Amritsar land scam: 10 years on, legislative initiative set to fall flat
The Punjab vigilance bureau (VB) move to withdraw the Amritsar Improvement Trust land scam case against former chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh has undone the 10-year-old exercise of the state assembly that had held him guilty and asked the agency to book him and others in 2007.punjab Updated: Oct 09, 2016 10:17 IST
The Punjab vigilance bureau (VB) move to withdraw the Amritsar Improvement Trust land scam caseagainst former chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh has undone the 10-year-old exercise of the state assembly that had held him guilty and asked the agency to book him and others in 2007.
The land scam had rocked the 12th Vidhan Sabha in March 2006, when the then ruling Congress’ MLA Bir Devinder raised questions on exempting a piece of 32 acres of land from acquisition apparently to favour a private builder, seeking a detailed inquiry into the matter.
With the then Congress regime dilly-dallying on the issue, it was the 13th Vidhan Sabha when the SAD-BJP combine came to power in February 2007 that a fresh committee of legislators probed the matter and tabled its report in the House in October that year, recommending registration of a case with the vigilance bureau.
The FIR was finally lodged on September 11, 2008, after the House committee led by the then Akali MLA Harish Rai Dhanda tabled the probe report in which it indicted Capt Amarinder Singh, former local bodies minister late Chaudhary Jagjit Singh and others for corruption.
The case was registered under Sections 420 (cheating), 467/468 (forgery), 471 (using as genuine a forged document), 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC and various sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act at the vigilance bureau’s police station in Mohali.
Though the ‘challan’ was filed in February 2009, the charges were not framed against the accused till date.
Besides Capt Amarinder and Chaudhary Jagjit, others facing charges for the murky land deal were former speaker late Kewal Krishan and the then Vidhan Sabha secretary Nachhattar Singh Mavi, who in 2006 faced the charges of tampering with the Vidhan Sabha records and, thus, figured among the accused in the case.
The HT had then reported exclusively how the duo sought the reports of the House debate and tampered with them to make a point that the committee to probe the land scam could be formed “if the House agrees…”. They were accused of adding this phrase as a suffix to the House resolution to form the probe committee into the scam during the Congress regime.
When the Akali-BJP combine came to power, MLA Surjit Kumar Jyani in November 2008 waived the copies of the HT carrying the report in the House. The matter than reached the privilege committee that found the then speaker, the secretary and another Vidhan Sabha official guilty of tampering with the record.
AFTER EXPULSION, CAPT GOT REPRIEVE FROM SC
The SAD-BJP government also expelled Capt Amarinder from the assembly in September 2008 on the basis of the House panel finding him guilty in the scam.
He challenged his expulsion in the Supreme Court and managed to get a stay, and the final verdict of the apex court’s full bench came in his favour in April 2010.
“The resolution passed by the Punjab Vidhan Sabha on September 10, 2008, directing the expulsion of the appellant for the remainder of the 13th term of the Vidhan Sabha is constitutionally invalid,” ruled the SC full bench headed by the then Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan.
“When it was well known that it (land scam) was the subject matter of proceedings before the high court, the Vidhan Sabha should have refrained…” it added.
The bench, however, observed: “Nothing in this judgment should act as a hurdle against the investigation into the alleged role of the appellant (Amarinder) in the improper exemption of land from the Amritsar Improvement Trust scheme.”