Published On: Wed, May 13th, 2020

Cong MLAs seek probe against Punjab chief secretary, pile pressure on CM

Chandigarh: Congress MLAs on Wednesday demanded a probe against Punjab Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh, a day after he was stripped of his additional charge of Financial Commissioner-Taxation.

Punjab Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh

A Punjab minister, eight other ruling party MLAs and an MP are blaming the state’s most senior bureaucrat for alleged excise revenue losses. Some of them also alleged that his family has a “personal interest” in the department.

The crisis was triggered by a showdown Saturday between two ministers and the CS at a meeting where the state’s post-lockdown excise policy was being discussed.

Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal and Charanjit Singh Channi accused the CS of “unacceptable behaviour” during that “pre-cabinet meeting”.

Gidderbaha legislator Amrinder Singh Raja Warring also asked the CM to remove the bureaucrat from the post of chief secretary so that the he does not influence an inquiry.

Warring”s demand for a probe was backed by eight other MLAs — Jails and Cooperation Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Sangat Singh Gilzian (Urmur), Raj Kumar Verka (Amritsar West), Kulbir Singh Zira (Zira), Barinder Singh Pahra (Gurdaspur), Fatehjung Bajwa (Qadian), Balwinder Singh Laddi (Hargobindpur Sahib) and Joginder Pal (Bhoa).

Joining them in putting pressure on Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Congress MP Partap Singh Bajwa also sought a probe by a central agency.

Warring and Gilzian are advisors to the chief minister.

Karan Avtar Singh was relieved Tuesday night of his charge as financial commissioner, a day after ministers Badal and Channi declared that they would not attend any meeting in which he participated.

But the move failed to defuse the crisis.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Warring asked the chief minister to order an inquiry against the CS for revenue loss of “over Rs 600 crore”.

Jails minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa backed the demand, saying a probe will ensure that someone is held responsible for the “revenue loss” in the excise department over the past three years.

Qadian MLA Fatehjung Singh Bajwa tweeted that a media report has suggested that his family had a “personal interest” in the excise department.

“Justice should be delivered to general public,” tweeted Bajwa, who is the brother of Rajya Sabha MP Partap Singh Bajwa.

Partap Singh Bajwa too asked Amarinder Singh to act against the CS.

“If you do not allow for a fair probe, Punjabis will continue to question our Govt in the State on its record on corruption. We must lead the way in ensuring transparency,” the Congress MP tweeted.

“Call for an independent investigation into conflict of interest allegations immediately,” he added.

After Saturday”s showdown between the CS and the ministers, Warring had also alleged that the bureaucrat”s son has an undeclared business interest in a Punjab distillery.

Saturdays’s showdown is said to have taken place after Technical Education Minister Charanjit Singh Channi opposed any relief for liquor vend owners in the excise policy.

The CS allegedly made some “curt remarks” after Channi spoke.

Badal and Channi had then walked out, reportedly followed after some time by the other ministers at the “pre-cabinet meeting”.

This led to the postponement of the Cabinet meeting scheduled later that day.

The CS did not attend the reconvened Cabinet meeting Monday on the state”s excise policy, taking half day’s leave.

At the meeting, Badal and Channi gave an ultimatum of sorts to the chief minister, saying he should either call them or the CS for any meetings in the future.

The finance minister later told reporters then that the “behaviour” of Karan Avtar Singh before the cabinet, his “body language” and the manner in which he talked did not behove the chief secretary”s office.

He did not share details on how exactly the CS had “misbehaved”.

The additional charge with the CS was handed over to Principal Secretary (Water Resources) A Venu Prasad on Tuesday night.

Karan Avtar Singh is a 1984-batch IAS officer who was handpicked by Amarinder Singh in 2017 for the chief secretary”s post. He is due to retire in August.

PTI

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