The Punjab and Haryana high court on Monday issued notice to the Punjab government, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and agriculture minister Jathedar Tota Singh on public interest litigation (PIL) seeking minister’s removal from his post.
The petitioner, Congress leader Sukhjeet Singh, is seeking Tota Singh’s removal on the ground that he was convicted in 2012 on charges of corruption pertaining to misuse of a car belonging to the Punjab School Education Board and was sentenced to one-year rigorous imprisonment. Subsequently, the remaining period of sentence was suspended by the HC and he was released on bail.
Sukhjeet maintained that in view of the 2012 Supreme Court verdict in Manoj Narula’s case, it was laid down that “the person with criminal antecedents against whom heinous or serious criminal or charges of corruption are there, should not be made a minister”.
After his conviction in a corruption case on May 5, 2012, Tota Singh had submitted his resignation. But on June 10, 2014, he was again inducted into the Punjab cabinet.
Sukhjeet, who had unsuccessfully contested against Tota Singh in the 2012 assembly polls, also submitted before the court that the Akali leader had been chargesheeted for forgery and fabrication of documents relating to recruitment of 138 clerks in the Punjab School Education Board.
The petitioner further pointed out that to carry out a fair probe into the alleged scandal pertaining to purchase of insecticides, which led to damage to cotton crop in the Malwa belt, in the agriculture department, it was important that Tota Singh was sacked.
The petitioner claimed that since the scam involved huge amount of money with senior- most officers of the department, director Mangal Singh Sandhu and deputy director Satwant Singh Brar and joint director Nirankar Singh, named as accused, the agriculture minister is required to be divested of his portfolio for impartial investigation. He also demanded that the investigation should be handed over to the CBI.
The court has asked the respondents to reply by January 22.