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In crosshairs: AAP leaders under legal scrutiny

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New Delhi, March 22 (IANS) The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), once lauded for its anti-corruption stance and promise of clean governance, finds itself embroiled in a series of legal battles as several of its top leaders face arrest and investigation in various cases.

From Delhi to Punjab, the party’s reputation is under strain as allegations of corruption and misconduct swirl around key figures.

Just before the scheduled Lok Sabha elections, the AAP National Convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was arrested on Thursday by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) from his official residence following hours of questioning in the alleged excise policy scam.

The other two top faces who were earlier arrested in the excise policy case are AAP MP Sanjay Singh and former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia.

The argument put forth by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) is that the 2021-22 Delhi liquor policy offered unusually generous profit margins, with wholesalers enjoying a 12 per cent margin and retailers a staggering 185 per cent. Allegedly, a significant portion of the wholesalers’ profit, 6 per cent, was intended as kickbacks for AAP leaders.

Additionally, it is alleged that the “South Group” provided an advance sum of Rs 100 crore to Vijay Nair, who had ties to the AAP and served as the party’s communication in-charge.

This isn’t an isolated incident. Prior to it, AAP Minister Satyender Jain faced arrest by the ED in May 2022, accused in a separate money laundering case involving alleged hawala transactions. Jain, who has also been implicated in an excise policy ‘scam,’ symbolises the depth of the legal quagmire AAP finds itself in.

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On March 18, the Supreme Court dismissed the regular bail petition filed by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and former Delhi Minister Satyendar Jain in connection with an alleged money laundering case.

Dismissing the plea, a Bench headed by Justice Bela M. Trivedi ordered the AAP leader to immediately surrender before the jail authorities.

The Bench, also comprising Justice Pankaj Mithal, refused to entertain the request made by Jain’s counsel seeking a week’s time to surrender.

“All appeals (including the plea filed by Ankush Jain and Vaibhav Jain, the other co-accused in the case) are dismissed. Mr. Satyendar Jain will have to surrender forthwith,” it ordered.

Meanwhile, AAP MLA Amanatullah Khan walks a tightrope, currently out on bail but entangled in legal proceedings related to illegal recruitments and financial misappropriation during his tenure as chairman of the Delhi Waqf Board. The courts have found sufficient evidence to proceed against Khan, casting a shadow over his political future.

Recently in March, a Delhi court and High Court, both, dismissed AAP legislator Amanatullah Khan’s anticipatory bail plea in connection with the Delhi Waqf Board money laundering case.

The case pertains to a property worth Rs 36 crore in Okhla being allegedly acquired with illicit funds, purportedly influenced by Khan, who reportedly handed over Rs 8 crore in cash.

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During the investigation, the ED considered FIRs filed earlier by the CBI, ACB, and the Delhi Police.

The ED had said that the property was bought at Khan’s behest, and presented with evidence of Rs 27 crore cash transaction.

Adding to the party’s woes is the case of former councillor Tahir Hussain, now incarcerated in connection with various cases, including allegations stemming from the 2020 Delhi riots and money laundering charges. Despite being granted bail in one case, Hussain remains in judicial custody, facing the weight of the law.

Hussain along with co-accused persons, is also facing trial for various charges including under Section 307 read with Section 120B and 149 of the Indian Penal Code.

Adding to the list is AAP MLA Somnath Bharti, who was arrested for allegedly assaulting AIIMS security guards in September 2016. The incident led to the filing of an FIR against him on September 11 at the Hauz Khas police station by the AIIMS Chief Security Officer.

Previously, Bharti, who now represents the Malviya Nagar constituency, faced arrest by Delhi police in December 2015 following accusations of attempted murder and domestic violence levelled against him by his wife.

Sandeep Kumar, who served as the minister of SC/ST Welfare and Women and Child Welfare in Delhi under Arvind Kejriwal, represented the Sultan Pur Majra constituency.

However, his tenure was marred by scandal when a sex scandal involving him surfaced, leading to his immediate dismissal. He was subsequently arrested in 2016 after a woman implicated him in a rape case linked to the sex CD controversy.

