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The Bureau of Investigation built its case against former Punjab minister Bikram Singh Majithia by keeping as base the report on drug trade prepared by the STF chief
The FIR against Akali leader Bikram Singh Majithia was finally registered on the directions of Punjab DGP after taking AG’s opinion. (HT File Photo)
The Bureau of Investigation (BoI) built the case against former Shiromani Akali Dal minister Bikram Singh Majithia keeping as base the report prepared by ADGP Harpreet Singh Sidhu, chief of the special task force (STF) against drugs. The FIR was finally registered on the directions of Punjab DGP Sidharth Chattopadhyaya, after getting the backing of the advocate general’s opinion on December 1. The report by the STF chief which till now was in “sealed cover” has been made part of the FIR and is officially in public domain now. Earlier, there was confusion whether the government could act on it as the probe was done on the directions of Punjab and Haryana high court. The report reveals that while analysing the record given by the enforcement directorate, the STF chief had identified four issues: Whether Majithia had an association with drug accused Satpreet Satta, Maninder Singh Bittu Aulakh, Parminder Singh Pindi and Jagjit Chahal? Whether Satta, Chahal, Aulakh, Pindi and Laddi were involved in drug trade? Whether Majithia played a role in supply of pseudoephedrine to Satta and others? Whether there are any links regarding monetary transaction between Majithia and others?
Association with Satta The STF chief’s report says that as Majithia told the ED that Satta may have stayed with him a few times, the allegations of providing vehicles and security to Satta and Satta’s involvement in Majithia’s elections are believable. “On this, the report has recommended that Pindi and Laddi be questioned by the investigating agency,” the report said.
Involvement in drug trade On involvement of Satta, Pindi, Laddi, Aulakh, and Chahal in the drug trade, the STF chief said as per the statements recorded by the ED, it is clear that all are allegedly involved in offences relating to smuggling of drugs and money laundering related to profits from drugs.
Supply of pseudoephedrine On allegations of Majithia’s role in supply of pseudoephedrine to Satta and others, the report says: “Analysing all statements (by Chahal and Aulakh), it is evident that Majithia had a role in facilitating supply of pseudoephedrine to Satta and Pindi.” It further states that knowledge and intention on the part of Majithia to facilitate supply of pseudoephedrine to Satta and Pindi is clear. “However, as Majithia has denied these allegations, the degree and support and facilitation provided by Majithia and consideration for which such support was provided is to be clarified by further investigation of parties involved,” reads the report.
Monetary transactions On Majithia’s monetary transactions with other accused, the STF chief had relied on Chahal’s statement to the ED claiming that a payment of ₹35 lakh was allegedly made to the then minister in about seven to eight instalments between 2007 and 2012. “At this time, Chahal was allegedly involved in manufacturing/supply of illegal drugs. As Majithia has denied receiving any funds from Chahal, they need to be investigated further,” reads the report. The investigation will involve examining financial transactions made by persons who are close associates and partners of family members of all those involved in the case to uncover whether their assets and investments generated from genuine earnings or are from “benami,” the report said. “It is based on the these findings that the report concluded that prima facie there is sufficient evidence on record to further investigated the role of Majithia as regards the allegations made in the application under inquiry,” the STF chief concluded.
Majithia has repeatedly termed STF chief biased Majithia, however, has repeatedly termed findings by the STF chief as biased, claiming that Harpreet Singh Sidhu was his estranged cousin and has a personal family grudges. When this report was leaked in a section of media in 2018, Majithia had accusedthe STF chief of colluding with Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu against him. Even BoI head SK Asthana has raised doubt over the STF chief’s probe. “In all fairness, Sidhu should have recused himself from carrying out any probe against Majithia, which less submit his opinion-cum-status report before the high court,” Asthana had written. The letter of the Punjab DGP, which is also part of the FIR, reveals that the orders over invoking sections of the NDPS Act were also directed by the DGP office to the BoI. “On the basis of the STF status report and opinion of AG, a cognisable offence is made out and therefore a case be registered,” stated the DGP in the letter. In cases mentioned in the report and associated cases of drug trafficking, it is essential that offences under Section 24, 27A and 29 of the NDPS Act, apart from additional offences which are indicated or emerge later, need to be investigated, stated the letter. Notable, the ED has not taken any action against Majithia even after statements of Aulakh and Chahal. Even Asthana had pointed it out in the leaked letter that when the agency that originally probed the case did not file any challan against Majithia, how could the Punjab Police do so.
