The Punjab Congress is mulling moving a breach of privilege motion against revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia for "misleading the House" on state party chief Partap Singh Bajwa's land deals.
Quoting excerpts from the Justice Kuldip Singh Tribunal report and his department's inquiry, the minister, in his statement on the floor of the House during the assembly session in October, had stated that the title of the land bought by Bajwa was shamlat deh (village common land). Later, the minister had ordered an inquiry into the land deal to "ensure that the Opposition did not cry political vendetta".
Leader of the Opposition Sunil Jakhar on Friday said Majithia had misled the House by prejudging that the land title was sub judice and ordering an inquiry later. "The minister first told the House that the land title was shamlat. He later announced that a panel headed by financial commissioner, revenue, NS Kang would conduct an inquiry into the land title. Did he first give his judgment and later ask his department to endorse his judgment as true? We are going to move a breach of privilege motion against the minister for misleading the House. They are now trying to sensationalise the inquiry panel's report to deflect attention from the complicity of Akali leaders in the drug mafia-politicians' nexus," Jakhar said.
Dubbing the inquiry as contempt of court, Bajwa said, "The matter is sub judice and the Punjab and Haryana high court had ordered status quo on its title. Can an departmental inquiry overrule the high court's order?"
The state Congress chief also smelled a conspiracy in Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal constituting a three-member panel to look into all shamlat land deals in Mohali district.
"It is part of the CM's strategy to keep the issue alive and deflect attention from the thriving drug nexus in Punjab under his government's patronage. Will this panel just single out opposition leaders or also look into all 77,000 cases of shamlat land grabbed by their own high and mighty, including director general of police (DGP) Sumedh Singh Saini, former DGP PS Gill and state election commissioner SS Brar? Majithia also breached the privilege of the House by quoting from the report of the Justice Kuldip Singh Tribunal, whose very setting up has been challenged by his government in the Supreme Court. To prove his intentions are good, the CM should first withdraw the special leave petition filed by his government in the apex court," Bajwa added.
Constitutional experts say the minister's statement can amount to breach of privilege if his speech is studied verbatim. "The exact usage of the words by the minister and the sequence of statements will decide if the minister breached the House's privilege (if he passed a judgment before an inquiry). As for contempt of court, the House can discuss a matter which is sub judice, but the speaker should have forbidden a sub judice matter from being discussed in the House," noted constitutional expert Subhash Kashyap said.
No probe report submitted: Kang
Financial commissioner, revenue, NS Kang, when contacted, denied that any report had been submitted by his panel on the land deals of Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa. "I have yet to submit a report on the matter," Kang said.