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Dinesh Mohaniya, an MLA from the Sangam Vihar constituency, faced legal trouble in June 2016 when he was booked for allegedly misbehaving with a woman. He was arrested on charges of molestation and sexual harassment. Additionally, a second FIR was lodged against him in June 2016 for reportedly slapping a 60-year-old man.

Another AAP leader, Prakash Jarwal, the representative of the Deoli constituency, was arrested in July 2016 on accusations of sexually harassing a woman. Additionally, he faced arrest in 2014 following an incident where he allegedly slapped an employee of the Delhi Jal Board.

In November 2022, the Anti-Corruption Branch arrested Om Singh, the brother-in-law of AAP MLA Akhilesh Pati Tripathi along with his two associates in a cash-for-ticket case.

The ACB officials had said that they allegedly accepted a bribe of Rs 35 lakh for giving a ticket for the upcoming MCD election to the wife of an AAP worker.

The list of AAP leaders facing legal scrutiny extends beyond Delhi’s borders.

In Punjab, the arrest of Bathinda Rural MLA Amit Rattan Kotfatta by the state Vigilance Bureau in a bribery case is another blow to the party’s reputation. Kotfatta follows in the footsteps of former health minister Vijay Singla, marking a disturbing trend of graft allegations against AAP leaders in the state.

–IANS

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Rajkot fire: CM Bhupendra Patel conducts on-site inspection

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Rajkot, May 26 (IANS) Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel on Sunday conducted an on-site visit to assess the aftermath of the devastating fire at TRP Gamezone in Rajkot, which claimed 35 lives.

Chief Minister also visited the Rajkot AIIMS and other hospitals to check on the injured and interacted with victims and their families.

He also met the families of those who lost their lives, offered condolences and assured them full support.

At Rajkot’s Hirasar Airport, Chief Minister Patel held a high-level review meeting to discuss the relief and rescue operations. He directed a thorough investigation and insisted on strict punitive action against those responsible.

A 100-bed burn ward has been set up at PDU Medical College in Rajkot to treat burn victims. Additional doctors and paramedical staff have also been deployed to ensure no lapse in medical care. Expert surgeons and trained nurses from Jamnagar, Ahmedabad, Morbi, Junagadh, and Bhavnagar have also been deployed in Rajkot.

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At least 20 ambulances have also been put into service to enhance transportation facilities for quick intensive care.

Air ambulance services have also been put into service to transport DNA samples of the deceased and their family members’ referral samples to the Gandhinagar Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) for urgent identification.

The Special Investigation Team (SIT) has also been formed to probe the incident which will be headed by Additional Director General of Police Subhash Trivedi.

The SIT has been asked to furnish the preliminary report to the state government within three days.

Rajkot City Police has ordered the closure of all game zones in the city as a precautionary measure as the inspections for fire safety and other security measures are ongoing.

Administration has said that immediate punitive action will be taken against game zones operating without a Fire No Objection Certificate (NOC) or any other necessary permissions, and they will be shut down.

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–IANS

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KTR accuses Telangana govt of Rs 1,000 crore scam in rice procurement

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Hyderabad, May 26 (IANS) Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) working president K. T. Rama Rao has accused the Congress-led Telangana government of Rs 1,000 crore paddy lifting and rice procurement scam.

He demanded Chief Minister A. Revanth Reddy and civil supplies minister Uttam Kumar Reddy to clear themselves of the allegations. He challenged them to initiate a judicial inquiry with a sitting judge

He accused CM Revanth Reddy and minister Uttam Kumar Reddy of being implicated in the scam in the civil supply department.

Addressing a news conference at BRS central office, Telangana Bhavan in Hyderabad, KTR accused the Congress party of looting the government exchequer.

He claimed that the civil supplies department, under the supervision of Uttam Kumar Reddy and Chief Minister Revanth Reddy, awarded tenders to four companies to lift paddy from rice millers in the state. He accused both the Chief Minister and the minister of constituting a committee, issuing guidelines, and calling for tenders — all on January 25 itself.

