English News

  • youtube
  • facebook
  • twitter

Punjab Vigilance wing zeroes in on PSIDC officers too in Rs 700 crore Philips-Gulmohar plot scam

Photo for representation

Chandigarh: The Punjab Vigilance Bureau has come to the conclusion that the first sin in the Rs 700 crore Anand Lamp Industries India Limited (Philips Electronics) industrial plot scam was committed by the Punjab State Industrial Development Corporation (PSIDC) whose officers played a key role in converting a plot meant only for industrial use into a real estate project causing a huge loss to the state government. The concerned officers have now been summoned to appear before the investigating officer on January 16, 2023, at 10 am with the relevant record.

The Vigilance Bureau (VB) is moving ahead with the case despite attempts of the powerful IAS lobby to stonewall the investigation.

Standing firm on the contents of its FIR registered against IAS officer Neelima, a former MD of the PSIEC, and 13 others, the VB is likely to include certain officers of the PSIDC in the FIR who were hand-in-glove with the PSIEC officers in the scam. These PSIDC officers will have the option to become prosecution witnesses to truthfully reveal in court the series of violations or face arrest as co-accused, according to reliable sources.

Earlier, the VB summoned PSIDC officials before registering the FIR in the Philips-Gulmohar plot scam. As the investigation progressed, it felt necessary to question the PSIDC officials again. Surprisingly, they refused to appear before the VB till the PSIDC MD C. Sibin directed them to do so. The VB had asked the MD to send the concerned officers for questioning, but he reportedly declined. The VB then, as per provisions of the CrPc, summoned the MD himself apart from other PSIDC officers. The tough stand has worked and these officers have now agreed to come for questioning, according to reliable sources

The 25-acre industrial plot allotted to Philips Electronics was a free-hold property. It was allotted to the company on July 31, 1984. The conditions of allotment clearly state that the plot can be used only for industrial purposes. The sale deed was registered on May 22, 1987. Clause 20 of the allotment letter and the registry stated that the company shall use the said land exclusively for establishing its industrial project or any other purpose as the government may approve and for no other purpose.

Clause 20 further says that if the unit falls sick or becomes bankrupt, it will be returned to the government, i.e. the PSIDC. “In case of a breach of any condition of allotment, this Corporation will have the right to take back the possession of the plot and the building and also forfeit all amount paid by the company,” the allotment agreement states.

The VB cites the example of M/s Harpartap Steels which was allotted a 15-acre plot but after it went bankrupt the plot was surrendered to the PSIDC. The PSIDC later sold this plot to M/s Bestech at the prevalent market rate earning huge revenue for the public exchequer.

However, in the Philips Electronics case the PSIEC changed the allotment conditions and approved the plot for multiple purpose use including housing which converted it from an industrial to a real estate project.

On March 3, 2021, M/s Philips, now called M/s Signify Innovations entered into a sale agreement with real estate company Gulmohar Townships, and the PSIEC approved the move. The PSIDC hurriedly issued a no-objection certificate (NOC) without ascertaining whether M/s Gulmohar Townships had submitted any project report for setting up an industry on the 25-acre plot. The real estate company did not submit any such report, according to sources.

The scrutiny of PSIEC files shows that the then Industries Minister Sunder Sham Arora, the then MD PSIEC Neelima IAS, Executive Director S.P. Singh, and the 10-member advisory committee constituted by PSIEC worked in tandem to cheat the government. They all worked at a breakneck speed – unheard of in government functioning – to facilitate the bifurcation of the Philips plot at the request of new owner M/s Gulmohar Townships.

On March 16, 2021, Gulmohar’s Jagdeep Kumar sent an application for bifurcation of the 25-acre plot to PSIEC. On March 17, 2021, the Industries Minister ordered MD PSIEC to send by March 18, 2021, a list of all bifurcation cases pending till March 16, 2021. MD Neelima constitutes a 10-member committee on the same day. On March 19, the committee meets in the office room of S.P. Singh. March 20 and 21 were holidays as it was Saturday and Sunday. On March 22, SP Singh submitted the report to the MD. On March 23, the MD Neelima put her signatures of approval on the bifurcation request. And on March 24, an approval letter was issued. Everything got dealt with within 6-working days.

The VB has briefed Chief Secretary V.K. Janjua about the progress of its investigation and the sound legal footing on which it stands in registering an FIR against the then MD Neelima IAS and others. The Chief Secretary is likely to submit his report to the CM today before noon.

The Punjab IAS officers Association had raised objections against the VB as it did not take prior sanction to book an IAS officer violating provisions of section 17-A of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The much-misused section 17-A has now been defined by the Union Ministry of Personnel vide its letter dated October 3, 2021, that does not bar the state to book a civil servant if found to have given undue monetary benefit to someone while performing non-quasi-judicial duties.

According to VB officials, the powerful IAS lobby has also been trying to thwart the investigation of the Philips-Gulmohar plots scam by uploading statements on the Industry Department’s Punjab Invest website on December 11. The so-called “factsheet” temporarily put on the website claimed Neelima IAS, booked by VB in the scam, is innocent.