Over the years,courts in Punjab have acquitted nearly all Akali Dal leaders who had been booked by the Vigilance Bureau for corruption during the Amarinder Singh-led Congress regime. The last of the remaining top leaders facing such charges,former agriculture minister Sucha Singh Langah,is now set to see the charges dropped with the Vigilance Bureau having told the government it has no objection to withdrawing the case,following a request by Langah.
The Congresss Amarinder,on the other hand,continues to face charges in the Ludhiana City Centre scam and another case relating to the Amritsar Improvement Trust. These cases too have been filed by the Vigilance Bureau.
Sucha Singh Langah
The former minister faces charges of owning Rs 12.17 crore in assets disproportionate to his known sources of income. The court has framed charges against him under the Prevention of Corruption Act and sections 467 and 468 of the IPC. The next hearing is on October 22. By then,the government is expected to have decided formally on withdrawing the case. Langah and nine others had been booked on May 16,2002,in Mohali on charges of cheating,forgery and criminal conspiracy. Langah was PWD and building and roads minister in the 1997-2002 SAD-BJP government and held the agriculture portfolio in 2007-12. The case had nearly 35 witnesses,of whom 12 have turned hostile so far.
The acquittals of most of the other leaders have been due to witnesses turning hostile or for lack of evidence.
Nirmal Singh Kahlon
Last year,a local court acquitted former Assembly Speaker Kahlon in a case pertaining to various appointments in his department (rural development and panchayats; he was minister from 1997 to 2002) and sale of shamlat land. The Vigilance Bureau registered the corruption case on June 14,2002. He was accused of bribery for illegal appointments to the posts of tax collectors,patwaris,clerks and peons. Originally,Vigilance had accused Kahlon of corruption in the appointment of panchayat secretaries and some others in panchayat department,besides allotment of shamlat land. Later,the Vigilance Bureau conceded that it had nothing concrete.
Sohan Singh Thandal
Also last year,former chief parliamentary secretary Sohan Singh Thandal was acquitted by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in a disproportionate assets case. The court set aside the three-year jail sentence awarded to him by a lower court. On January 29,2003,Thandal had been booked by the Vigilance Bureau for accumulating disproportionate wealth and benami properties and on other charges of corruption.
Ajit Singh Kohar
In 2008,then revenue minister Kohar (now transport minister) was acquitted by a local court in a case involving corruption and disproportionate assets. Vigilance had accused Kohar of possessing benami properties worth over Rs 20 crore and booked him on August 9,2002,under various sections of the IPC and the Prevention of Corruption Act. Vigilance had earlier alleged that Kohar had bought properties in the name of over a dozen persons,but the witnesses turned hostile. In 2007,Vigilance filed an application for the cancellation of the case as it did not have enough evidence.
In 2010,chief minister Parkash Singh Badal was acquitted along with his wife,son and deputy Sukhbir,and eight others in a corruption and disproportionate assets case filed during the Amarinder Singh regime. Most of the witnesses had turned hostile. The court also ordered that perjury proceedings be initiated against two senior IPS officers,Surinder Pal Singh and B K Uppal,the investigating officer and the supervisory officer. The perjury proceedings are still on. The chargesheet against 15 accused had been filed in November 2003.
Akali leader Tota Singh was acquitted in a case related to disproportionate assets by a district court. The Vigilance Bureau had in 2002 booked him for possessing property worth Rs 10 crore,which was stated to be disproportionate to his known sources of income. Other Akali leaders who had faced cases and were later acquitted are former education minister Sewa Singh Sekhwan and Jagdish Singh Garcha.