“The government showed no urgency in fulfilling electoral promises, but it swiftly awarded these tenders dubiously in one day with jet speed,” the BRS leader remarked. He alleged that the Congress government was looting government funds in the name of global tenders for 35 lakh metric tons of paddy.

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He noted that local rice millers were ready to purchase the same paddy for Rs 2,100 per quintal, but the government sold it at prices ranging from Rs 1,885 to 2,007 per quintal to companies like Kendriya Bhandar, LG Industries, Hindustan Company, and NACAF, who secured the tenders by quoting lower rates.

KTR further accused these four companies of blackmailing local rice millers, demanding Rs 2,230 per quintal, which is Rs 200 more than their tendered rates, leading to Rs 800 crore scam. He pointed out that according to the tender agreement, these companies had no right to demand money instead of paddy from the rice millers.

He stated that these companies failed to lift the paddy within the stipulated 90-day period, which ended on May 23, and they sought an extension from the government, which is under positive consideration. He accused the government of trying to extend the period to fleece more money from the millers instead of taking action against the companies for violating tender conditions.

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KTR demanded that the government release a white paper detailing how much paddy had been lifted and address the allegations of money collection from millers instead of paddy. He criticised the government for its silence on this multi-crore scam for over two weeks. KTR also faulted the government policy for tendering fine and raw paddy at the same price.

He criticised the government for purchasing fine rice at Rs 15 more per kilogram than the market price. He noted that the BRS government, under KCR, had introduced fine rice for school and hostel students as a humane initiative, but the Congress government was exploiting this noble cause for corruption. Even today, new fine rice with 10 per cent broken rice is priced at around Rs 42 per kilogram in the market, while the government is paying Rs 57 per kilogram to companies.

He highlighted that the same four companies involved in the dubious paddy lifting tenders were also awarded tenders for buying fine rice, raising public doubts. These companies quoted the nearly same rate in tenders, blatantly rigging the process, KTR said.

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KTR reminded that the erstwhile government used procured paddy for fine rice supply, securing better quality fine rice at just Rs 35 per kilogram. He accused the government under Revanth Reddy and Uttam Kumar Reddy of engaging in a Rs 300 crore scam in fine rice procurement by procuring 2.20 lakh metric tons. He demanded the immediate cancellation of tender awarding letters for fine rice procurement from these shady companies.

KTR urged the BJP and its leaders to show their commitment by involving central agencies and the FCI to investigate this scam. He reminded that the FCI always monitors paddy procurement and minimum support price transactions as per the Food Security Act. The central government’s silence also raised suspicions of collusion with the Congress government in this paddy scam.

If the Congress and BJP fail to clarify their roles in this thousand-crore paddy and fine rice scam, KTR warned that they would seek judicial intervention.

–IANS

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Smartphone theft, smuggling gang busted in Hyderabad

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Hyderabad, May 26 (IANS) Hyderabad Police have busted an international smartphone theft and smuggling gang and apprehended 31 accused including a Sudanese national.

The sleuths of Commissioner’s Task Force, South, East and South-East Zone Teams along with local police seized 713 smartphones, an autorickshaw, two computers and one laptop, total worth Rs 2 crore.

According to S. Rashmi Perumal, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Commissioner’s Task Force, Hyderabad, a spate of mobile phone snatchings has been seen in recent days in the process of which robberies, extortions and even a murder have taken place. While investigating this, it was discovered that a major criminal network has been operating in the city involving cell phone theft offenders, host of receivers of these stolen cell phones (both national and international) who are in the business of unlawful transport of these cell phones out of the country to sell them for illegal profits.

Police found that several stolen cell phones are being dismantled in niche markets, their IMEI numbers being changed and the resultant components such as mobile screens, cameras, and speakers are subsequently being used as replacement parts for existing damaged mobiles received from customers at a fraction of price in comparison to original company rates. A few weeks back, a similar major network of stolen cell phone racket was busted by the Task Force and several persons were arrested.

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In the latest case, the Task Force arrested 15 offenders/snatchers, nine receivers and four mobile phone technicians who were unlocking stolen handsets and tampering with their IMEI numbers.

