Bhola drug racket: ED now wants junior most officers to probe case
ED filed an application in HC last week, urging the court to allow it to entrust probe to enforcement officers in place of assistant directors. EOs are junior most investigating officers in directorate.punjab Updated: Jun 09, 2017 09:58 IST
A month after the enforcement directorate (ED) got the nod from the Punjab and Haryana high court to replace deputy director Niranjan Singh with two assistant directors as investigating officers (IO) in the Jagdish Bhola drug racket case, the central agency now wants junior most officers to probe the case, allegedly involving some politicians of Punjab.
The ED filed an application in the high court last week, urging the court to allow it to entrust the probe to enforcement officers (EOs) in place of assistant directors. EOs are junior most investigating officers in the directorate.
Bhola, a former DSP, who allegedly ran a drug cartel in Punjab with the help of many politicians and NRIs, was arrested by the Fatehgarh Sahib police in November 2013. The Punjab Police had raided his residence in Mohali and recovered drugs worth Rs 100 crore.
Niranjan is a key investigator in the case who interrogated politicians including former SAD ministers Bikram Singh Majithia and Sarwan Singh Phillaur, Jalandhar Congress MP Santokh Chaudhary and former SAD MLA Avinash Chandar.
On May 2, the court allowed the ED to relieve Niranjan of the charge of IO as the ED stated that after the official has been promoted as deputy director, his role has changed to ‘supervising’ the cases rather than investigating them personally as IO.
However, the court ordered that he would supervise the case and two officials not below the rank of assistant directors would probe the matter under his supervision.
However, the ED filed a fresh application in the court on June 2, praying that it be allowed to replace assistant directors with EOs.
The court is learnt to have expressed its concern over the proposal to replace Niranjan with junior most officers in the Rs 10,000-crore drug case and sought response from the Punjab government and others on the ED’s plea.
The ED is also planning to give additional charge of some cases in Delhi to Niranjan.
- 5 chargesheets filed till date
- 48 persons made accused
- 12 Canada-based NRIs linked with drug smuggler summoned but none of them appeared
- Properties worth Rs 1000 core attached so far
- Politicians whose properties have been attached include former SAD MLAs Sarwan Singh Phillaur and Avinash Chandar, who are both in the Congress now
ED CHANGING STAND
ED’s claim that they are short of assistant directors is questionable as in February 2015, when the high court stayed Niranjan’s transfer, the agency has told the court that they have adequate number of officers of his rank.
The agency has even transferred two assistant directors in March and they are still working in agency’s zonal officer at Jalandhar.
WHAT DOES NIRANJAN’S TRANSFER AS IO MEAN?
The Bhola drug case, which is considered as Niranjan’s “baby” in ED circles, started in 2013 when the agency interrogated drug lord Bhola to find out the money trail behind drug smuggling. The case witnessed many twists and turns, including Niranjan’s transfer from Jalandhar to Kolkata. The transfer had to be cancelled on the intervention of the Punjab and Haryana high court.
A source in the ED said Niranjan not only “dug his heals in” to investigate the case of high political importance but also managed to book many accused and attach their properties worth more than Rs 1000 crore.
“Niranjan did all this as IO. The case is at crucial stage when 70% of the investigation is already over. The ED’s intentions in the are already under doubt since, the agency transferred Niranjan in January 2015. How the new officers would bring this case to logical conclusion would be interesting to watch,” said a senior retired ED functionary.
On the court’s direction to keep Niranjan as supervisor, ED sources revealed that the role of supervisor is confined to monitor the case. “IO’s role is most crucial in any probe. A superviser can only give directions to IO, not investigate the case personally.”