Punjab CM acquitted in decade-old graft case (Lead)
Chandigarh : In a major relief to Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, a Vigilance Bureau court in Mohali on Friday acquitted him and 17 others in a 10-year-old corruption case involving transfer of a prime land in Amritsar.
The others acquitted include former Punjab Speaker Kewal Krishan and two former ministers -- all the three are dead.
The case was registered by the state Vigilance Bureau on the recommendation of the Punjab Assembly, alleging a scam in granting exemptions to transfer of 32.1-acre prime land of the Amritsar Improvement Trust to a private realtor.
Additional District and Sessions Judge Jaswinder Singh accepted the Vigilance Bureau's cancellation report. "I accept the cancellation report," the judge said.
Amarinder Singh was present in the court.
"Justice has finally prevailed after a decade in the Amritsar Improvement Trust case. It's been proved that allegations were motivated, borne out of sheer political vendetta," the Chief Minister tweeted.
"Politics has no place for such motivated action against opponents. Thank the almighty and my legal team," Amarinder said.
The Vigilance Bureau had registered the case at a police station in Mohali on September 11, 2008.
It had filed the cancellation report in October 2016 when the Akali government was in power in the state.
The trial court verdict followed a further investigation ordered by the High Court, whereby the Vigilance Bureau had found that there was "no undue favour granted to any developer" and sought cancellation of the first information report against all the accused.
Amarinder Singh said the entire case was clearly politically motivated from the outset.
As many as 500 hearings were held in the case, which caused a lot of inconvenience not only to him but also the general public, the Chief Minister told reporters outside the court premises after the verdict was pronounced.
"Such things (political vendettas) should not happen, they are not healthy for democracy," he said.
At the centre of the allegations in the case was an executive decision taken by the Urban Development and Housing Department in the Amarinder Singh-led government, during its previous tenure (2002-2007), to grant licence to a colonizer to promote development in Punjab.
Since the colonizer had applied for licence prior to the notification by the Amritsar Improvement Trust for land acquisition, as per the government's policy decision, the licence was granted to him on a 'first come first served' basis.
The opposition parties at that time had objected, alleging the exemption was not as per government policy and it had favoured an individual.
Earlier, the Vigilance Bureau had given a clean chit to Amarinder Singh, his son Raninder Singh and others in the case, known as Rs 1,144-crore Ludhiana City Centre scam.