The court of sessions judge Gurbir Singh has summoned all accused in the multi-crore Ludhiana City Centre scam case — including Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, his son and son-in-law — on Wednesday, when it is likely to pronounce the verdict.
District attorney Ravinder Abrol said the court on Tuesday summoned all accused to appear at 3 pm the next day.
This is the only corruption case pending against the chief minister. His son Raninder Singh and son-in-law Raminder Singh are also among the accused. The case has to do with an infrastructure project conceived during Amarinder’s previous tenure as CM in 2005-06. The ‘Ludhiana City Centre’, which including a shopping mall, residential towers, helipad, multiplex etc on a site measuring 25-acre located on Pakhowal Road, currently lies in ruins.
Investigation into the case was marked to the Vigilance Bureau by the Amarinder-led Punjab government on September 19, 2006, after media reports claimed irregularities. Later, an FIR was registered by the vigilance department on March 23, 2007, when the SAD-BJP government came to power in the state. The FIR was lodged on the orders of then vigilance director (and former Punjab DGP) Sumedh Singh Saini, with former Ludhiana vigilance SSP Kanwarjit Singh Sandhu as its signatory.
The accused were booked for alleged corruption and cheating under sections 420, 409, 465, 467, 468, 471, 201 and 120-B of IPC and sections 7,8,9,13 (1), 13(2) and 14 of the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA), 1988. Of 36 accused, five including Chaudhary Jagjit Singh (then local bodies minister), Paramjit Singh Sibia (then LIT chairman), Malkeet Kaur, Vijay Kumar Parti and Sunil Kumar Sharma, died during the proceedings. There are 152 witnesses in the case.
Till date, even 12 years after the chargesheet was filed in the case on December 12, 2007, against 36 accused — charges have not been framed in the case. The case was pending at the ‘consideration of charges’ stage and court was hearing arguments from prosecution and defence sides on whether charges should be framed or not, when the vigilance filed its closure report.
The case has reached a peculiar point where the prosecution (vigilance) is also arguing in the favour of the accused. The vigilance filed a closure report in the case on August 19, 2017, giving a clean chit to all accused and claiming that “there was no scam at all”.
The closure report (a copy of which is with The Indian Express) concluded that “there is no proof or fact to substantiate any scam in the project” and that “Captain Amarinder Singh never had any ill-intention in the execution of the project”.The report also says that “there is no proof of any bribe money exchanged”. The report concluded that “no evidence has been found against any of the persons named and neither there is any proof of any bungling or scam in Ludhiana city centre” and that “All allegations are just kalpanik (fictional) and sambhavit (doubtful)”.
The Vigilance Bureau had in its initial inquiry claimed that Amarinder had in connivance with LIT officials and others caused a loss of at least Rs 1,144 crore to the exchequer by “favouring’ private company M/S Today Homes and awarding it the contract by tampering bids”. It was also alleged that the Congress wanted at least Rs 100 crore from this project for the 2007 polls, and therefore the then CM and others had “received bribe money” of Rs 100 crore from owners of M/S Today Homes in return for awarding them the City Centre contract.
In its first probe report, on the basis of which SSP Kanwarjit Singh Sandhu filed the FIR, the bureau says, “Prima facie the wrongful loss to state exchequer and wrongful gain to M/S Today Homes is estimated to be between Rs 1,500 to 3,000 crore…”
Till now, there have been five applications challenging the closure report and clean chit to CM and other accused. Four applications — by LIP MLA Simarjit Singh Bains, former Punjab DGP Sumedh Singh Saini, former vigilance Ludhiana SSP Kanwarjit Singh Sandhu and Delhi based architect S K Dey — have been dismissed by the trial court. Dey filed it again and it still lies pending with trial court.
Apart from this, MLA Bains and ex-DGP Saini had moved high court where their pleas are pending. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) too has moved high court demanding a chargesheet copy for their own probe into money laundering claims related to the case.
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