted to conflict of interest, he said there was no case of conflict of interest.
“The inquiry was conducted by the UDH committee as well as a committee of the home department and it was found there is no case. The three bureaucrats were framed by the then BJP government under political vendetta because they refused to accept sifarish (recommendations) made by BJP leaders. My name was never in the FIR or anywhere in the case. The ACB had just called me, but it said there was nothing against me. There were no demands for bribes, and the government did not incur any loss. There is no case against the bureaucrats. On the contrary, the government has benefitted Rs 54 lakh,” Dhariwal told The Indian Express.
When contacted, Vibhuti Bhushan Sharma, Additional Advocate General, told The Indian Express that it was under the power of the state government to withdraw cases including those filed under political vendetta at any stage of the trial. “In criminal cases, the state is the party,” he said.
In the withdrawal application, the state government has pointed out that none of the three bureaucrats were named in the original complaint, preliminary enquiry, or the FIR. Further, it said no special person has been wrongly benefited or harmed. The government also now said the land in question was not government land and its status quo had not been changed. It also noted that the ACB had filed the chargesheet against Sandhu, a public servant, without taking prosecution sanction as required under section 197 CrPC.
The allotment of land was made in June 2011 and was cancelled in May 2013 after the approval of the then UDH minister. Dhariwal was the UDH minister at that time as well.
“In the instant case, not only there is a paucity of evidence but if the final is allowed to continue, it will affect the morale of similarly situated officers and employees if they have to work in constant fear of being hauled up by the ACB even for no fault of theirs,” said the application, requesting the court to discharge the three officers since charges haven’t yet been framed against them.
The application also pointed out ‘stark contradictions’ between the two chargesheets of the ACB (during the BJP regime) and a report which the ACB submitted on June 6, 2019, after the Congress government came to power.
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