CHANDIGARH: Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh and seventeen others got a big relief when a special court in Mohali acquitted him in the ten-year-old Amritsar Improvement Trust land scam case.
While accepting the closure report filed by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau, Additional District and Session Judge of Mohali Jaswinder Singh ordered the discharge of all the persons named as accused in the case. In his brief verdict, read out the allegations in the case and concluded by saying that the "second investigation carried out was correct..the court accepts the cancellation report."
The case was registered by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau in September 2008 on charges of cheating, forgery of valuable security, forgery for purpose of cheating, using a forged document and criminal conspiracy on the recommendation of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, alleging scam in granting exemption for transferring 32.1 acre prime land of Amritsar Improvement Trust (AIT) to a private developer. On the recommendation of a vidhan sabha committee headed by Harish Dhanda.
The accused were also booked under the Prevention of Corruption Act. A challan in this case was filed in February 2009 alleging that this scam that had caused a loss of Rs 360 crore to the state exchequer. However charges were never framed against the accused. There were total eighteen accused in this case registered during SAD-BJP Government. Three out of eighteen people have died and all the fifteen others have been acquitted. The three dead included former Punjab Vidhan Sabha Speaker Dr Kewal Krishan and two former Punjab ministers Raghunath Sahai Puri, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh.
In its second round of investigation, conducted by the vigilance bureau following an order of the Punjab and Haryana High court. In October, 2016 the vigilance bureau had filed a cancellation report before the Special Court in Mohali, which had been trying the case since 2008. The VB had also sought discharge of all the accused in the case. It had submitted that neither any mala fide nor any offence had been committed. Also, no incriminating evidence to prove the charges whatsoever levelled had come to fore during the fresh investigation of the case. But in August 2017, the court had rejected the cancellation report for the second time and had directed the vigilance to re-investigate the matter.
Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh outside the court premises after the verdict was pronounced said that the entire case was clearly politically motivated from the outset. As many as 500 hearings were held in the case, which caused a lot of inconvenience not only to him but also the general public. "Such things (political vendettas) should not happen, they are not healthy for democracy.''
To a question, he said the Vigilance Bureau was not to be blamed. On the cancellation report, he pointed out it was originally filed under the erstwhile SAD-BJP regime, after the Bureau reinvestigated the matter on court orders. "I had no role to play in the cancellation," he said, adding that it was done on merit.
A P S Deol lawyer of Amarinder said justice had prevailed and their faith in the judiciary had been redeemed. It had been proved that there was no value in the case and claimed that were was no scope for appeal in the case as no charges had been framed.