CHANDIGARH: In a midnight reprieve for Punjab former state Director General of Police (DGP) Sumedh Singh Saini within 24 hours of arrest in a case of 2020 pertaining to the fraudulent transfer of agriculture land into a regular residential colony, the High Court ordered his release.
The Vigilance Bureau arrested Saini, who retired in June 2018, for cheating, forgery and other offences under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act on Wednesday.
The orders by Justice Arun Kumar Tyagi of the Punjab and Haryana High Court came after day-long hearing on two petitions — one filed by Saini for extension of protection to him in all cases and another habeas corpus petition filed for his release.
Quoting the high court, the accused counsel A.P.S. Deol told the media that Saini’s custody in the September 2020 case was “illegal and unjustified”. A seven-day notice is to be given if he is to be arrested in this case.
He said the court observed that it was the “flagrant misuse of the power by police and misuse of power by the vigilance”.
Interestingly, hours before his arrest Saini had moved the high court, seeking blanket bail to him in all cases.
Saini, who is a Z-plus category protectee, reached the vigilance bureau office in Mohali, near here, on Wednesday evening to join the investigation in a disproportionate assets case where he was formally arrested in a case relating to the transfer of agriculture land.
Interestingly, Saini, who was considered a blue-eyed boy of militancy-era police chief K.P.S. Gill and was credited with eliminating militancy in the state, had already got an interim anticipatory bail from the Punjab and Haryana High Court in the disproportionate assets case and was asked to join the investigation within a week.
A 1982-batch IPS officer, Saini, has been facing multiple cases, including murder, abductions, corruption and human rights violations. Once he was heading the vigilance bureau too.
Regarding his arrest, a spokesperson for the Vigilance Bureau told the media that WWICS Estates Private Ltd Director Davinder Singh Sandhu in collision with Ashok Sikka and Sagar Bhatia, both now retired, besides other Local Government officials, illegally converted agriculture land into residential colonies in Kurali in Mohali district by showing fake documents in 2013.
In this regard, a case was registered on September 17, 2020.
During the probe it came out that Sandhu was known to Nimardeep Singh, Public Works Department Executive Engineer, who is well known to higher authorities.
Nimardeep Singh allegedly received a bribe of Rs 6 crore from Sandhu for getting the colonies certified. Thereafter, Nirmardeep Singh, his father Surinderjeet Singh Jaspal and their aides Taranjeet Singh Aneja and Mohit Puri have also been nominated as accused in this land use conversion case.
The spokesperson said during the investigation it has come to light that Nimardeep Singh had purchased a house in Chandigarh and rebuilt it after demolishing in September 2017 with the bribe money of Rs 6 crore.
On being questioned, he revealed that the former DGP was residing as a tenant on the first floor of the house and paying a rent of Rs 2.50 lakh per month.
After analysing financial transactions of Jaspal and Saini’s bank account, it has come to the fore that Saini had transferred Rs 6.40 crore to Nirmandeep Singh and Jaspal in their bank accounts from August 2018 to August 2020. This amount was not given in accordance with the rent deed.
The spokesperson said the accused further presented a new fact after deliberate conspiracy with Saini that the tenant wanted to purchase the same house and in this context accused have done verbal agreement with tenant Saini.
But as the new facts emerged during the probe, the accused furnished a copy of agreement to sell which was executed on October 2, 2019 owing to prevent their attachment of property in the local court.
This agreement was signed between Saini and Jaspal on a plain paper without any testimony.
Furthermore, the fake agreement to sell the house (No. 3048, Sector 20-D, Chandigarh) was prepared by mutual consent between Jaspal and Saini in order to protect the attachment of their house in the court and used this as a value security.
Saini, who was removed from the top post by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal in 2015 following incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib and subsequent violence in the state in which the police force was accused of excesses that left two people dead, has not been sharing cordial relations with current Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
In fact, Saini had challenged the vigilance bureau’s closure report in the multi-crore Ludhiana City Centre scam involving Amarinder Singh.
For quite some time, Amarinder Singh had been seeking a probe into the fake gun battles and extra-judicial killings alleged to have taken place during militancy in Punjab.