HC notice to Badals on plea citing conflict of interest

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Sep 18, 2015 00:35 IST

The Punjab and Haryana high court on Thursday issued notice to Punjab chief minister, Parkash Singh Badal and his son and deputy chief minister, Sukhbir Singh Badal on a public interest litigation (PIL) raking up "conflict of interest" issue in the transport sector.
The petitioner, advocate HC Arora, has sought direction to the state chief secretary to ensure that father- son duo "must not" deal with affairs of the transport department and the public sector undertakings (PSUs) in the transport sector till they, or any of their family members, held shares in private transport companies.

The court has sought response from them and two private firms - Orbit Aviations Company and Dabwali Transport Company - and also the state chief secretary and the transport secretary by December 12.

Arora was amicus curiae in the suo motu petition initiated by the high court into the Moga bus molestation incident, wherein a girl along with her mother were allegedly molested and thrown out of a moving bus owned by Orbit Aviation, having shares of Badal family. The girl had later succumbed to her injuries.

An affidavit was filed by the Punjab transport commissioner wherein names of the private transport companies and their major shareholder/directors were given. It showed that Sukhbir Singh Badal, holds more than 90% shares in Dabwali Transport Company and his wife Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal holds shares in Orbit Aviation. "Thus, the question of conflict of interest definitely arises as family members of the CM and the deputy CM are having substantial interest in private transport companies which are strong competitors with the state transport undertakings," Arora has submitted before the court. He further stated that these private transport firms were doing "roaring business" while PSU buses were suffering huge losses.

The petitioner also submitted that Comptroller and Auditor, General of India (CAG) report on PSU buses, submitted in 2009-2010, had observed that the scheme for issuing route permits was being violated in the state and private firms were issued excess permits. Private transporters were plying buses unauthorised and the matter was brought to notice of commissioner and regional transport authorities, but they did not respond. There was intervention of state in the matter of revision of fares by the PSUs, and had talked of need for an independent regulator, the petitioner stated while referring to observations of the CAG report.

It has also been alleged that Orbit Aviation buses were getting "much more" halting time as compared to the buses of PRTC in Ludhiana to Barnala.

In support of his arguments on "conflict of interest" issue, Arora has cited a Supreme Court (SC) judgment in "Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) vs Cricket Association of Bihar & others" vide which the apex court had castigated N Srinivasan, then BCCI president, for having commercial interest in IPL matches, while remaining as BCCI chief.

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