The Punjab vigilance bureau (VB) on Wednesday arrested four persons, including three government employees, in connection with illegal recruitments in the state's rural development and panchayat department.
The four arrested are superintendent Harbilas Mathaan, whose anticipatory bail plea has already been rejected in the Punjab and Haryana high court, senior assistant Lekh Raj, clerk Gurpreet Singh and Amrik Singh.
HT had highlighted in a reported, '2 months after FIR, govt dept yet to take action' (March 5) that the signatures of IAS officer Gurdev Singh Sidhu were forged for illegal appointments during his tenure as the rural development and panchayat director between July 2007 and August 2011.
Significantly, Sidhu, who retired in January this year, did not initiate any probe into the forgery.
The VB made the arrests after getting a forensic report that proved that Sidhu's signatures were forged in three files related to the appointment of four persons, a VB official here confirmed.
An earlier inquiry, conducted by deputy director Jaspal Singh, had found that appointment letters that were issued to four persons in 2011 bore Sidhu's signatures.
Besides the director, the others who claimed that their signatures were forged included Mathaan and Raj.
The illegal appointments included that of Amanpreet Kaur as panchayat secretary in November 2011 "on compassionate grounds", even though her father had died back in 1992 (as per rules, such recruitments are to be made within one year of the death); the cadre of ETT (elementary teacher training) teachers Gurpreet Singh and Amrik Singh was illegally changed to clerks in the zila parishad, Patiala, in July 2011; and Suman was appointed clerk illegally in May 2011.
Suman was dismissed after the irregularities were detected, while Amrik is said to have resigned.
The VB had registered a case on December 18, 2012. Though the inquiry report named a clerk, Karamjit Singh, as the person who forged the signatures, his name was not mentioned in the FIR.
According to sources in the department, Mathaan had submitted his plea, before his arrest, that Karamjit was a confidant of Sidhu and the real culprit behind the forged signatures.
The Punjab and Haryana high court has summoned current rural development and panchayat director S Karuna Raju to appear in person on March 25 with an affidavit mentioning the progress of the investigation into the case.
The matter reached the high court through a petition filed by a department employee, challenging Suman's appointment as a clerk "in violation of all rules and regulations."
Suman's anticipatory bail plea has also been rejected in the case.