Vig­i­lance in­quiry points to Maluka in ~12­cr land scam

Role of SAD ex­min­is­ter, 2 since­re­tired IAS of­fi­cers un­der lens for land pur­chase at ‘in­flated’ price

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - - HTPUNJAB - Ravin­der Va­sudeva

CHANDI­GARH: Role of Shi­ro­mani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Sikan­der Singh Maluka and two re­tired of­fi­cers of the In­dian Ad­min­is­tra­tive Ser­vice (IAS), Sukhjit Singh Bains and GK Singh, has come un­der the scan­ner of the Pun­jab vig­i­lance bureau (VB) in an al­leged scam of Rs 12 crore in pur­chase of al­ter­na­tive land for Jheurheri vil­lage pan­chayat of Mo­hali dis­trict, whose sham­lat deh (com­mon land) was ac­quired for the in­ter­na­tional air­port.

When the Jheurheri pan­chayat bought land in Fate­hgarh Sahib dis­trict with the com­pen­sa­tion money in 2016, Maluka was min­is­ter for ru­ral de­vel­op­ment and pan­chay­ats. Bains, who re­tired in Feb­ru­ary last year, was joint de­vel­op­ment com­mis­sioner in the depart­ment, while GK Singh, who re­tired in April last year, was the depart­ment di­rec­tor.

Money paid for this land was al­legedly higher than the mar­ket rate, and the difference was ac­tu­ally em­bez­zled, says the vig­i­lance probe.

The trio’s role emerged af­ter three months of in­ves­ti­ga­tion from other ac­cused, in­clud­ing Gurvin­der Singh Sarao, who re­mained Mo­hali dis­trict de­vel­op­ment and pan­chayat of­fi­cer (DDPO), said a se­nior VB of­fi­cial not au­tho­rised to speak to the me­dia.

Sarao was ar­rested along with block de­vel­op­ment and pan­chayat of­fi­cer (BDPO) Malvin­der Singh and pan­chayat of­fi­cer Ravin­der Singh.

Vil­lage sarpanch Gur­pal Singh and Mo­hammed So­hel Khan, a lawyer for the depart­ment, were also ar­rested by the VB, which is in­ves­ti­gat­ing the case un­der sec­tions of fraud and cheat­ing un­der the In­dian Pe­nal Code and Preven­tion of Cor­rup­tion Act.

HOW IT HAP­PENED

Ac­cord­ing to the VB, 36 acres of sham­lat deh of the pan­chayat was ac­quired for the air­port at a com­pen­sa­tion of Rs 1.5 crore per acre. The state re­leased Rs 54.17 crore, which as per norms should have been cred­ited to the ac­count of the sarpanch, but went to the ac­count of the depart­ment di­rec­tor in­stead, by Au­gust 2015. With the money, the depart­ment of­fi­cials and sarpanch de­cided to buy land for the vil­lage else­where.

More than 25 acres of farm­land was bought in Karim­pura and Kandipura vil­lages of Fate­hgarh Sahib, at Rs 13.62 crore in 2016. The rate paid was Rs 54 lakh per acre, even as the pre­vail­ing col­lec­tor rate was Rs 9.77 lakh. It is al­leged that Rs 12 crore was even­tu­ally si­phoned off by the ac­cused. VB in­ves­ti­ga­tors say the land was shown to have been pur­chased at a far higher than the mar­ket rate “at far-off places”, “with­out tak­ing prior sanc­tion from the com­pe­tent author­ity as re­quired”.

The landown­ers were paid the higher rates on record and later this money was taken back from the own­ers by the of­fi­cials and me­di­a­tors, and dis­trib­uted among the ac­cused, it is fur­ther al­leged by the VB of­fi­cials.

NEW FIND­INGS

In this, VB of­fi­cials now claim, “se­ri­ous point­ers” have emerged that raise ques­tions over the role of Sarao and GK Singh as “both the of­fi­cials have signed the per­mis­sions to pur­chase the land for the vil­lage”.

The bureau also has a state­ment of the ar­rested DDPO that Maluka was aware of the “wrong­do­ings” by of­fi­cials and “con­spic­u­ously” re­mained silent all along.

What fur­ther points to­wards Maluka is two pay­ments, in­clud­ing one of Rs 5 crore, made from the ac­count of di­rec­tor, ru­ral de­vel­op­ment, into that of Bathinda zila par­ishad, whose chair­man was Maluka’s son, Gur­preet Singh, said a se­nior probe of­fi­cer.

When con­tacted, vig­i­lance chief di­rec­tor BK Up­pal said the role of “higher- ups” of the depart­ment when the scam hap­pened is be­ing probed.

QUES­TION OF NOD

Maluka, who was cam­paign­ing in Shahkot for the May 28 assem­bly by­poll, first told HT over the phone that when the scam came to the fore, “code of con­duct was al­ready in place in Feb­ru­ary 2017 (for the assem­bly polls)”.

Deny­ing that he had a role, he fur­ther said, “Of­fi­cials named in the scam bla­tantly vi­o­lated laws to pur­chase land, and I was not kept in the loop. Any such pur­chase has to be have per­mis­sion of the min­is­ter, which was not taken from me in this case.”

GK Singh said he is ready for “any sort of probe” as he has “not done any­thing wrong”.

“I was sum­moned by the VB in Feb­ru­ary as well. At that time I stated that pur­chase of the land was done by tak­ing per­mis­sion of the min­is­ter and the sec­re­tary,” he claimed.

Bains was not avail­able for com­ment de­spite re­peated at­tempts.

Sikan­der Singh Maluka

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