Punjab irrigation scam: HC restrains VB from taking coercive action against ex-Punjab chief secy

Published on Dec 06, 2022 09:46 PM IST

The Punjab and Haryana high court has restrained Punjab vigilance bureau (VB) from taking any coercive step against former Punjab chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal, whose role is being probed in the alleged irrigation scam reported during the SAD-BJP government’s tenure from 2012-17.

Kaushal is second former senior bureaucrat after Karanbir Singh Sidhu who had approached high court apprehending arrest by the VB in the case. (Representational photo)
Kaushal is second former senior bureaucrat after Karanbir Singh Sidhu who had approached high court apprehending arrest by the VB in the case. (Representational photo)

Chandigarh

The Punjab and Haryana high court has restrained Punjab vigilance bureau (VB) from taking any coercive step against former Punjab chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal, whose role is being probed in the alleged irrigation scam reported during the SAD-BJP government’s tenure from 2012-17.

Kaushal is second former senior bureaucrat after Karanbir Singh Sidhu who had approached high court apprehending arrest by the VB in the case.

The 1982 batch IAS officer, Kaushal remained chief secretary between June 2014 and March 2017 and also was the principal secretary, irrigation department, between August 2013 and January 2017.

The high court bench of justice Raj Mohan Singh advised Kaushal to return to India and directed the VB not to arrest him. However, Kaushal has been asked to join the probe.

The former chief secretary had sought direction from the court against re-investigation and quashing the vigilance “enquiry”, which he said was without the prior approval from the state government as per Section 17-A of the Prevention of Corruption Act. He had also sought quashing of the lookout circular issued against him.

Kaushal has made head of the VB and present chief secretary VK Janjua as party in the case alleging that he dealt with the grant of prosecution sanction in a “bribery case” involving Janjua and could not “meet his expectation”. Hence, instead of recusing with this case, Janjua “misled” the chief minister in getting nod for the probe against him, Kaushal has stated in his plea.

The former CS had told court that the vigilance was conducting “re-investigation” under the garb of an “enquiry”, which is impermissible under Section 17(A) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. The FIR in question relates to 2017 and investigation has already been concluded. Hence, there was no need for conducting any further “enquiry” in a concluded investigation, especially when no evidence had come against the petitioner and no recovery had been effected,” the plea stated.

It was also stated that a lookout circular was issued against Kaushal with intent to “harass” him even as he was abroad. “There has been no intimation to the petitioner that he was wanted and that he was summoned and evading the authorities, or he is a proclaimed offender or is likely to go underground or flee from the country,” he said questioning the lookout circular and terming it a move to defame him in the absence of any FIR. The petitioner wanted to return to respond queries but feared that he would be arrested on return. He had submitted an undertaking that he would return in three weeks.

Seeking response by February 8 from the government, VB and Janjua, the court has stayed operation of the lookout circular and restrained vigilance from arresting him.

The FIR was registered on August 17, 2017, under the Prevention of Corruption Act against kingpin and contractor Gurinder Singh and three senior officers of the Punjab government for alleged misuse of public funds. The VB said during the SAD-BJP government’s tenure, senior officials connived with the contractor and allocated works worth 1,000 crore to him at more than 50% of the departmental rates.

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