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Sunday, Aug 25, 2019

Amarinder acquitted: What’s the AIT case, and how Capt got the clean chit

Even as Amarinder has continuously maintained that these cases were politically motivated, the way the VB took a U-turn in the case, and earlier in the Ludhiana City Centre scam case, has raised eyebrows.

punjab Updated: Jul 28, 2018 10:53 IST
Ravinder Vasudeva
Ravinder Vasudeva
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Capt Amarinder Singh
Capt Amarinder Singh

The clean chit to chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh and others in the Amritsar Improvement Trust “scam” case has ended a significant vigilance bureau case filed against him during the SAD-BJP regime. Even as Amarinder has continuously maintained that these cases were politically motivated, the way the VB took a U-turn in this case, and earlier in the Ludhiana City Centre scam case, has raised eyebrows.

HT explains the AIT case in which first a challan was presented against Amarinder but in a second probe he was given the clean chit:

Know the AIT ‘scam’

It was alleged that Amarinder-led Congress government granted special exemptions for transfer of 32.1 acres of land belonging to Amritsar Improvement Trust to a private developer in his previous term (2002-07). Former deputy speaker of the Vidhan Sabha and the then Kharar MLA Bir Devinder was the whistleblower in the case, as he raised the issue in the House in the last the session of the Amarinder-led assembly late in 2006. He alleged that exemptions were granted in exchange of money.

Bir Devinder raised issue in assembly

After Bir Devinder, who was a Congress MLA, raised the issue against his own party’s CM, it led to commotion in the House, compelling the then speaker Kewal Krishan to announce formation of a House committee to look into the allegations. According to Bir Devinder, the committee was never announced as it was the last session of that Vidhan Sabha.

“The speaker forged the Vidhan Sabha proceedings and tampered with records by adding that ‘a committee will be formed if House agrees’,” said Bir Devinder. Among the 18 accused against whom the case now stands cancelled, there were Kewal Krishan and former ministers Raghunath Sahai Puri and Jagjit Singh, all three dead now.

How probe began

When the SAD-BJP formed the government in 2007, it moved the case to the House privileges committee headed by BJP’s Surjit Kumar Jyani, who found that tampering was done with the record of the Vidhan Sabha. Thereafter, a special committee of MLAs led by SAD’s Harish Rai Dhanda was formed, and this committee ordered suspension of Amarinder as MLA; and a VB probe was also ordered.

On September 11, VB registered a case against 18 persons, including Amarinder. The probe was ordered into allegations of tampering of records of Vidhan Sabha and alleged relaxation given in land allotment.

Pace of the probe

The probe in the first two years was fast, and the agency on February 10, 2009, filed a challan in the special court, giving details of investigation against all the accused. The VB said the scam caused a loss of Rs 360 crore to the state exchequer. And the investigation even concluded that the allegations pertaining to tampering with Vidhan Sabha records, misuse of power and illegality in exemption of land, tampering with Trust records and corruption had strong basis.

The final U-turn by VB

Amarinder filed a petition in the Punjab and Haryana high court in 2012 for cancellation of FIR. He said the Dhanda committee, which formed the basis of his suspension as MLA and the registration of the FIR, was biased against him. The high court did not cancel the FIR but ordered a fresh probe in December 2014. A special investigation team (SIT) of the VB, headed by DIG Rajinder Singh, conducted the fresh probe, and gave the clean chit to Amarinder while SAD-BJP was in power.

The VB in October 2016 filed a cancellation report. When the first challan was filed, it had the approval of since-retired DGP Sumedh Singh Saini, who was chief director of the VB at the time. And when the VB gave clean chit to Amarinder, the probe was approved by present Punjab police chief, DGP Suresh Arora, who was then heading the VB. Arora remains the state police chief in the Congress regime that took over in March last year, after having got the post in SAD-BJP regime.

“It’s a case where the investigation agency has been misused to get political gains. When Amarinder was an enemy of the Badals, the VB did a fair probe. When both parties became friends, the agency suddenly said there were no evidences in the case,” said Bir Devinder.

First Published: Jul 28, 2018 10:50 IST

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