An international end receiver of stolen mobiles has also been arrested. He is identified as Mohamed Musa Hassan Gamaralanbia (26), who is into the phone accessories business. The Sudanese national was residing in the Nanal Nagar area in Hyderabad.

The foreign national was illegally exporting the cell phones via sea route.

The seized mobile phones relate to 27 cases booked at various police stations in Hyderabad. The accused cell phone offenders were committing thefts/extortion of cell phones in crowded areas like buses/bus stations, wine shops and public meetings.

All the accused (except one Sudanese national) are natives of Hyderabad and are common friends. With desires to lead a lavish life and finding their earnings insufficient, they collectively hatched a plan to commit theft/snatching of cell phones and further sell these stolen cell phones to receivers to earn money illegally.

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The DCP has advised citizens to be vigilant when moving in crowded places and to report any snatching/theft incidents to the police at the earliest. She also cautioned mobile shop owners in the city to refrain from purchasing/selling of stolen cell phones or engaging in illegal activities such as tampering with IMEI numbers as strict legal action will be taken against them.

–IANS

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Purvanchal will punish those who blocked development in region with a motive: PM Modi

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New Delhi, May 26 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing back-to-back rallies in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday, hit out at INDIA bloc for their appeasement politics and for prioritising vote bank over developmental works.

Addressing a public gathering in Bansgaon, PM Modi said that Samajwadi Party kept the Purvanchal region backward as part of a conspiracy.

He said: “Purvanchal will punish such people again and again. It will never allow such people to set foot in the region.”

PM went on to ask the people of Purvanchal to make sure that those who have opposed the Ram temple, should not get a single seat in Purvanchal.

Prime Minister also spoke about the 2012 manifesto of Samajwadi Party and asked first-time voters whether they were aware of its religion-driven reservation.

“SP had clearly written in its manifesto that the reservation that was given to Dalits would be diverted to Muslims. This is against the spirit of the Constitution but the INDIA bloc people didn’t care about it,” PM Modi told the gathering.

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Addressing the rally, the PM said further: “Do you want Congress that works for commission? They want foreign deals so that they can get commission like Bofors. Many countries wanted to buy arms from India but Congress created obstacles. Now UP will soon start making BrahMos.”

He added that people in Pakistan are praying that INDIA bloc comes to power and are appealing for vote jihad. “They want to take the country back. They say they will reimpose Article 370 in Kashmir and scrap CAA. They are implementing the agenda of anti-national forces,” he said.

He reminded people of the development done by the BJP government in Purvanchal—from making expressways to a new AIIMS.

“This is just the trailer, so imagine what will happen in the next five years,” he concluded.

–IANS

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5.47 kg heroin seized in Punjab, seven arrested

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Chandigarh, May 26 (IANS) An international narcotics racket has been busted with the seizure of 5.47 kg of heroin in Punjab and the arrest of seven persons, police said on Sunday.

“In a major breakthrough against trans-border narcotic smuggling networks, Punjab Police in a joint operation with Border Security Force (BSF) have busted an international narco smuggling module with the arrest of seven drug smugglers after recovering 5.47 kg heroin and Rs 1.07 lakh drug money from their possession,” said Punjab Director General of Police (DGP) Gaurav Yadav.

Those arrested have been identified as Baljinder Singh, Sukhchain Singh, Solav Singh, Gurcharan Singh, Karandeep Singh, Daljit Singh and Kamaldeep Singh.

Accused Kamaldeep Singh has a criminal background and has already been facing two cases under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act in Kapurthala.

Apart from recovering heroin and drug money, police teams have also recovered 40 cartridges, six mobile phones, 8.4 grams gold and 68.97 grams silver from their possession, besides, impounding a Hyundai Verna car and three motorcycles.

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DGP Yadav said preliminary investigations have revealed most of the accused, who are in their teens, are students and were preparing for the Army recruitment when they got acquainted with Kapurthala-based drug smuggler Kamaldeep Singh and started smuggling heroin from across the border.

The accused were in touch with a Pakistan-based smuggler and getting drug consignments via drones, he added.

He said that investigations are ongoing to establish backward and forward linkages and identify the Pakistan-based drug smuggler.

–IANS

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