Punjab Govt to Pay Rs 5 Lakh to NRI for Mixing up Identity With Scamster
The NRI was asked to deboard a UK-bound flight after he was wrongly identified as an accused in an irrigation scam.
Following a case of mistaken identity, the government of Punjab will now have to cough up Rs 5 lakh as compensation to a Non-Resident Indian for forcing him to disembark from a flight scheduled to go to United Kingdom. The government mistook the NRI for a scamster in a Rs 1,000 crore irrigation scam, and made him deboard the flight.
Gurdev Singh, a resident of Ludhiana, asked to deboard as he shared the same name as the accused. The vigilance bureau found after verification that the person who was deboarded was Gurdev Singh, son of Jagtar Singh, while the name of the real accused is Gurdev Singh Syan, whose father’s name is Kartar Singh. The goof-up happened because of a strange coincidence: both men shared the same birth dates, the same names and hailed from the same city, Ludhiana. The present address of the NRI is Southall, Middlesex, while his permanent address is Ludhiana.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court directed the chief secretary to tender an unconditional apology to the NRI. It also directed that a demand draft of Rs 5 lakh be handed to him along with air fare from Delhi to the United Kingdom. The amount will be recovered from the officials of the vigilance bureau who made the mistake and action will be taken against them for tarnishing the reputation of Punjab, the court ordered.
The court observed that the government servants performed their duties in a callous manner, and that it shows their casual attitude. “The record clearly shows the cavalier manner in which the government servants have performed their work; namely lack of sincerity, casual attitude and having no regard for the image of the state of Punjab and also for the country,” Justice AB Chaudhari observed.
The Punjab government claimed it was a case of mistaken identity, but the judge said it was the vigilance bureau that was at fault. “I think that it is serious misconduct on the part of the employee/employees concerned which resulted into cutting sorry figure for the state of Punjab,” the judge observed. The high court asked the Government of Punjab to comply with the orders by Dec. 19.
After officials realized that a mistake was made, the airport staff was informed that the NRI was not an accused and that he should be allowed to board the next flight.
Justice Chaudhari passed these orders when he was putting away an application filed by Punjab government. This application was filed through Ashish Kapoor, AIG vigilance bureau, who was seeking to apologize for the goof-up. “The only interest such government servants have is to pocket huge salary every month and go on making demands for higher and higher salary and allowances,” said Justice Chaudhari, in his detailed order, the Times of India reported.
On Nov. 2, Punjab advocate general (AG) Atul Nanda requested Justice Chaudhari to urgently pass an order that would prevent Gurdev Singh from leaving the country. In his report, Nanda submitted that the absence of specific orders from the high court would give Singh a chance to leave the country. Justice Chaudhari then ordered that Singh should be prevented from flying out of the country without the court’s permission, and asked for his passport to be submitted with the government.
Singh was then detained by the immigration officials at the Delhi international airport. This was done on the basis of a lookout notice right before he was about to board a Delhi-London flight, since it was assumed that he was the accused.
The irrigation scam unfolded in August 2017, when the Punjab vigilance bureau booked contractor Gurdev Singh and seven other engineers, retired and serving, for alleged cheating through favored tenders of irrigation, causing loss worth crores to the state. All the accused have been on the run since then.