Ranike rip-off: HC summons record of departments
The Punjab and Haryana high court on Friday summoned the complete record of the departments that were held by former Punjab cabinet minister Gulzar Singh Ranike and are now being probed the state vigilance bureau (VB) for alleged embezzlement of central and state government grants worth crores of rupees.
Ranike had put in his resignation as minister on September 16 after HT exposed the scam that involved pocketing rural area grants and border area funds via bogus bank accounts. He held these departments: welfare of Scheduled Castes/Backward Classes (SC/BC), animal husbandry, fisheries and dairy development.
As a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Dera Bassi resident Hari Singh Nagra, seeking a central agency probe, came up for hearing, the division bench comprising chief justice Arjan Kumar Sikri and justice Rakesh Kumar Jain directed Punjab's advocate general Ashok Aggarwal to produce the record on the next date of hearing, that is October 10. Aggarwal submitted that the state's record was clear and can be placed before the court.
The PIL has alleged that senior Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Ranike had embezzled crores of Border Area Development Programme funds, rural grants issued from his discretionary funds, and also funds meant for the Shagun scheme, which entails monetary help for marriage of girls from the weaker segments.
Bogus bank accounts were opened in Amritsar banks and Ranike's personal assistant Sarbhdyal Singh, who is on the run, collected cheques from block development and panchayat offices (BDPOs) from Ranike's Attari constituency allegedly at his behest. From these accounts, impersonators of panchayat members withdrew the amount by presenting cheques addressed to 'self', and the amount never reached to the real recipients, it is alleged. Ranike's son, Gurinder Pal Singh, also allegedly collected cheques from BDPOs, but neither he nor Ranike has ever been interrogated, even though there are two FIRs registered.