A court here discharged Punjab Chief minister Amarinder Singh and 17 others today in a decade-old case of alleged corruption in the transfer of land to a private developer, accepting the closure report filed by the probe agency.
Mohali Special Judge Jaswinder Singh accepted the closure report filed by the state’s Vigilance Bureau (VB) while clearing the 18 accused of wrongdoing in the transfer of 32.10 acre of Amritsar Improvement Trust’s prime land to a private developer.
The Vigilance Bureau had registered the case against them in 2008 on the recommendation of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha.
Amarinder Singh, who was present in the court along with the other accused, welcomed the verdict as a “victory of truth.
“It was political vendetta as the VB had acted on the directions of its then political masters,” he said, in a reference to then Akali Dal-BJP government.
The Vigilance Bureau had filed a cancellation report before the Special Court in October 2016 after conducting a further investigations as directed by the high court. It also sought the discharge of all the accused.
The bureau had then submitted that “neither any malafide nor any offence had been committed”.
It told the court that no incriminating evidence had been found during the fresh investigation to prove the charges.
The judge, in his brief verdict, read out the allegations and concluded that the second investigation was correct.
The court accepts the cancellation report, the judge said.
Amarinder Singh said the acceptance of the cancellation report by the court had proved that the charges were nothing but a fabrication of the previous regime to further their agenda of political vendetta”.
Five hundred hearings were held in the case, which caused a lot of inconvenience not only to him but also the general public, the chief minister told reporters outside the court premises after the verdict.
He stressed that the cancellation report was 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.
The case is over an executive decision taken by the Urban Development and Housing Department in the Amarinder Singh-led government, during its previous tenure (2002-2007), to grant a licence to a private developer.
Since the developer had applied for licence before the notification by the Amritsar Improvement Trust for land acquisition, it was granted to him on a first come-first-served basis under a policy decision, a government spokesman said.
However, the opposition parties at that time had objected to this, alleging that the exemption was not according to the government policy and favoured an individual.
After the Akali government took over, a committee led by the then MLA Harish Dhanda was set up by the Vidhan Sabha.
The Dhanda committee submitted a 95-page report recommending Amarinder Singh’s disqualification from the House for its remaining term.
It also recommended an inquiry and its report to be submitted to the Speaker within two months.
The disqualification was set aside by the Supreme Court, and the high court ordered a further investigation into the corruption charges.
The investigation revealed that no loss had occurred to the exchequer in granting the exemption to the developer, the spokesman said.
The exemption was granted under section 56 of Punjab Town Improvement Trust Act, after obtaining a non-objection certificate from the Trust as per government policy, the spokesman said.