Stung by a recent Punjab and Haryana High Court judgment that gave former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal a clean chit in the Kotkapura firing case, the state government on Monday decided to form a new Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the incident. The government has also decided to file a limited Special Leave Petition (SLP) appeal in Supreme Court against the High Court’s strictures against the SIT probe head Kunwar Vijay Pratap.
In a dramatic development, the Punjab Congress Unit Chief Sunil Jakhar and Cooperation Minister Sukhjinder Randhawa reportedly offered to step down during a cabinet meeting to discuss the fallout of the High Court order. Sources said that they were upset over the government’s alleged political and administrative failure in taking the SIT probe to its logical conclusion.
The move came after Singh expressed his anguish over some ministers attacking the state government publicly. He reportedly told the cabinet that if some ministers did not have faith in him, they should step down instead of publicly targeting the government.
Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh is reported to have rejected the resignations.
The high court order that quashed the Punjab government-appointed SIT probe triggered a political row in the state. The Capt Amarinder Singh-led government came under fire from opposition parties and its own party leaders. The leaders, including Navjot Singh Sidhu, accused the Punjab government of a `lax probe’ that allowed `Akali Dal leaders like Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Badal’ off the hook.
The court had observed that there was no material evidence to suggest the involvement of the Badals in the firing case that left two protestors dead in 2015. The court had also castigated Vijay Pratap for trying to frame Akali Dal leaders in the firing case.
The order, which came months ahead of the polls, had given ammunition to the detractors of Amarinder Singh within the party over allegedly shielding the Badals. Sidhu had launched a flurry of scathing attacks against the Chef minister on Twitter after the court order.
Sources said it was decided at the cabinet meeting that a new SIT probe was needed to probe the case to a logical end. “It will take inputs from the earlier probe which had reached a stage where a challan was to be filed against Badals,” sources said. By doing this, the government was trying to dispel the notion that it was trying to shield the Akali dal leaders in the case, they added.
The Akali Dal has already termed the order a vindication and said the Congress party had tried to politicize the issue and take electoral benefits over it.