Thursday, October 7, 2010

Apang goes to jail


Former Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Gegong Apang was arrested for his alleged involvement in a Rs.1,000 crore public distribution system
(PDS) scam.
The Special Investigation Cell (SIC), constituted by the Arunachal Pradesh Government under the supervision of the Gauhati High Court to
probe the scam, arrested Mr. Apang in State capital Itanagar when he had come to depose before it. Sources said the arrest was made after Apang, the longest-serving Chief Minister in the country after  late Jyoti Basu, gave “unconvincing” answers to a volley of questions besides material
evidence against him.“We had summoned Apang on three occasions earlier. He responded to the fourth today. However, none of his answers were convincing. He was subsequently arrested on four non-bailable clauses,” Superintendent of Police and SIC in-charge MS Chauhan said.
Soon after his arrest, the former Chief Minister was sent to Lakhimpur town in north-eastern Assam to be tried by a special sessions judge.
The Lakhimpur court remanded him in seven days police custody. The SIC claimed that it had enough material evidence against Apang.
A number of politicians, officials and contractors were allegedly involved in the scam. Mr. Apang was then the Chief Minister of Arunachal
Pradesh.The scam was unearthed after two individuals Domin Loya, former general secretary of All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union and Bamang Tago, chief of Arunachal Citizen’s Right, an NGO, had filed a PIL in 2004. Apang did not speak much except attributing his arrest to a “political conspiracy”. His defence lawyer termed the arrest as “illegal”. “There is no justification in arresting him because he was called as
witness in the case. We will now move the High Court for the law to take its own course,” the defence lawyer, Kardak Ete, added.
Steering clear off from the high profile arrest of former Chief Minister Gegong Apang by the Special Investigation Cell (SIC), the state government today said that it has no role in the arrest as the SIC is accountable only to the Gauhati High Court and does not take orders from the state government.
Apang was arrested on Tuesday when he appeared before the SIC in connection with the multi-crore PDS scam. He was later remanded to seven days police custody by the North Lakhimpur Sessions Court where the PDS trial is on. At the moment Apang, for health reasons, is admitted in the R K Mission Hospital under tight security.
 “The SIC investigating into the PDS scam is under the direct control of the High Court and is independent of any strings that can be attributed to the state government,” said Government Spokesperson and Power (Elect) Minister Jarbom Gamlin said.
Shrugging off allegations leveled by certain organizations on the government for instigating the arrest, Gamlin asserted that the SIC is investigating the scam under the directives of the High Court as an independent body and the government has no control over it.
 “The SIC may be a part and parcel of a state government department (Vigilance) but in the present case, it has been entrusted by the High Court to conduct an independent investigation accountable only to the Court,” he asserted.
Explaining the government’s inability to interfere in the functioning of the SIC as well as Investigating Officer M S Chauhan’s continuity as its head, Gamlin quoted the High Court directive, dated 15th June 2007, that says ‘To enable the remaining investigation to be conducted properly, independently and expeditiously we direct M S Chauhan, SP (SIC), Vigilance, who is personally present in Court today, shall head the investigating team. Shri Chauhan will be personally responsible for such investigation and will report directly to the Court and not to any other state agency.’
Further, on the question that is reportedly doing the rounds – Why Apang alone when there are several others accused in the scam? – Gamlin said that it was the directive of the High Court to register separate cases for all the PDS cases for efficient investigations. As per the directive, the Court suggested that for more efficient investigation all cases related to the scam encompassing the entire state be split up into clearly identifiable areas and separate cases be registered region-wise or district-wise.
“Now it is up to the SIC to decide which case to be taken up and followed first,” Gamlin reiterated hinting that Apang’s arrest may be the first one but certainly not the only one.
The high profile PDS scam that evidently occurred during the tenure of Apang as the Chief Minister came to the fore after a PIL was filed in the Gauhati High Court on June 13, 2004 by Arunachal Citizens’ Right (ACR) Chairman Bamang Anthony (Tago) and Domin Loya. The SIC was constituted by the State government on the directive of the High Court to investigate the scam.
The SIC had filed two cases related to the scam in the Court of Deputy Commissioner-cum-Special Judge, Western Zone, Yupia. However, taking cognizance of the fact that complete separation of the judiciary from the executive is yet to be taken care of in the state, the High Court suo motto transferred the cases to the Court of the District & Sessions Judge, North Lakhimpur. In the said directive of 24 September, 2009, the High Court said, “The number of accused involved till date being nearly 100, the sheer magnitude and proportions that the trial will, in due course, assume is another aspect that has been borne by us. We will not be wrong in taking into account the limited exposure of the judicial officers in Arunachal Pradesh to conduct such trials. These facts lead us to the conclusion that the present is a fit case where suo moto we ought to exercise our powers under section 407 CrPC to transfer the trial of SIC (Vig) P S Case Nos. 06/2005 and 08/2005 to the Court of District & Sessions Judge, North Lakhimpur so as to ensure that the trial of the aforesaid cases is conducted fairly, efficiently and without any delay or obstruction.”
“These directives from the Gauhati High Court amply clarifies that the state government has no role in the functioning of the SIC. The allegations, therefore, leveled against the government of arm-twisting the SIC to arrest Apang on political grounds is unfounded and baseless,” Gamlin added.
Meanwhile, the news of the arrest of former Chief Minister and veteran leader Gegong Apang in the multi-crore PDS scam has sparked spontaneous and mixed reactions from at least two organizations, one a student’s body and the other a unit of a national political party. While the former sniffs rat in the whole episode, the latter wants the whole Congress government to go.
The Itanagar unit of All Adi Students’ Union (AASUI), in a statement today, termed Apang’s arrest as pre-planned and questioned the lone arrest in the scam that has several others involved. It gave the SIC and the government 24 hours ultimatum arrest the all others accused in the scam.
“Is the SIC constituted only for Apang?” it questioned while throwing doubts over the integrity of SIC Investigating Officer MS Chauhan. It wanted to know if Chauhan was directed by the government to arrest Apang by any means. Citing Chauhan’s statement that Apang was arrested based on material evidences and statements given by the other accused in the scam, the Union claimed that the former leader has been framed to cover up for the real culprits amongst PDS contractors, officers and the beneficiaries.
The Union also negated Chauhan’s allegation that Apang had refused to cooperate with the SIC and claimed that he (Apang) had personally appeared before the SIC in presence of a large crowd on August 20 at the SIC office whereas Chauhan was absent himself. “The former CM also presented himself on August 24 on being called back in such a short time. So the question of non cooperation does not arise,” it said.
Alleging that SIC is inefficient to handle the high profile scam, the Union demanded that it be handed over to CBI. It claimed that SIC cannot be competent as it is ‘directed’ by people in power. On the other hand, the state unit NCP claimed Apang’s arrest as a slap on the face of the Congress party and the government ruled by it. In a separate statement, the unit’s Vice President Tad Tana claimed that it is only the tip of an iceberg and charged the Congress regime of corruption from top to bottom.
Blaming all the ills in the state on the ‘corrupt’ governance of the Congress, the party urged the SIC to arrest all the 40 accused in the scam. It maintained that unless all the accused are arrested, Apang’s lone arrest would prove to be a political vendetta by people in power.
While asserting the high-profile arrest as an eye-opener for other investigating agencies like CBI, the party unit expressed optimism that several other scams in fields like relief and rehabilitation, hydro-projects, PM package, RGVY, SPA, etc would be unearthed and culprits punished. In order to facilitate an impartial and free investigation into the present scam, the NCP unit demanded resignation of the Congress government.


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