Punjab’s information and public relations department headed by powerful cabinet minister Bikram Singh Majithia is set to slap a chargesheet for a major penalty on additional director Senu Duggal for alleged administrative lapses, it is learnt.
Director, public relations (DPR), Ashwani Kumar Sharma, an IAS officer who is also a special principal secretary to deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, has mooted the proposal to chargesheet Duggal along with another officer and sent the file to principal secretary (public relations) NS Kang for final approval on Monday, top government sources said.
At the root of the government’s decision to proceed against Duggal is an advertisement/public notice published in February in three newspapers, apparently having combined circulation of a few hundred in Punjab.
Duggal is in the line of fire as she is the incharge of releasing government’s advertisements, government sources said.
This issue is now in the Punjab and Haryana high court and will come up for resumed hearing on August 18.
In mid-February, the mandi officer of Kapurthala district issued a notice seeking applications for the open auction of contract for housekeeping, canteen and parking for the current fiscal in the new sabzi mandi of the market committees of Kapurthala, Dhilwan, Bholath and Sultanpur Lodhi.
The chairman of the Punjab state agriculture marketing board issued a letter to the DPR for publication of the notice in the three main newspapers of Hindi, Punjabi and English.
Finally, the auction process was completed and work allotted to the successful bidder.
The matter reached the high court after potential bidder Ashok Kumar Mahajan of Kapurthala moved a petition and backed his contentions on the basis of information gathered under the Right To Information (RTI) Act, 2005. The petitioner contended that the notice had been published in English, Punjabi and Hindi newspapers having combined circulation of “29 copies” in Kapurthala and that the four persons who took part in the auction were business partners, including two brothers.
On May 19, the division bench headed by then chief justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul had issued the notice of motion to DPR and others and fixed the next hearing of the case for July 22. As the DPR had failed to file the reply on July 22, the bench of then chief justice stated that the “allegation is substantively against” respondent number 5 (DPR) who has failed to file the affidavit.
Top government sources say it was after the July 22 court hearing that the DPR was told that the HC had issued a notice to him in May. Following this, internal inquiries were held, leading to the decision of chargesheeting Duggal for allegedly releasing the advertisement to newspapers not widely read in Punjab.