Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Drug case: HC tells Punjab Police to probe SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia

Majithia was a Minister in the previous SAD-BJP government, holding several portfolios and was among the few Akali candidates who won in the 2017 Assembly elections. Punjab Police to probe SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia
Bikram Singh Majithia was a minister in Akali-BJP government

Without referring to former Punjab Cabinet minister and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Bikram Singh Majithia by name, the Punjab and Haryana High Court Tuesday asked the state police’s Special Task Force on drugs to study a note prepared by a top Enforcement Directorate official on his alleged role in an international drug racket case and co-ordinate with the agency to investigate the allegation.

However, Majithia’s name was repeatedly mentioned by lawyers when the application seeking investigation into his role was mentioned before the division bench of Justice Surya Kant and Justice Sudhir Mittal.

Majithia was a Minister in the previous SAD-BJP government, holding several portfolios including Revenue, Information & Public Relations, and Non-Conventional Energy. He is Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal’s brother and was among the few Akali candidates who won in the 2017 Assembly elections.

Contacted by The Indian Express, Majithia declined to comment.

The court specifically asked STF head ADGP Harpreet Singh Sidhu to “mention about this aspect of the matter” in a status report to be submitted by him before the next date of hearing.

The note on Majithia’s alleged role in the so-called Bhola drug racket case was prepared by ED deputy director Niranjan Singh. He had submitted it before a division bench of the High Court in 2015. Titled “brief note” in previous court records, Niranjan wrote it after summoning and examining Majithia in December 2014.

The court will now share it with the STF chief and the division bench has asked the STF to “proceed on the basis of the information” in the matter.

The bench asserted that it has not restricted the ED in any manner and said: “The law enforcement agencies shall be at liberty and are expected to strictly proceed in accordance with the law in the matter.” It also observed that no “negative direction or message” has ever gone to any investigating agency in the case.

The development came during the resumed hearing of the Bhola case in which an application had been recently moved by the Lawyers for Human Rights International saying the ED should be asked to submit a report on what action has been taken on the allegations against Majithia and directions should be issued to the Punjab STF for probing his alleged role in the case.

According to the plea, ED recorded statements of the three accused, Jagdish Singh Chahal, Jagdish Bhola and Manjinder Singh Aulakh, in 2014 and 2015. They allegedly “disclosed complicity of Bikram Singh Majithia in the drug trade as he has been providing vehicles and gunmen to the international drug mafia.”

During the arguments, when counsel for the lawyer group Navkiran Singh said that Majithia’s role has never been investigated by the STF and that ED’s Niranjan has not “moved further” on the matter despite the High Court staying his transfer out of the state, Niranjan’s counsel, senior advocate Anupam Gupta said the officer has “stood his ground” and would need to examine Majithia for the second time in the case to find out his “exact nature and exact magnitude” in the case.

“There appears to be a larger political understanding between the state government and Centre as far as Majithia is concerned,” Gupta said. “He is not innocent and his role has to be probed carefully and assiduously.”

Gupta said he was relying on the detailed note prepared by Niranjan regarding the allegations against Majithia while making the submission, adding “the attempt to call him for second time is necessary and same has not been encouraged by Union of India and the ED” and Majithia was “too big a man to be handled” during the Akali rule by a police SIT looking into the matter.

The ED official, during the hearing, also presented two letters before the bench and said the communication related to a request seeking information on some drug-related cases is not being responded to by the Punjab STF. 

The division bench directed ADGP Sidhu to share the information with ED to allow it to proceed against the suspects under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and asked it convene a meeting in case there is any confidentiality related to the requested information.

The bench also ordered the STF head to file a status report regarding the allegations against SSP Moga Raj Jit Singh and look into his alleged complicity with the drug traffickers. 

The direction came after Gupta told the bench that, according to reports, the SSP was allegedly close to Inspector Inderjit Singh (who was earlier arrested with 4 kg of heroin by the STF ) and would get him transferred to wherever he would be posted.

In the Bhola drug case, investigators believed that precursor chemicals (ephedrine and pseudoephedrine) and other ready-to-use rave party drugs were prepared in Punjab and then smuggled internationally to United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands and other countries, since 2009.

It was in March 2013 when Fatehgarh Sahib police arrested an NRI, Anoop Singh Kahlon, and unearthed the racket. On Kahlon’s disclosure, police zeroed in on Arjuna awardee Punjab Police’s Deputy Superintendent of Police Jagdish Singh Bhola and arrested him from Panipat in November, 2013. As a fallout of Bhola’s interrogation, several FIRs were registered across Punjab.

After his arrest, Bhola was the first one to take Bikram Singh Majithia’s name in front of the mediapersons outside a court room in Fatehgarh Sahib where he was being produced. Majithia’s name later surfaced for his alleged links with a few NRIs who were subsequently arrested in connection with alleged drug smuggling cases.

The ED launched a probe into the money-laundering aspect linked with the synthetic drug smuggling cases. It was in December 2014 when ED first questioned Majithia at their headquarters in Jalandhar. Several other politicians and their kin were also questioned by the ED. These include Congress leaders Chaudhary Santokh Singh and Sarwan Singh Phillaur who switched to the Congress from the Akali Dal before the last elections-IE.

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