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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Desperate bid by Akali-linked main accused in Rs 600 crore Punjab scam to shift case to another judge flops

Chief Engineer (CE) Surinder Pal Pahalwan, a protege of Shiromani Akali Dal president and former Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal who is facing trial in a Rs 600 crore GMADA scam has been making desperate attempts get his case transferred out from the court of Additional Sessions Judge, Mohali, Parminder Singh Grewal.

The CE had earlier moved an application in the special court, Mohali, requesting the case be passed on to some other court as he felt that he would not get justice from Grewal. The case was sent to District and Sessions Judge Harpal Singh for a decision. The Sessions judge rejected Pahalwan’s petition and ordered that the case would be heard by Grewal only as the trial was nearing completion.

As advised by his lawyers, Surinder Pal, early this month, challenged the Session Court’s order in the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The High Court, on January 19, 2023, rejected his prayer upholding the order of the Sessions Judge.

The trial in the Rs 600 crores scam has to be completed by March 25, 2023, as directed by the High Court.

The 10-other accused in the same case, including Balwinder Singh, now working as CE Greater Mohali Area Development Authority, did not join Pahalwan to get the case transferred.

The main accused Pahalwan made yet another attempt to pressure ASJ Grewal using a social activist. The activist spoke of Grewal’s “dictatorial” behaviour in dealing with litigants and advocates on his YouTube channel. ASJ Grewal is otherwise known for his honesty and a good understanding of the law.

The CE told that he raised 10-specific points in his petition to get the case transferred. But the courts addressed none. “I am innocent. My trial needs to be videographed. I am not getting justice from the trial court,” he said.

The Vigilance Bureau registered a case under the Prevention of Corruption Act in 2017 against the 11 accused, including 4-government officials and 4-contractors who acted in tandem to fleece the state exchequer in 50 projects to the tune of Rs 600 crores during the 5-year tenure of Surinder Pal Pahalwan as Chief Engineer GMADA.

There is a separate case going on against Pahalwan for tampering with his date of birth. Though born in 1967, he somehow managed to get it changed to 1972 with the help of a Punjab School Education Board officer.

Such was the closeness between Sukhbir Badal and the accused CE that the latter functioned as a top man in at least 22 government bodies like Mandi Board, GMADA, GLADA, and Municipal Corporation, Ludhiana, in flagrant violation of service rules.

A former senior officer of the Mandi Board disclosed Surinder Pal Pahalwan as CE, also worked as CE GMADA, without officially being called on deputation. S.K. Sandhu IAS, now retired, was the Housing Secretary at that time.

It is a common knowledge among Mandi Board staff that when a former MD tried to discipline Pahalwan by asking him to attend office regularly, Sukhbir telephoned the MD and admonished him for “tightening” his chum.

The prosecution i.e. VB presented 76 witnesses, and their cross-examination has been completed. As many as 16 witnesses have turned hostile, including 2-serving officers, Pankaj Mehmi and Harpreet Singh.

The accused CE owns over 92 prime properties in Punjab in his name and in the name of members of his family and associates.

At the time of the scam in GMADA, Sukhbir Badal, deputy chief minister, was in charge of the housing and urban development department. Ostensibly, there is no evidence on record showing the direct involvement of Sukhbir Badal in the scam. Pahalwan is the son-in-law of a cousin of former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal.

VB informed the court that Pehalwan floated 5-bogus companies to launder his ill-gotten wealth. The companies are Access Agro Seed Pvt Limited, Award Agro Traders Pvt Ltd, Auster Agro Traders Pvt Ltd, Akme Crushers and Builders Pvt Ltd, and Ek Onkar Builders and Contractors Pvt Ltd.


(The story has been published via a syndicated feed with a modified headline.)

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