Nine months after lodging an FIR, the Punjab police are in a fix for not making a breakthrough in the physical training instructors (PTI) recruitment scam in which 53 recruits had not even applied for a recruitment drive conducted in the tenure of then education minister Sikandar Singh Maluka two years ago.
On Thursday, the Punjab and Haryana high court gave a week’s time to the Punjab DGP to produce Neelam Bhagat, one of the main accused, in the court. Neelam, who was the chairperson of the ‘PTIs recruitment committee’ before retiring in September 2012, has so far not responded in the case, though her name is mentioned in the FIR.
Refuting the submission of the education department that Neelam’s whereabouts were not known and that she was not responding to the reminders to join the investigation, justice Mahesh Grover of the high court directed the DGP to produce her in the court on December 10, the next date of hearing.
Justice Grover, during the last hearing on September 8, had observed that the scam was not practically the handwork of a single accused like Neelam, and passed the orders for her to respond in the case. The court then had also imposed a fine of `50,000 per hearing on the state for not filing its reply.
Petitioners’ counsel Amit Chopra, challenging these recruitments in the court, said Punjab was repeatedly buying time and dilly-dallying on a fair probe. The counsel had earlier stated that the lodging of an FIR was just an escape route for the department for not identifying all culprits.
Neelam, when contacted, told HT that she had not received any communication from the department so far on the issue. “I am very much accessible, and the department has my address as well the phone number,” she said, adding that she would reveal the truth in the court.
Neelam has also been maintaining that she had written a dissent note to the director primary instructions (DPI)-school education Kamal Garg, objecting to the recruitment of some people who had not even applied for the post. “Why’s the DPI silent on including those applicants?” she had asked in the HT’s earlier series on the scam.
Education minister Daljit Singh Cheema, when contacted, said the guilty would not be spared, adding that though he was not aware of details of the case, he would look into the matter.
Meanwhile, when asked why the challan was not filed after nine months of the FIR and even after the arrests as per the police record, SHO Kulveer Singh said the investigations were still on.
The shady recruitments had actually touched 70, with 53 not even applying, that the HT had exposed in its report (‘53 didn’t apply, yet got jobs in Punjab education dept’, dated August 24, 2013).
Then education minister Maluka had then said that all ineligible recruits would lose jobs.
FIR lodged, bail pleas not opposed
The education department had lodged the FIR against Neelam and 16 others, who were among the illegal recruits, on March 13. These 16 are still in the job after attaining a high court stay order on their termination. The Mohali police on Thursday told HT that Neelam had earlier been arrested and “was simultaneously released on bail”. Ironically, the department that had lodged the FIR with the Mohali police against Neelam and the 16 recruits had not opposed their bail pleas.