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Saturday, December 9, 2023

Key accused in Punjab’s Rs 1000 crore Irrigation Dept. scam seeks release of attached properties

In a clever legal move, contractor Gurinder Singh Bhappa key accused in the infamous Rs 1000 crore Irrigation Department scam has asked the court to release his 8 prime properties attached by the Vigilance Bureau with the corruption case. The matter is now fixed for the next hearing on November 10 before Additional Sessions Judge Harpal Singh.

Gurinder has contended that these properties are in the joint ownership of his other members of the family who want to sell them off. No other members of his family are accused in the corruption case hence they cannot be stopped from selling their properties. He has offered to deposit money equivalent to the value of his share in these properties.

The VB, through Public Prosecutor S S Sahota, has responded by a strongly worded reply to Gurinder’s application saying that the properties in question cannot be legally detached from the pending case because the value of the Rs 1000 crore scam had been just an estimate while the exact magnitude of the scandal may vary as evidence emerges.

It is learnt that Gurinder offered to deposit a meagre amount of around Rs 8 crore on the basis of value mentioned in sale deeds registered a decade ago. The market value of these properties is now estimated to be over Rs 100 crore.

The VB got the valuation of the property done by government departments as per norms and found that Gurinder was hiding the real value which amounts to hoodwinking the law.

Counsel for Gurinder explained that the value of any property is variable depending on market mood. Had the value of a Rs 100 crore property attached by VB decreased to Rs 80 lakh during the pendency of the case, will the Bureau fill the gap by paying Rs 20 lakh from its pocket after the accused is acquitted, he remarked.

Similarly, the value of the property sought to be detached has to be calculated at the time of its registered purchase, he stressed.

In another related development, some time ago Gurinder managed to get a favourable order from the Punjab and Haryana High Court and succeeded in getting payments for some works that were earlier held back by the Irrigation Department due to the corruption case. An amount of over Rs 65 crore was released to him with applicable interest.

The VB officers investigating the case are now questioning the role of the present Irrigation Department officers as they promptly released the payment without going in for a review of the court decision. The Department could have also moved the Apex Court if efforts in the High Court had failed as the sum involved was large. But the Department did not do it for reasons best known to its officers.

A fresh look into the Irrigation Department scam by the new team of VB has found glaring discrepancies in the investigations done by the previous team under the leadership of B. K. Uppal, the then Director VB. Several guilty engineers and other officers who were involved in the fraudulent allotment of tenders to the blue-eyed contractor were arbitrarily and unreasonably excluded from the 13 charge sheets filed in courts.

A senior officer associated with the case suspects that those who greased the palms of the then-officers at the helm were allowed to go scot-free. “We are now consulting legal experts for initiating possible course correction measures,” says the officer who does not want to be quoted.


(The story has been published via a syndicated feed)

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