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‘Illegal royalty’ collection: Punjab moves HC seeking recall of CBI probe order

UPDATED ON SEP 09, 2020 12:22 AM IST

The Punjab government on Tuesday approached the Punjab and Haryana high court seeking recall of an order asking the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to conduct a preliminary probe into alleged collection of illegal ‘royalty’ from trucks carrying mining material in Rupnagar district.

In an affidavit filed by mines and geology director VN Zade, the government referring to the report that prompted the high court to issue the probe order says “an important and critical distinction” needs to be made that the judicial officer makes “no mention of collection of royalty at such checkpoints”.

However, the report by Harsimranjit Singh, chief judicial magistrate-cum-secretary, district legal services authority, Rupnagar, says, “...( those contacted) unanimously confirmed that no truck carrying sand and gravel is being allowed to cross these points without paying royalty” (sic).

The report was submitted in March. The judicial officer was tasked by the high court on February 19 to submit the report after hearing a petition on the illegal mining issue amid the government’s claim that there were no illegal check points/barriers near the mining sites in Rupnagar.

The government has argued that there was no occasion of exercise of power of instituting/transferring investigation to the CBI. “..(It) arises where the Hon’able court finds it necessary in order to do justice between the parties to instill confidence in the public mind or where investigation by the state lacks credibility” (sic).

It further says that criteria under which a CBI probe should be ordered are not met in
this case.

The affidavit also denies findings of the report that collection of illegal royalty was going on at seven points by private individuals in the district. It says checkpoints have been set up by the government and private individuals are not allowed to be part of the exercise.

The government said the affidavit was filed by a deputy superintendent of police (DSP) based on two reports by different functionaries which said no illegal barriers were set up at the locations in question. This affidavit had prompted high court to rope in judicial officer to ascertain facts on the ground.

The CBI has already registered a preliminary FIR after the HC directive. In the report, the CJM had listed seven locations where illegal nakas were in place on three dates when he paid the visit to re-verify. The officer had also submitted photos and videos of these nakas and collection being made by private persons from the mining trucks.

The government’s plea was taken up by the high court bench of justice Rajan Gupta who directed that it be listed before the bench presided over by justice Jaswant Singh that had ordered probe by the central agency.

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