Punjab police arrested senior Congress leader and MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira from his Chandigarh residence in the early morning of Thursday, 28 September.
The arrest came after the Punjab police, led by SP Manjeet Singh and DSP AR Sharma, raided his house at around 6:30 am.
Khaira, the MLA from Bholath, went live on Facebook during the raids.
‘Arrested for NDPS case’
While police have not officially confirmed the cases, Khaira’s live video on social media showed them informing him that he had been nabbed for involvement in an old NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) case.
The police claimed that he was being arrested on the recommendation of an SIT led by a DIG rank officer and two SSPs. Khaira protested that the case was already quashed by the Supreme Court.
Khaira can be seen going with the police raising slogans against the Punjab government and Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann. The police can also be seen telling Khaira’s son Mehtab Khaira that the MLA was being taken to Jalalabad police station.
Releasing a statement after his father’s arrest, advocate Mehtab said: “Hello everyone. This is to inform you that my father Sukhpal Singh Khaira has been arrested by Punjab police on direct orders of the Punjab CM in an 8-year-old drugs case. This is the same case which was quashed by the Supreme Court of India.”
“The police have bypassed all procedures and even an order of the Supreme Court to gag the voice of a strong and vociferous leader. My father has told me to inform everyone that he is not scared of any false implication and will fight for Punjab till the very end. The truth will prevail,” he added.
Congress condemns arrest
Meanwhile, the Punjab Congress condemned the alleged political vendetta of the Bhagwant Man-led AAP government.
“The arrest is extremely deplorable. The AAP government has stooped to an all-time low of their characteristic vendetta politics. Khaira was a righteous leader and was targeted for raising his voice against wrongdoings and irregularities of the Mann government. We strongly believe in law and will take legal remedies”, Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly Partap Bajwa told South First.
Punjab Congress President Amarinder Singh Raja Warring hit out at AAP over Khaira’s arrest.
“The recent arrest of @INCPunjab MLA @SukhpalKhaira ji smacks of Political Vendetta, it is an attempt to intimidate the opposition and is a ploy of the @AAPPunjab govt to distract from core issues. We stand strongly with Sukhpal Khaira and will take this fight to its logical conclusion”, he wrote on X.
The recent arrest of @INCPunjab MLA @SukhpalKhaira ji smacks of Political Vendetta, it is an attempt to intimidate the opposition and is a ploy of the @AAPPunjab govt to distract from core issues. We stand strongly with Sukhpal Khaira and will take this fight to its logical…
— Amarinder Singh Raja Warring (@RajaBrar_INC) September 28, 2023
Joining Congress in its protest on the arrest, BJP national general secretary Tarun Chugh said, “AAP in Punjab is not a government of change or development but is vendetta driven. If anybody is at fault action should be taken but such revenge and vendetta-inspired moves are condemnable. The government is misusing its power.”
The drugs case
In March 2015, the police registered an FIR in a case under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.
As the trial went on, nine people were convicted in 2017 after the police recovered two kg of heroin, 24 gold biscuits, one country-made pistol, and two Pakistani SIM cards from them. Subsequently, Khaira’s name cropped up during the investigation as an additional accused.
In 2021, Khaira — who has been a vocal critic of Bhagwant Mann and AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal — was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on charges of money laundering linked with the same FIR in which he was arrested on Thursday.
However, the court granted him bail in 2022. On 16 February, 2023, a Supreme Court bench of Justices BR Gavai and Vikram Nath quashed the summoning order against Khaira in the drugs case.