The Punjab government on Thursday suspended former Hoshiarpur sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Anand Sagar Sharma, presently posted in Gidderbaha, for being absent from duty since February 20. Sharma, as per the Punjab vigilance and anti-corruption bureau, is mastermind of the multi-crore Hoshiarpur land scam.
As per to Punjab chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal’s orders, Sharma has been declared “wilful absent from duty” under Section 4(i) of the Punjab Civil Services Rule. Sharma would report at Chandigarh and would not be able to move without the prior permission of the secretary, personnel department, read the order.
Sharma is on the run since February 11 (he was on leave till February 20) after the vigilance bureau registered a first information report (FIR) against him and 12 others, including revenue officials and Akali leaders from Hoshiarpur, in a scam in the acquisition of land for a national highway.
The probe — that has nailed all those who were exposed in a series of reports by the Hindustan Times in June last year — has found that the Sharma, who was then the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) of Hoshiarpur, “colluded” with revenue officials and SAD leaders to “illegally” sell the land that was already notified for acquisition.
A case under Sections 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant), 420 (cheating), 467, 468 and 471 (forgery) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code, and under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 has been registered against the accused.
The Akali leaders booked in the case include Hoshiarpur market committee chairman Avtar Singh Johal, councillor Harpinder Gill and district co-operative bank chairman Satwinder Pal Singh Dhatt. The other accused are Devi Ram, Jaswinder Pal Singh and Prateek Gupta.
A Ludhiana court has rejected the bail application of most of the accused who are on run. Vigilance offices say all accused are gone into hiding since the registration of the case.
The SDM’s role as nodal officer for land acquisition of the national highway was unfair and full of doubts from the beginning,” reads the 19-page report prepared by the VB team.