In a new twist to the Benami sand mining contract awarded to the ‘kitchen-help’ of Punjab Power Minister, Rana Gurjit Singh, leading Public Interest Litigation (PIL) activist lawyer H. C. Arora today demanded from Chief Minister Punjab the removal of Addl. Chief Secretary, Industry and Commerce, Punjab and review of all e-bids.
Advocate Arora, served a demand notice on Capt Amarinder Singh, CM Punjab and D.P. Reddy, IAS, Additional Chief Secretary, Industry and Commerce, Punjab setting two-weeks deadline for appropriate action.
In the demand notice Arora mentioned that a detailed news report appeared in "The Tribune’ of 25.5.2017 , which indicates investment of huge benami amounts, and/ or havala money or proceeds of money laundering for getting gravel contracts through open auction thereof. The news report discloses that one Amit Bahadur, a cook in the office of Rana Sugars, has bagged an expensive mining contract in the re-auction, at Saidpur Khurd village in Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar (Nawanshahar) for a whopping Rs.26.51 crore. (The Power Minister of Punjab, Rana Gurjit Singh and his wife are the majority share holders in M/s. Rana Sugars). Another employee of Rana Sugars, Mr. Kulwinder Paul Singh, has bagged the Mehadipur quarry for Rs.9.21 crore. This person is stated to be a liaison man for Rana Sugars and he deals with various Government departments. Presently, he is stated to be working as Deputy General Manager in the said company. Gurinde Singh, who takes care of cane operations at Rana Sugars, is stated to have bagged a quarry in Rampur Kalan village in Mohali district for Rs.4.11 crore. Another employee of same company has bagged a mining contract at village Bairsal, for Rs.10.58 crore. The names of these four persons figure at serial no. 79/83/92/93 in the list of successful bidders.
Further the PIL activist said that as per an interview recorded by some private channels, Amit Bahadur has categorically admitted in the said interview that his resignation from the services of Rana Sugars was accepted and he was relieved on 30.3.2017. Another employee, Kulwinder Singh also admitted that he recently left the service under Rana Sugars and both of them have stated that they are now working under Captain Randhawa, who, according to them, is the person who is the real investor in the auction of sand mines. As regards salaries under Captain Randhawa, both of them have stated that there are not sure what amount shall be paid to them as salary. They have also stated that most probably, they may be given a share of 4 or 5% in the profits, that may be earned from the sand mines. Thus, it is clear that after Rana Gurjit Singh became Cabinet Minister, a book entry for transferring the 4 employees, who have emerged as successful bidders of sand mines in the recent auction, has been made to show that they have no connection now with Rana Sugars. Thus, it is a matter which requires deeper investigation, to ascertain as to whether money deposited by the 4 successful bidders, mentioned above belongs to Cabinet Minister Rana Gurjit Singh or Captain Randhawa, as according to a public statement made by a Shri Sukhpal Khaira, Captain Randhawa was the election Manager of Rana Gurjit Singh in the recently held Assembly Elections.
Arora further mentioned in the demand notice that the conduct of respondent No. 2, who is Secretary, Industries inviting e-bids in a manner, which has resulted into "benami” ( the name of fictitious persons in whose names the money has been shown to be deposited towards bid) are encouraged to make bids for sand mines . This policy seriously violates the letter and spirit of "The Benami Transaction (Prohibition) Act, 1988, as amended vide, "The Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Act, 2016”. A perusal of the news report that has appeared in the "Times of India” today (on 27.5.2017) shows that Amit Bahadur, who had emerged as successful bidder for sand mine worth Rs. 26 Crores in the e-auction, is getting very paltry amount of salary of Rs. 11,706 per month. His balance in the State Bank of India account is just Rs. 4840 as on 1.4.2017. His Annual Income Tax Return for the years 2015-16 is at Rs. 92,679. Thus, the procedure for e-auction of sand mines has been devised and implemented with such criminal negligence and with deliberate intention, so as to enable the investment of black money, havala money/ money laundering money arising out of crime in winning the auction of sand mines.
Demand notice mentions that "the criminal negligence on the part of the respondent No. 2 is so much that the procedure devised by him/under him, is to the effect that the Income Tax Returns for the last 3 years which are required to be submitted before participating in the e-auction, may be of the benamidars, and not of the original investors. Any prudent or honest person in place of respondent No. 2, would not have devised a procedure where the ITRs of real investors are not obtained, but the the ITRs of persons authorized to make e-bid, though such a person may not have means to pay even the earnest money, are demanded. The requirement to get the ITRs of the previous 3 years from the persons authorized to make the bid does not serve any purpose, it only results into giving free hand to the criminals for laundering of black money/benami money to invest in the sand mining.
That in my considered opinion, the application of the four persons mentioned above, must have been rejected, and they must not have been registered as prospective bidders, as they did not have the capacity to pay the bid amount, on emerging as successful bidders.
That the aforesaid procedures devised and adopted by the respondent No. 2, under the respondent no.1, has also violated the letter and spirit of the "Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002”, and it cannot be ruled out that in many cases , the proceeds of the crime might have been invested into sand mines, and the matter becomes more serious for the reason that Industries Department is directly held by Captain Amrinder Singh, the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Punjab, as a Minister-Incharge.”
Advocate stated further "I would therefore, demand from respondent no.1-Captain Amrinder Singh, to search his conscience, and to make amends for his conduct in not having proper supervision of the respondent no.2-D P Reddy, and other officers under him. I also call upon respondent no.1 to take appropriate action against respondent no.2, who should be immediately divested of department of Industries, and must be charge sheeted for his criminal negligence. I also call upon the respondent no.1 to immediately re-consider/review all those cases where e-bids have been given through some "benamidar” or authorized person, and thereby the rich and powerful persons have succeeded in getting rights in sand mines, without disclosing their identity.”
Putting the government on two weeks’ notice Arora said, "In case I do not hear/receive any constructive response from you within a period of 2 weeks from the receipt of this notice, which is being sent by e-mail, in that event, I shall be left no other alternative except to approach the Hon’ble High Court of Punjab and Haryana, or the Enforcement Directorate, through appropriate proceedings for taking appropriate action against the respondent No. 2 also, in addition to the action that may be taken against all those investors who have indulged into money laundering/benami transaction thereby acquiring the rights in the sand mines . Needless to state that the proposed proceedings shall solely be at your risk and cost.”