Less than a week after being served a notice by the Punjab and Haryana high court, the Punjab government has initiated action to punish the officers found guilty in the fake Vigilance Bureau (VB) trap case, which led to excise and taxation officer (ETO) Ranjit Singh's suicide last year.
Chief secretary Rakesh Singh on Friday gave his nod for punitive action - as recommended by a high-level inquiry - against VB superintendent of police (SP) Amandeep Kaur, head constable Harminder Singh and former assistant excise and taxation commissioner (AETC) Harinder Kaur Brar.
The probe panel comprising IPS officer Harpreet Singh Sidhu and IAS officer Mansavi Kumar had recommended immediate suspension and registration of a case under the Prevention of Corruption Act against the SP and the head constable.
The panel had also recommended Brar's suspension and a departmental inquiry against her for dereliction of duty.
The replies of Amandeep Kaur and Harinder Kaur had been found unsatisfactory, as per the April 30 orders of the vigilance department for punitive action against the guilty.
The orders for action have been forwarded by the vigilance department to the home secretary and the excise and taxation secretary. The chief secretary has the charge of secretary, vigilance, as the vigilance department is under the control of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal.
It is learnt that action had been taken after the matter reached the chief minister for his comments.
The high court had issued a notice of motion to the Punjab government on April 25 for a reply on a civil writ petition filed by the victim's widow, Manjit Kaur, seeking justice.
Ranjit had committed suicide in April 2011 after he was falsely implicated in a corruption case and forced to pay Rs 8-lakh bribe in an effort to clear his name.
The probe committee had indicted and recommended action against the SP (vigilance) and the head constable for laying a fake trap and then extorting Rs 8 lakh from Ranjit. Then AETC Harinder Kaur had been found guilty of dereliction of duty and telling lies before the probe committee.
Home secretary DS Bains had written in his two-page noting to the chief secretary that he found Amandeep Kaur's reply 'unsatisfactory'.
"I am inclined to agree with the recommendations made in para 9 of the inquiry committee report in which it has been suggested that a case under relevant sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, be registered against Amandep Kaur, head constable Harminder Singh, Vipan Kansal, Jaitinder Pal Singh, advocate, and Vijay Ghai," said the home secretary in his March 3 communique to the chief secretary.
"The Vigilance Bureau is an important wing of the state machinery for preventing corruption. It is only fair that its powers should be used justly and in a transparent manner to gain confidence of the public at large," the home secretary observed in his communique.
Bains also took note of a 'suspicious' trap laid by the same VB team against an excise inspector at Khanauri, near Patiala, in which the complainants and the shadow witness were the same.
HT had highlighted the case in its three-part series, 'Custodians of corruption' (February 16, 17 and 18), following which the indicted SP, posted at Ludhiana, was pulled out of the VB and sent to the police headquarters. No subsequent action had been taken since then.
The Punjab and Haryana high court recently directed Punjab (through its home secretary), the state director general of police (DGP), the VB director and the indicted cops to file their replies by July 17, the next date of hearing in the case.
The ETO's widow had prayed in her petition "for issuance of an appropriate writ, order or direction for follow-up action on the inquiry report."
"… he (ETO) died due to his honesty and the corruption of VB officers who not only planted a false case of corruption but also extorted Rs 8 lakh during police remand… but also abused and slapped him in his locality and made a demand of Rs 50 lakh after his release on bail, which forced him to sell his share of the agriculture land and finally, commit suicide," the petition stated.