The transfer of Enforcement Directorate (ED) official Niranjan Singh, key investigator in the Rs 6,000-crore Jagdish Bhola drug racket, looks imminent.
The ED on Thursday gave the Punjab and Haryana high court names of two officers who could take over the case from him if the court approved his shifting from Jalandhar to Kolkata. Even as stay on the transfer continues at least till the next hearing on March 18, the ED submitted that two officers had gone to Jalandhar as his replacement.
Government of India assistant solicitor general Chetan Mittal made a verbal submission in the court that assistant directors Rajiv Kumar and Ajay Singh from the ED’s Srinagar and New Delhi offices, respectively, were the replacements; and the directorate could also deploy a special director from the northern zone office in Delhi to oversee the inquiry.
On February 26, the high court had asked the ED to suggest the names of some good officers who could take up the case in case Niranjan Singh was transferred. It has now directed the ED to state on affidavit the names of these officers.
Thursday’s hearing was in two brief stages, before after lunch. Rajiv Kumar and Ajay Singh are of the same level as Niranjan Singh but his juniors in service. “Rajiv Kumar has handled sensitive cases related to terrorism before,” Mittal told the court, which made it clear that it wanted a fair and proper investigation into the drug scandal, and a timely report.
In January, advocate Navkiran Singh had challenged the transfer order of Niranjan Singh, saying it was a move to distance him from the investigation for his guts to summon politicians. Niranjan Singh, present during the hearing, looked on as Navkiran insisted that the officer be asked to file an affidavit on the investigation status and how much more time he needed to crack the case. The court also took note of the media reports on the issue.
Niranjan Singh was transferred to Kolkata on January 16 when he was leading a team looking into the money-laundering allegations related to the drug racket and had questioned Akali cabinet minister Bikram Singh Majithia among others. His transfer order had triggered a political storm, as the hand of top politicians blamed in the scandal was seen in it.
Advocates’ group Lawyers for Human Rights International, a party to the drug case, had filed an application to question the timing of the move, following which the high court had stayed the order on January 21. The stay would continue till further orders.