KNOW THE DRAMATIS PERSONAE
Bikram Singh Majithia: He became a minister in the SAD government in 2007 after getting elected for the first time from Majithia constituency, and won in 2012 and 2017 too. Brother-in-law of SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, he overshadowed many senior leaders, but found himself in the eye of controversy after drug lord Jagdish Bhola pointed to his involvement in the illegal trade in Punjab.
Jagdish Bhola: A former international wrestler and sacked DSP, he was the kingpin of drug racket that was busted by Punjab Police in 2013. An Arjuna awardee, Bhola has properties worth crores. He was the first one to name Bikram Singh Majithia in the drug case, before the media while being produced in court in Mohali in January 2014. He was convicted in 2018.
Jagjit Singh Chahal: A pharmaceutical businessman based in Amritsar, he was named by Bhola as the drug supplier. Police made huge recoveries from his firms in Baddi in 2013. He alleged involvement of three NRIs — Satpreet Satta, Pindi, Laddi — and told ED that Satta used to stay at Majithia’s official residence. He has been convicted. The three NRIs have not been apprehended yet.
Maninder Singh Bittu Aulakh: An Amritsar-based Akali leader, who is into tyres business, he was arrested for supplying drugs in 2013. He told the ED in 2015 that Satta, Pindi and Laddi were doing business dealings with Chahal, which was in Majithia’s knowledge. In 2018, he got bail from the Punjab and Haryana high court.
KNOW THE RACKET BUSTERS
Niranjan Singh: Former deputy director in the enforcement directorate, Niranjan questioned Majithia, ex-minister Sarwan Singh Phillaur and other politicians in the case. He alleged political pressure a number of times, and was transferred to Kolkata in the middle of investigation, but it was stayed by the high court. He retired in June this year.
Harpreet Singh Sidhu: A 1992-batch IPS officer, he was serving on deputation in CRPF before being brought back by chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh to head the special task force against drugs in 2017. Due to his aggressive style, the ADGP locked horns with senior police functionaries. He was tasked with analysing the ED probe on Majithia and give the status report.
Navkiran Singh: A Chandigarh-based lawyer and general secretary of Lawyers For Human Rights International, he got associated with the drugs case in 2014 as an “intervener” and has followed it up since then. He filed fresh application seeking opening of 2018 sealed reports of STF in April this year. He has doggedly pursued the legal battle on the drug issue.
TIMELINE: DRUG CASES IN HC AND PROBE AGAINST MAJITHIA Sept 16, 2013: HC takes suo motu note of retired IPS officer Shashi Kant’s letter on drug menace December 26, 2014: Majithia appears before ED Jalandhar office to record his statement on money laundering allegations. January 21, 2015: HC stays transfer of then ED officer Niranjan Singh, who had quizzed Majithia in drugs case April 30, 2015: HC asks Niranjan Singh to prepare note on “role” of Majithia May 6, 2015: Niranjan Singh shares the note October 7, 2015: HC rejects CBI probe demand made by accused persons who alleged Majithia’s involvement. A supervisory committee of three IPS officers formed to relook into all drug cases November 28, 2017: The HC asks special task force led by HS Sidhu to file a status report on allegations against Majithia and other high-profile persons December 15, 2017: HC ropes in Chattopadhyaya to probe role of police officers in drugs cases February 1, 2018: STF submits report; HC asks Punjab government to examine and take action on the report March 15, 2018: Chattopadhyaya alleges that he was being “implicated” in a suicide case due to his investigation; HC stays probe against him May 8, 2018: Two reports filed in HC by Chattopadhyaya. One report deals with the “role” of then DGP Suresh Arora and DGP Dinkar Gupta May 23, 2018: Punjab government panel submits its opinion on a report prepared by STF on alleged involvement of Majithia and others. HC takes all reports on record, says all need to be examined in conjunction August 6, 2021: Navkiran Singh approaches HC seeks opening of sealed cover reports October 13, 2021: Punjab tells HC it has no objection to opening of reports, also demands reports submitted by Chattopadhyaya be opened. November 18, 2021: Majithia approaches HC demanding that he be made a party in drugs PIL as his image is being tarnished by political opponents December 6, 2021: Punjab AG tells HC that there is no embargo from court to proceed on sealed cover reports. Court also says there was no restrain order.