The Punjab Vigilance Bureau (VB) on Monday, 25 September, booked BJP leader and former finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal and five others, including a Punjab Civil Service (PCS) officer, on corruption charges in a land allotment case.
A case under IPC Sections 420, 467, 468, 471, 120-B and 13(1) of the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) and Information Technology (IT) Act has been registered against Manpreet Badal and others.
The bureau is conducting raids to arrest those named in the FIR following which a team reached Manpreet’s farmhouse in Badal village.
They were seen leaving the place without him and no information regarding his arrest has been shared yet. He is the sixth minister from the previous Congress government who has been booked in corruption cases.
The other accused are identified as Bikramjit Shergill, then municipal commissioner and chief administrator of Bathinda Development Authority (BDA), Rajiv Kumar, Amandeep Singh, Vikas Arora and Pankaj who was a BDA superintendent then.
Rajiv, Amandeep and Vikas have been arrested and a raid is underway to arrest others.
The complaint was filed by former MLA Sarup Chand Singla, also a BJP leader, who had alleged irregularities in the purchase of a property in a prime location in Bathinda city.
Singla was initially a Shiromani Akali Dal leader and shifted to the BJP in June last year while Badal shifted to the BJP in January this year.
He had filed a complaint before the vigilance in September 2021 alleging that during Badal’s tenure as finance minister in the previous Congress regime, he had abused his position by converting commercial plots in the Model Town area of Bhatinda into residential plots for himself.
The claims of VB
According to the VB, these plots after conversion were allegedly sold to Manpreet via proxy. The bidding of the plot was done from a single IP address and Rajiv and Vikas purchased the plot in the bidding and later transferred it to Manpreet at a lower price.
He then entered into a sale agreement even though the bidding process was not approved, said VB.
“The former finance minister has purchased both plots through agreements from the bidders known to him before they got allotment letters from BDA Bathinda. It was also found that Manpreet Singh Badal had transferred 25 percent earnest money in advance to the successful allottees which show his connivance with the bidders”, read the official statement of the VB.
Manpreet had appeared before the VB in July this year and was questioned for more than four hours though he alleged it was a political vendetta.
Anticipatory bail plea
Manpreet Badal had on Friday filed an anticipatory bail application through his counsel in the Bathinda district court.
His counsel Sukhdeep Singh Bhinder said that this was sheer pre-planned political vendetta and to support the claims they had a transcript of Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann’s recent public address where he allegedly stated that the five-time legislator would be sent behind bars.
“The bail application states that CM is trying to mount pressure on the Vigilance Bureau. Badal duly accepted VB’s summons and appeared before its Bathinda zone office on 24 July and submitted all details related to the plot allotment,” said Bhinder.
The probe is a result of political vendetta and the police administration may be abused to harass Manpreet on fabricated grounds,” he added.
‘Face the Truth rather than seeking legal remedies’
Reacting to the current situation, Chief Minister Bhagwant Singh Mann said those who would boast about their honesty are now running pillar to post to save their skin.
“It is one thing to say and another to practise. I dare him to face the truth rather than running for legal protection,” said Mann.
Calling him a hypocrite, Mann said that leaders like him befooled people with sugar-coated words and looted people.
“They would be made accountable for their sins and every penny plundered from the wealth of the state will be recovered. Manpreet who had remained finance minister for a fairly long period was hand in glove with the elements who ruined the state”, Mann said.
“The coffers of the state were empty for the welfare of people during his stint but the brazen loot of public money was allowed”, he added.