Arrest warrant issued against former Punjab minister Manpreet Badal in land deal case
The court order came close on the heels of the Punjab Vigilance Bureau issuing a Look-Out Circular (LOC) against him on Monday
A Bathinda court on Tuesday (September 26) issued an arrest warrant against former Punjab finance minister Manpreet Badal in connection with alleged irregularities in the purchase of a property in the city.
The court order came close on the heels of the Punjab Vigilance Bureau issuing a Look-Out Circular (LOC) against him on Monday. Manpreet Badal had joined the BJP after quitting the Congress in January this year. Former Chief Parliamentary Secretary (CPS) and BJP leader Sarup Chand Singla, who was earlier with the Shiromani Akali Dal, had alleged that Manpreet had abused his position as the finance minister in the previous Congress regime to convert two commercial plots into a residential plot for himself. Acting on the complaint of Singla in 2021, the Vigilance Bureau initiated an investigation and booked the former minister along with five others.
Apart from Manpreet, former Bathinda Development Authority (BDA) chief administrator Bikramjit Shergill, Rajiv Kumar, Amandeep Singh, Vikas Arora and Pankaj were booked. Of these, Rajiv, Amandeep and Vikas have already been arrested in connection with the case.
The case was registered under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code, including sections 420 (cheating) and 468 (forgery), and also under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Following the registration of the FIR, the police initiated a search operation to locate the former minister. Officials conducted raids at his Muktsar residence and other known locations, but his current whereabouts are not certain.
Manpreet Badal had already filed a pre-arrest bail application, which was to come up for hearing on September 26, but his lawyer has now withdrawn it, contending that they will approach the court with a fresh application now that an FIR has been registered.
After his questioning in the case in July, Manpreet had accused Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann of trying to suppress the voice of his political opponents with such action. Mann on Monday took a jibe at Manpreet, saying those who used to boast about honesty are now running from pillar to post to save their skin. “There is a huge difference between speaking the truth and standing by it,” the chief minister said. These leaders earlier used to say that they would wait for whatever action is taken against them, but are now seeking legal protection against arrest, he added.
Connivance with bidders
Investigations into the case revealed that Manpreet Badal abused his position to purchase two plots measuring 1,560 square yards of land in Model Town phase-1 Bathinda thereby causing a financial loss of lakhs of rupees to the state exchequer, the Vigilance Bureau claimed.
A spokesperson of the bureau said it was found that the former minister allegedly colluded with the officials of the BDA, misled the general public during the bidding of plots in the year 2021 and fake maps were uploaded to prevent public participation in the bidding process.
Apart from this, the plot numbers 725-C (560 square yards) and 726 (1,000 square yards) in the map were also shown as commercial instead of residential and the numbers of plots were not shown in the map on the online e-auction portal, it was alleged.
In addition to this, the digital signatures of an administrative officer of the BDA were used for the auction of plots without permission, said the spokesperson. It also came to light that the bids of the sole three bidders namely Rajiv Kumar, Vikas Arora and Amandeep Singh were made by one person identified as advocate Sanjiv Kumar.
Apart from this, both the plots were purchased by the bidders in 2021 at a lower rate which was fixed during an auction in the year 2018, causing a financial loss of about Rs 65 lakh to the government. The former finance minister purchased both plots through agreements from the bidders known to him before they got allotment letters from the BDA.
It was also found that Badal transferred 25 per cent earnest money in advance to the successful allottees which shows his connivance with the bidders, said the spokesperson.