Finally, the Punjab vigilance bureau (VB) on Friday registered a case against former Patiala deputy commissioner (DC) Vikas Garg, besides nine others, for allegedly having marked government land worth Rs. 250 crore as private property to allow its sale. Garg, who belongs to the 1998 batch, is the first IAS officer to have been charged with corruption in the current term of the SAD-BJP combine, which had retained power in the assembly elections held early this year.
The illegal deal of public land between two private parties came to be known as the 'Patiala land cam' after HT exposed the misdeeds -- 'Officials in dock for land sale' (HT, April 20) - and laid the scandal bare in several follow-up reports. As a result, Garg and five other officials, four of whom have now been named in the FIR, were suspended on May 8.
According to the FIR (first-information report) registered at the Patiala VB station, the officials, including Garg, and five 'private individuals' have been charged under various sections -- 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant), 420 (forgery), 467 (forgery of valuable security), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) -- of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), and also under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988, for the scam involving public land measuring around 6,000 sq yards that houses five government offices.
The case was registered on the directions of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, who had marked a VB probe on the basis of a report by the then divisional commissioner SR Ladhar that had indicted the officials. The VB was tasked with probing the role of the private 'buyers' and 'sellers'. As for the government officials, Ladhar's report was upheld by the financial commissioner (revenue), revenue minister Bikram Majithia and the VB itself.
Along with Garg - who was once considered close to the Badals as he belongs to their home district Muktsar, and also remained the DC at Ludhiana and Muktsar before his Patiala stint -- others booked in the case are private individuals NP Singh, Yashpal Aggarwal, Davinder Singh Sandhu, Ravdeep Singh and Jaswant Singh, besides former district revenue officer (DRO) Rajbir Singh, former naib tehsilar Gurinder Singh Walia, ex-kanungo Pritpal Singh and ex-patwari Suresh Kumar.
While Garg and the four others named in the FIR have even been issued departmental chargesheets, the then tehsildar AS Thind too remains suspended, which is ironic as he was the first officer to acknowledge in writing that the land sold as private was actually government's property.
For more details, read today's edition of Hindustan Times