Updated: October 15, 2019 10:50:13 am
After a day-long drama to arrest former Tripura PWD minister Badal Choudhury, who is booked in an alleged scam of over Rs 600 crore, the Tripura Police failed to trace him till late evening. Meanwhile, a local court granted him anticipatory bail till Wednesday.
Choudhury was booked in an FIR lodged at West Agartala Police Station on Sunday, charging him and two others – former PWD Engineer-in-Chief Sunil Bhowmik and former Chief Secretary Yashpal Singh, with fraudulent activities, corruption, criminal breach of trust, suppression of evidence etc.
While Bhowmik was detained from his residence last night, Choudhury remained untraced throughout the day on Monday. Former Chief Secretary Yashpal Singh is living outside the state and has not been detained yet.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, Badal Choudhury’s counsel Purushottam Roy Barman said West Tripura District and Sessions Judge Sabyasachi Dutta Purakayastha granted the ex-minister anticipatory bail till October 16 conditional to a personal bail bond of Rs 3 lakhs. The police was asked to produce case diary on the next hearing scheduled on the same day.
“The learned court has granted Mr. Badal Choudhury interim anticipatory bail. There is no merit in the case against him. Also, there is no reason to arrest him since he is a permanent resident of Tripura, respected political leader and he has been wholeheartedly cooperating with the investigation all along. If arrested, his personal liberty would be curtailed. He is ready to face trial if authorities can investigate and file chargesheet against him,” the counsel informed.
Speaking to this publication, West Tripura district Superintendent of Police Ajit Pratap Singh earlier said that the issue would be treated as a criminal case and all necessary investigations would be conducted.
He could not be reached for his reaction today. However, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Arindam Nath told that officials searched for Badal Choudhury at CPI (M) state headquarters and other locations of Tripura.
Sources said police teams were deployed at Agartala Airport, waiting to arrest Choudhury on sight. It was rumoured since last night that the former minister might be travelling out of the state on Monday. Searches were reportedly held at Agartala Railway Station too.
The day-long drama to arrest him started this morning with frantic searches. The process took a rather unexpected turn around 1:30 PM when a team of policemen showed up at CPI (M) state headquarters alongwith an Executive Magistrate from the local administration, demanding to search the premises. The team failed to produce a search warrant after which party leaders refused to throw open their doors for inspection.
The manhunt for Choudhury continued throughout the day till the court order was issued late evening.
The former minister was charged with section 409, 429, 201 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and section 13 of Prevention of Corruption Act. Many of these charges are non-bailable in nature. However, no one has been arrested till now. The FIR was filed after gathering observations from the PWD and a vigilance enquiry on the former minister.
The vigilance probe on finalisation of tenders and allotment of infrastructure development projects to PSUs and Private Companies allegedly found questionable role of the former minister too. Other violations like post tender negotiations with all players and not following two bid systems were also observed.
Vital documents pertaining to the whole process went missing from the department previously, following which the Public Works Department (PWD) lodged a theft case as well.
The alleged graft took the Assembly by storm earlier in September this year. The second day of ongoing session in Tripura Legislative Assembly witnessed heavy furore over a purported scam of Rs. 638.80 crores in the Public Works Department (PWD) from erstwhile Left era. The alleged scam, in which former PWD minister Badal Choudhury was summoned thrice for questioning by the Vigilance Department, is still under investigation.
Speaking in the Assembly, Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb, who is also in charge of PWD, said, “Nearly Rs. 225 crores was spent in addition to the amount approved by the state cabinet on different infrastructure development schemes in 2008-09 financial year. The then cabinet note on the said subject and note of the then Principal Secretary don’t match. We have started a vigilance investigation after these irregularities came to our notice”.
CPI (M) leaders including former Chief Minister and Opposition leader Manik Sarkar, state Left Front convener Bijan Dhar, Pabira Kar and others walked in a rally protesting the government’s “conspiratory move” to arrest Badal Choudhury at Agartala city this afternoon.
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