Meanwhile, SC to hear on August 24 an appeal on same issue filed by a PSEB employee
The Hush Post: A special court has acquitted Punjab’s former education minister in the Akali government Tota Singh in a 16-year-old case relating to recruitment of 134 clerks in the Punjab School Education Board (PSEB) while convicting four persons, including two former employees of PSEB. They have been sentenced to three years of imprisonment, along with a fine of Rs 20,000 each.
Additional Districts and Sessions Judge (ADSJ) Rajnish Garg convicted the then PSEB secretary Jagjeet Singh Sidhu, members of the selection committee Priptal Kaur and Col Zora Singh (retired), and Amar Singh, the then officer on special duty (OSD) to PSEB vice-chairman. All four have been convicted under sections 465 (forgery ) and 467 (forgery of valuable security) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). All the convicts got bail after the court’s decision.
After the verdict, Tota Singh said he had always maintained he was falsely implicated in the case and that he had nothing to do with the recruitment of the clerks. Tota Singh’s counsel, senior advocate Satnam Singh Kaler, said the case was registered on the basis of wrong facts. He said the PSEB was an autonomous body and the board’s chairman had the powers to take the decision for recruitment and other board related matters. “When the recruitment took place, the then PSEB chairman Kehar Singh did not discuss anything with Tota Singh. He constituted a selection committee for the recruitment. Then, how could the minister be the culprit? He could not have interfered in the working of an autonomous body like the PSEB. We contended the same point during the trial,” Kaler told a national daily.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is to hear a case regarding the same issue on August 24. In 2002, when Capt Amarinder Singh became the Chief Minister, he had ordered a probe into the recruitment, following which the VB registered a case against Tota Singh and others. However, the VB later gave a clean chit. Then a PSEB employee, Om Parkash Soni, subsequently filed an application in the court on April 17, 2013, urging it to name these persons in the FIR but the Punjab and Haryana High Court acquitted them. Soni then approached the Supreme Court against the decision.
The recruitment had become a political issue when the SAD-BJP government was in power from 1997 to 2002. The clerks who were recruited were made to join their jobs in 2002, but suspended the very next day, following which they held a continuous protest outside the PSEB headquarters for around four years.