Punjab Health Minister sacked, held on corruption charges

CM says he dismissed Vijay Singla from Cabinet for allegedly seeking 1% commission on tenders for contracts

May 24, 2022 02:49 pm | Updated May 25, 2022 12:09 am IST - Chandigarh/New Delhi

Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann claimed that Vijay Singla (right) had admitted to his crime. File

Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann claimed that Vijay Singla (right) had admitted to his crime. File | Photo Credit: PTI

Punjab Health Minister Vijay Singla was on Tuesday sacked from the State Cabinet over allegations of corruption and was later sent to three-day police remand by a local court in Mohali after his arrest.

Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann said he dismissed Mr. Singla from the Cabinet for allegedly seeking a 1% commission on tenders for contracts, etc. in the Health and Family Welfare Department, which he headed. 

Mr. Mann claimed that Mr. Singla had admitted his crime and he asked the police to register a case against him.

After his dismissal, the police registered a First Information Report (FIR) under Sections 7, and 8 of the Prevention of Corruption Act at Mohali in Sahibzada Ajit Singh Nagar district against Mr. Singla and his Officer on Special Duty (OSD) Pardeep Kumar. Mr. Singla was produced in a local court at Mohali which remanded him in three-day police custody till May 27.

2% demanded

As per the complaint, it was alleged that both the accused demanded a bribe as commission for the allotment of funds in government tenders. Initially, they demanded a 2% commission against the total amount of ₹58 crore but the complainant refused to give a bribe. Subsequently, they demanded 1% of commission as a bribe for tenders, it added.

“My government is having zero tolerance towards corruption and no one, howsoever affluent he may be, will not be allowed to continue such malpractices”, said the Chief Minister, adding the people had chosen them for a transparent and corruption-free system and he was duty-bound to fulfill the aspirations of every Punjabi.

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal said Mr. Mann removed the Minister though neither the media nor the Opposition knew about the corruption. He said it was for the first time that a political party was taking action against the corruption of its own people.

‘Swift action’

“All the governments in the past followed the same system of connivance, whether they not only let their own corrupt leaders off the hook but also colluded with people from other parties and refused to take action against each other. This is the first time that a political party is taking swift action against its own faulty leaders,” Mr. Kejriwal said.

The AAP chief said corruption was a betrayal of the people and ‘Bharat Mata’. “We will tolerate anything and everything, but we will not watch our Bharat Mata get insulted and cheated by these criminals. We will lay down our lives, but not tolerate any kind of treason,” he said.

“Mann saab could have kept quiet and done a compromise with the Minister and asked for a percentage of it from the Minister… We are proud of you, Bhagwant,” Mr. Kejriwal added.

SAD slams AAP

The Opposition was quick to take a dig at the AAP government. The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) accused the AAP of trying to divert attention from serious allegations of corruption against senior party leaders as well as its failure to fulfill promises made to the people of Punjab. Party spokesperson Maheshinder Singh Grewal said the AAP government should order a CBI inquiry into charges of sale of party tickets.

BJP national general secretary Tarun Chugh said the arrest of Mr. Singla in a corruption case was just a tip of the iceberg. He said the AAP government stood exposed completely within two months of its coming to power and the episode indicated that the entire government was indulging in corruption and Mr. Singla had just been made a scapegoat. He said the entire incident was meant to fool the people of the State, where the AAP government had completely failed to deliver.

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