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Vishal Rambani, Hindustan Times
Patiala, July 05, 2013
 Nine Punjab Civil Services (PCS) officers are now convicted of paying bribe for their 1994- and 1996-batch selection. In yet another judgment in the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) scam related to the time when Ravinder Singh "Ravi" Sidhu was its chairman, additional sessions judge Rajinder Aggarwal on Friday held the five in-service and four retired officers, including a member's brother and the latter's wife, guilty.

It is now proved that cash exchanged hands for recruitment favours. The prosecution witnesses turned hostile but public prosecutor DK Jain was still able to establish that Sidhu had vitiated the process. 

The serving officers convicted of paying cash for selection are Inderpreet S Kahlon, deputy director of Punjab Land Records Society; Balraj Kaur, district revenue officer of Ludhiana, and her husband, Pritpal Singh, deputy district attorney of Ludhiana; excise and taxation officer Rajinder Singh Sidhu; and subdivisional magistrate (SDM) Parminder Pal Singh.

The retired officers convicted are former district revenue officer Bhupinderjit Singh, former deputy excise and taxation commissioner HL Bansal, former Ludhiana excise and taxation officer OP Verma, and former member of ministerial staff Jasbir Singh.

Serving officers Balraj Kaur and Prithpal Singh are relatives of HS Grewal, a member of the PPSC. There were 23 former candidates whom the Punjab and Haryana high court had marked as "tainted" but in a case registered here on September 5, 2002, Randhir Singh Dheera, one of the touts of Ravi Sidhu, had named only 13, of which nine are now convicted, three acquitted and one a proclaimed offender.

The court acquitted officers Jarnail Singh, Jaspal Singh and Baljit Singh for lack of evidence. Gurdev Singh, a tehsildar, is the proclaimed offender. "Ravi Sidhu had vitiated the process of selecting the PCS batches of 1994 and 1996 (selections were done in 2000)," said public prosecutor Jain. "The procedure was changed to favour the accused."

When the prosecution witness turned hostile, the prosecution focussed on the process of selection and proved that candidates had gained extra marks by the change of process. The court awarded a year's imprisonment each to nine officers, and imposed a fine of Rs. 5,000 on each. It granted bail to all convicts, as they will move to higher court to challenge the decision.

The officers were convicted under Section 12 (abetting a public servant's accepting graft) of the Prevention of Corruption Act for giving bribe to the PPSC chairman through middleman Dhira. HL Bansal, one of the retired officers now convicted, introduced most of the candidates to Dhira for making the bribe deal.


Who paid how much

Parminderpal Singh         40
Om Parkash Verma        35
Inderjit Singh Kahlon      30
Rajinder Singh                30
Gurdev Singh                  25
Jasbir Singh                    20
HL Bansal                      20
Balraj Kaur                     20
Prithpal Singh Grewal      20
Bhupinder Singh              15

Note: All figures in Rs. lakh, based on September 2002 FIR of the vigilance bureau about the nomination process of 1994 and 1996. Gurdev Singh is proclaimed offender.


What next
The five in-service officers convicted on Friday will challenge the trial court order in the high court. The Punjab government will have to terminate their services unless the high court stays the conviction order.


In HC's eyes, most candidates involved
 
Chandigarh: In a recent ruling, the Punjab and Haryana high court had held that 23 candidates against whom FIRs had been registered in the job-for-cash scandal "definitely carry a trace, stain or blemish that they were tainted".

In 2006, the Supreme Court had remanded the Punjab Civil Services (executive branch and allied services) examination case back to the high court for separating the tainted candidates from the non-tainted. The high court held the entire selection process as "vitiated" and ruled that most of the candidates were part of this tainted exercise.