Punjab Congress MLA Sukhpal Khaira held in drugs case; party cries ‘political vendetta’
Once an AAP MLA, Khaira has turned into a vocal critic of the AAP government in Punjab ever since the party took over the reins of the state in March 2022. | File photo

Punjab Congress MLA Sukhpal Khaira held in drugs case; party cries ‘political vendetta’

The legislator termed his arrest as "politically motivated" while going live on Facebook, arguing that the case has been already quashed by SC

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The Punjab police on Thursday (September 28) arrested Congress MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira in connection with a case registered under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act in 2015. The Congress has hit out at the AAP government, terming his arrest as a clear case of “political vendetta”.

The arrest came early in the morning as a Punjab police team led by SP Manjeet Singh and DSP AR Sharma raided his Sector 5 residence in Chandigarh around 6.30 am. Khaira, who is the Congress legislator from Bholath constituency in Doaba region, went live on Facebook during the police raid. In the video shared widely on social media, Khaira can be seen arguing with the police and asking for a warrant. He also asked the police personnel to identify themselves as some of them were in plain clothes.

When the police officials told him that he is being arrested in a 2015 NDPS case following the recommendation of an SIT probe, the Congress leader hit back claiming that the case was already quashed by the Supreme Court. He was taken into custody amid resistance from his family. Before leaving, the police team told Khaira’s son Mehtab that the MLA is being taken to Jalalabad police station in Ferozepur.

Talking to The Federal, Mehtab Khaira, said, “My father is paying the price for speaking the truth and showing the mirror to the powers that be. He has brutally exposed the AAP government on a wide variety of issues from thriving drug mafia to deteriorating law and order in the state over the last 18 months.” He said the drugs case against his father had already been quashed by the Supreme Court while wondering as to which SIT probe is the Punjab government talking about when convicts in the case have already undergone half of their jail term. He said they will oppose his remand and will also move the court for his bail.

Vocal critic of AAP

Once an AAP MLA, Khaira has turned into a vocal critic of the AAP government in Punjab ever since the party took over the reins of the state in March 2022. He has been consistently attacking the AAP regime over a host of issues on various social media platforms.

A day before his arrest, Khaira rejected the claims of the AAP government that they’ve eliminated the mining mafia in the state, citing a case of illegal mining registered against the brother-in-law of AAP MLA from Khadoor Sahib Manjinder Singh. He alleged that the AAP MLA also threatened the Tarn Taran SSP over the issue.

Khaira also targeted the state government over mounting debt on Punjab. He posted on Twitter, “Is this how @BhagwantMann you’re trying to present a fake pic of RANGLA PUNJAB (Shining Punjab)? The parameters of RBI report are shocking!” He cited the RBI report that said Punjab’s debt to GSDP ratio is the highest at 48%.

The Congress MLA also posted a series of tweets, attacking AAP MP Raghav Chadha for his lavish wedding at Jodhpur while questioning the source of funding. He claimed that the AAP MP had mentioned his income as mere Rs 2.44 lakh while filing the income tax return in 2020-21.

Congress slams AAP govt

Meanwhile, Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh Raja Warring lashed out at the AAP regime in Punjab over Khaira’s arrest, calling it an act of “political vendetta”. He took to Twitter and said, “The recent arrest of @INCPunjab MLA @SukhpalKhaira ji smacks of Political Vendetta, it is an attempt to intimidate the opposition and is a ploy of the @AAPPunjab govt to distract from core issues. We stand strongly with Sukhpal Khaira and will take this fight to its logical conclusion.”

“The Punjab police had no arrest warrant when it landed up at Khaira’s house in the morning. Moreover, they can’t enter anyone’s residence like that. They had also not taken Chandigarh police in the loop before initiating action against our MLA. I strongly condemn this undemocratic trend being followed by Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and would like to tell him that he won’t be at the helm forever,” said Leader of Opposition Partap Singh Bajwa while talking to The Federal. He said they will secure the bail of Khaira even if they’ve to knock the doors of the Supreme Court.

Interestingly, the arrest of Khaira will add to the already simmering tension between the Congress and the AAP in Punjab at a time when both the parties are holding deliberations on contesting the elections together as constituents of the INDIA alliance. Already, the leaders of both the parties are claiming that they will not have any alliance and will contest all 13 Lok Sabha seats in the state on their own. Moreover, senior Congress leader Partap Singh Bajwa irked the ruling party on Wednesday, claiming that 32 AAP MLAs were in touch with him.

About drugs case

The case in which Khaira finds himself in a soup today was lodged by the Fazilka police on March 9, 2015, after they seized 2 kg of heroin and 24 gold biscuits, one country-made pistol and two Pakistani SIMs from a vehicle. They also arrested nine people, including a man called Gurdev Singh who was reportedly a close aide of Khaira.

As the trial proceeded, nine people were convicted in 2017 Khaira’s name cropped up during the investigation as an additional accused. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) arrested him in 2021 on the charges of money laundering linked with the same FIR in which he was arrested today. However, the court granted him bail in 2022. Later, a Supreme Court bench of Justices BR Gavai and Vikram Nath quashed the summoning order against Khaira in the drugs case on February 16, 2023.

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