Punjab Vigilance Bureau arrests ex-Cong. Minister in graft case

Congress leaders presented themselves before the Vigilance Bureau in anticipation of ‘false allegations’

Updated - August 23, 2022 08:50 am IST

Published - August 22, 2022 11:13 pm IST - CHANDIGARH

Bharat Bhushan Ashu at Punjab Assembly in 2020. File

Bharat Bhushan Ashu at Punjab Assembly in 2020. File | Photo Credit: Akhilesh Kumar

The Punjab Vigilance Bureau on Monday arrested former Congress Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu in an alleged corruption case related to food grains transportation tenders during the previous Congress regime in the State.

The arrest came hours after Congress leaders presented themselves before the Vigilance Bureau by reaching its office in Mohali, and accused the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Government of indulging in “political vendetta” by targeting Congress leaders to cover up its failures in fulfilling its election promises.

The arrest was made based on a First Information Report (FIR) registered against contractors Telu Ram, Jagroop Singh, and Sandeep Bhatia, apart from the owner-partners of Gurdas Ram and Company on August 16 under Sections 420, 409, 467, 468, 471 and 120-B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), and Sections 7, 8, 12, 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act in Ludhiana. The case was registered after the verification of a complaint made by complainant Gurprit Singh.

Also Read | Winds of change lift AAP in Punjab

The statement said: “During the investigation, accused Telu Ram has submitted that he met Bharat Bhushan Ashu through his PA [personal assistant] Meenu Malhotra for getting tenders for the season 2020-21, who further told him to meet Rakesh Kumar Singla, Deputy Director Food and Civil Supplies. Singla was incharge of all Punjab being Chairman of departmental chief vigilance committee for tenders and was acting on the directions of former minister.” It added that on the basis of the revelations as well as the material evidence, Mr. Ashu had been nominated as an accused in the case.

Earlier, Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh Raja Warring in a letter to the Director of the Vigilance Bureau said Congress leaders from Punjab, including sitting and former MLAs and former Ministers, had come to “present” themselves before the Vigilance Bureau as a malicious campaign had been launched against several of them by the agency. 

“We just wanted to make your job easy so that you may not need to conduct midnight raids and level false allegations that so and so is absconding like that,” Mr. Warring said in a letter to the Director of the Bureau. “We are fed up with these malicious daily dossiers of your department maligning our leaders.”

“We will use all legal and legitimate channels to defend ourselves and also ensure that those involved and indulging in witch-hunting and intimidation of our workers and leaders are held to account at the right time,” he said.

The AAP hit out at the Congress party, advising Congress leaders to stand for the welfare of people rather than shielding its “venal” leaders.

Addressing a press conference, the party’s chief spokesperson, Malvinder Singh Kang, rejected the allegations of “vendetta politics” levelled by the Congress and asked Mr. Warring why all his leaders are afraid of a vigilance investigation. “If they are innocent and have nothing to hide then why are they running away from a fair probe? Face the equitable probe and prove their innocence in the courts,” he said.

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