The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has charged senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Raj Khurana and two others with criminal conspiracy, besides under the anti-corruption law, in a graft case that surfaced last year.
The 17-page chargesheet filed by the central agency in the special CBI court also indicts two government officials, but comes as relief to former
BJP ministers Manoranjan Kalia and Swarna Ram, whose names had cropped up in the case and led to their resignations from the then state cabinet. Khurana had also resigned from his post of chief parliamentary secretary.
The chargesheet says that Khurana, Devinder Singh Thapa, a junior assistant in the office of the Registrar of Firms and Societies, Punjab, and Bhag Singh, private secretary at Punjab secretariat appointed as personal assistant of then minister Swarna Ram, together hatched the criminal conspiracy and thus be charged under section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC, besides section 8 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988.
It was on the complaint of one Manpreet Singh that the CBI had laid a trap on May 5 last year and arrested Khurana and Thapa while they were allegedly accepting a bribe amount of Rs 1.5 crore from the complainant. The CBI had also questioned Kalia and Swarna Ram, after which Bhag Singh was also arrested on May 10.
The chargesheet says that the bribe was demanded by the three accused, all currently out on bail, for getting a complaint quashed against the executive members of Manpreet Singh's association, the Punjab Automobile Mechanic Association. The complaint was to be quashed by then industries minister Kalia, and hence Thapa had convinced Manpreet that it was Khurana who could get it quashed by Kalia.
The CBI claims that in pursuance of the conspiracy, Bhag Singh got a note signed from Swarna Ram, then minister of technical education, social security, and woman and child welfare, that referred the complaint to Kalia for action. Bhag Singh made available the copy of the note to Thapa to help him be in a position to ask for the bribe, it is alleged.
It was Thapa who accepted Rs 1.5 crore - Rs 15 lakh in cash and Rs 1.35 crore through nine cheques - at the official residence of Khurana on May 4, 2011, the night of the trap.
A forensic report, establishing presence of phenolphthalein ions (the chemical used on currency notes during raids by the CBI to redden the hands of the ones who accept the money) on the hand wash samples and shirt pocket wash samples of Thapa, was one of the keys.
Also, the voice samples of the complainant, and Thapa and Khurana, matched with their originals voices in phone calls recorded as part of the trap. Opinion of the Central Forensic Sciences Lab (CFSL) on the video of the trap proceedings and the spy camera recordings is still awaited. The court set May 7 as the date for framing of charges.