Akali leader Majithia booked by Punjab Police in drugs case
Former Punjab minister and senior Akali Dal leader Bikram Singh Majithia (46) has been booked by the Punjab Police in a drugs case, prompting immediate accusations that the ruling Congress is trying to settle political scores ahead of assembly election early next year.
The case against the three-time MLA was registered on Monday night under various sections of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act on the basis of a report submitted by the special task force (STF) chief and additional director general of police Harpreet Singh Sidhu. Majithia, who could not be reached for comment, now faces imminent arrest.
Majithia, brother of former Union minister and Bathinda MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal, is an aggressive and prominent Akali leader. He was among the most powerful ministers in the Parkash Singh Badal government that ruled the state till 2017. The police action against him has raised the political temperature in the poll-bound state at a time when the Shiromani Akali Dal, which took a battering in the 2017 election, is looking to improve its performance.
Former chief minister Badal said it was expected. “The Congress government changed three state police chiefs to book and arrest the Badals and Majithia. Any government which indulges in such vendetta has to face the consequences,” the five-time former chief minister said. Majithia, who has not been seen in public for the past few days, could not be contacted.
Badal’s reference is also to investigations into his and his son Sukhbir Singh Badal’s role in the so-called sacrilege incident, when pages from the holy book of the Sikhs were found torn in 2015, resulting in violence and police action that left two people dead. The Congress has blamed the then government of the SAD for the deaths.
According to the 49-page FIR registered at the State Crime Police Station in Mohali, Majithia has been booked for cognizable offenses under Sections 25 (Punishment for allowing premises, etc. to be used for commission of an offence), 27 (A) ( whoever is financing any activities indulging in production, manufacture, possession, sale, purchase, transportation, use or consumption, import and export or deal in any activities pertaining to narcotic drugs) and 29 (party to a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence) of NDPS Act. These sections have the provision of imprisonment up to 10 years along with fine as decided by the court.
“As per the findings of the STF report, prima facie there is sufficient evidence to record to further investigate the role of Majithia as regards the allegations made in application under scrutiny,” reads the FIR while mentioning the STF chief’s report prepared on the basis of analysis of investigation done by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the Bhola drug case. In 2018, the STF chief was given the task to analyze the former Akali minister’s role. His report, based on the statements of drug case accused Jagjit Singh Chahal and Maninder Singh Bittu Aulakh to the ED, has been made part of the FIR.
In 2013, Arjuna Award-winning international wrestler and dismissed DSP of Punjab Police, Jagdish Bhola, was accused of amassing properties worth crores by smuggling drugs. In 2018, the STF had submitted its report in the Punjab and Haryana high court which later sought the Punjab DGP and then home secretary’s response. Since then, the report has been lying in a sealed cover in the court.
The FIR also mentions Punjab’s advocate general DS Patwalia’s legal opinion which has strongly pushed for action on the STF chief’s report. “In my considered opinion which has been formed after having gone through the proceedings of the honourable court, there is no impediment/embargo for the STF or any state agency to act upon the report submitted in the court. In fact, the court has made it categorically clear that law enforcement agencies must act upon the said reports in accordance with the law.” Notably, Patwalia’s opinion is different from that of his predecessor who advised against acting on the report without the consent of the high court. The process to register the case was initiated after DGP SidharthChattopadhyaya wrote the director, Bureau of Investigation (BoI), on December 20, two days after he took charge. The FIR has been registered on the complaint of the station house officer (SHO), state crime police station, inspector Kailash Bahadur. A special investigation team (SIT) has been constituted to investigate the case.
Home minister Sukhjinder Randhawa told news channels that special teams have been sent to certain locations to arrest the former minister. Earlier, Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, a known detractor of the Badals and Majithia, tweeted: “After 5.5 years of fight against the corrupt system run by the Badal Family & Captain and delay of 4 years without action taken on ED & STF reports against Majithia. Finally now, after pushing for credible officers in positions of power and influence first step has been taken”.
Sidhu has long alleged that former Congress chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh, who has now set up his own political party, was soft on the Badals.
Sidhu also said the FIR was a slap on the face of all those powerful people who went slow on the issue. “Justice will not be served until main culprits behind drug mafia are given exemplary punishment; this is merely a first step. Will fight till punishment is given which acts as deterrent for generations.”
The Charanjit Singh Channi-led Congress government’s efforts to book Majithia in the drug case ahead of the Punjab assembly elections has seen several twists and turns. Last Monday, a letter purportedly written by the Bureau of Investigation (BOI) chief AS Asthana surfaced on social media in which he said he was against booking Majithia on the basis of the 2018 special task force (STF) report lying in a sealed cover with the Punjab and Haryana high court.