The Punjab and Haryana high court on Wednesday stayed the recent transfer of Enforcement Directorate (ED) assistant director Niranjan Singh, who had been probing money laundering allegations in the Rs 6,000-crore Bhola drug racket.
The division bench comprising justices SK Mittal and Deepak Sibal directed the Union government not to execute Niranjan’s transfer from Jalandhar to Kolkata till the next date of hearing, February 2. The HC also told the ED to bring the record pertaining to the officer’s transfer on that date.
Niranjan, posted at the ED’s Jalandhar office, was leading the probe team which questioned Akali cabinet minister Bikram Singh Majithia last month in the high-profile case.
During the hearing, senior standing counsel, ED, Sukhdeep Singh Sandhu informed the HC that Niranjan’s transfer order was yet to be implemented. Following this, the HC passed the stay order.
The court order came on an application filed by the Lawyers for Human Rights International, a lawyers’ group which claimed that Niranjan was a leading investigator who, at one stage, had been granted protection by this court on his plea regarding threat perception.
“The investigation is still going on… in the midst of the investigation… the officer has been transferred to Kolkata. The transfer is not fair and has caused suspicion and apprehension in the minds of the people,” the group had said, adding that the transfer order had been issued without taking the court into confidence, particularly when this court was hearing the case as a suo motu petition.
The HC issued notices to the respondents (Centre, ED and Punjab government) and Shashi Kant, former director general of police (DGP, prisons), Punjab, who is appearing in person in the drug case.
The lawyers’ group had argued that the transfer be stayed, stating that “in situations where the investigation officers of two important cases, the coal scam and the 2G scam, were transferred and the Supreme Court found the same not to be in the interest of justice, it stayed the transfer orders and ordered that the particular investigating officers would continue till the completion of the trial.”
The group had also said that the Saradha chit-fund scam, whose investigation the ED had cited for the officer’s transfer, might be of larger value money-wise, but the drug scam of Rs 6,000 crore, having international ramifications, was linked to the lives of Punjab’s youth and was of a more serious nature.