The Punjab and Haryana high court on Friday directed the Punjab vigilance bureau to continue investigations into the case of alleged embezzlement of central and state government grants amounting to crores of rupees in departments held by former Punjab cabinet minister Gulzar Singh Ranike, and to
submit the report within six weeks.
A Dera Bassi resident, Hari Singh Nagra, had filed a public interest litigation seeking a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the grant scam, stating that since a huge amount and a former cabinet minister of the state government was involved, there were less chances of a fair investigation by the state vigilance bureau.
When the petitioner's counsel on Friday pressed for handing over the inquiry to the CBI, the bench comprising chief justice Arjan Kumar Sikri and justice Rakesh Kumar Jain stated that let the inquiry be completed by the state police first, on which further decision would be taken.
Ranike had resigned as cabinet minister on September 16 after HT did a series of news stories on the scam in August and September.
Appearing for the state government, advocate general Ashok Aggarwal assured the court, "A fair investigation would be done by the state police and the culprits brought to book." He claimed that the embezzlement was of Rs. 74 lakh only, not of crores of rupees as claimed by the petitioner.
Representing the petitioner, advocate Sarabjeet Singh Khaira argued on Friday, "The challan has been filed only against four persons till date and no action has been taken against three persons, namely Karam Singh, Rahul Bhatia and Kapil Malhotra, who had introduced fake sarpanches to the bank for opening their accounts for usurping funds, whereas original sarpanches had no idea of embezzlement."
Khaira added, "The fairness of the investigation can be judged from the fact that when the inquiry was being made by the special investigation team of three members, just on (the basis of) the letter from Ranike's department to the DGP (director general of police), the inquiry was transferred to the superintendent of police (rural), Amritsar, within two days for a favourable outcome as the area falls under Ranike's constituency."
He stated that till date the investigation had been carried out only into embezzlement of border area development programme grants and the case regarding Shagun scheme embezzlement had not even been touched.
The case would now come up for hearing on November 23.