Punjab assembly stopped from declaring Amarinder’s Patiala seat vacant

October 3rd, 2008 - 8:17 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 3 (IANS) In a significant relief to former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, expelled from the state assembly Sep 10, the Supreme Court Friday stopped the legislature from declaring his Patiala Town seat vacant.While implicitly stopping the poll panel from holding a by-election to Singh’s Patiala seat as per the state assembly directions, a bench of Justice B.N. Agrawal, however, refused to suspend his expulsion from the House.

The bench, which also included Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice Aftab Alam, refused to accord any direct legal relief to Singh, saying the court might be able to ascertain the legality or otherwise of his expulsion before the next sitting of the assembly.

The bench also frowned upon the Punjab assembly’s order, expelling Singh, for usurping some judicial functions in asking the state vigilance bureau to probe an alleged corrupt deed of Singh in a particular manner under its own monitoring and supervision.

In a snub to the assembly, the bench asked the vigilance bureau to probe the allegations against Singh but only as per the mandate of the relevant laws like the Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code and not as per the directions and observations in the Punjab assembly order against him.

The bench even stayed that part of the assembly order, which asked the vigilance bureau to submit its report to the assembly within two months.

Granting the vigilance bureau complete immunity from the assembly order, the bench observed: “The police, at the end of the day, may even file a final probe report saying that no offence was committed.”

The Punjab assembly had expelled Singh after a nine-member special committee of the House found him guilty of causing pecuniary loss to the state exchequer worth millions of rupees by exempting from taxation a 32-acre plot of Amritsar Improvement Trust, allocated to a private builder.

Singh was expelled for the remaining three and half years of the term of the state assembly.

The special committee had also indicted three others, including the state’s former ministers Chaudhary Jagjit Singh and late Raghunath Sahai Puri and AIT former Chairman Jugal Kishore Sharma.

Contending that the state assembly at most can suspend its members and bar them for a limited period from attending the House, senior counsel P.P. Rao and T.R Andhyarujina said the assembly order expelling their client was “illegal and unconstitutional” as it has held him guilty even before any criminal probe against him.

After ordering Singh’s expulsion, the special committee had asked the assembly secretariat to direct the Election Commission of India to declare vacant Singh’s Patiala Town assembly seat and hold fresh election to it.

The counsel also challenged the state assembly order directing the state’s chief secretary to lodge a criminal case against Singh and put him to “custodial interrogation” to “find out where Singh has hidden his ill-gotten wealth.”

The Punjab and Haryana High Court earlier had suspended this part of the state assembly order for custodial interrogation of Singh, but has granted the state’s vigilance bureau the freedom to interrogate him if it is required as per law.

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