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April 28, 1998


President okays prosecution of Sukh Ram, Sheila Kaul and Thungon

The Central Bureau of Investigation today received Presidential sanction to prosecute former Union ministers Sukh Ram, Sheila Kaul and P K Thungon for alleged criminal conspiracy and misuse of official position.

The CBI spokesman in New Delhi said a chargesheet would be filed against former communications minister Sukh Ram for allegedly misusing his position for re-allocating contracts for supply of cables to the Haryana Telecom Ltd. Former urban development minister Sheila Kaul and her deputy Thungon would be charged with criminal conspiracy in the sanction of 42 shops at various places in New Delhi.

The Bureau had sought the President's sanction in both the cases in May last year.

Sukh Ram is already facing trial in two other cases of corruption and criminal conspiracy in which the CBI has filed chargesheets against him.

The first chargesheet was filed on March 18 last year for his alleged involvement in a telecom scam which caused a loss of Rs 16.8 million to the government.

The second was filed on June 9 last year in a case relating to amassing of wealth worth Rs 57 million, far beyond his known sources of income, by abusing his official position as a public servant.

The CBI had recovered as much as Rs 36.1 million in cash during simultaneous raids at the New Delhi and Mandi, Himachal Pradesh, homes of Sukh Ram in August 1996.

According to Bureau sources, Sheila Kaul, who was urban development minister in the P V Narasimha Rao government, and Thungon, who held the rank of minister of state with the same portfolio, and their personal staff, caused a ''huge pecuniary loss'' to the government by allotting the shops in ''violation of all prescribed norms and approved policies.''

Bureau sources identified the accused personal staff as Sheila Kaul's former additional private secretaries Rajan S Lala and D D Arora and assistant private secretary S L Yadav.

Both the former ministers would be charged with criminal misconduct and criminal breach of trust for providing ''undue advantage'' in the allotment of shops to some persons, including a servant who was working at the residence of Sheila Kaul and the mother and son of her secretaries Rajan Lala and Arora respectively.

The sources said the accused entered into a criminal conspiracy in pursuance of which Sheila Kaul, in her capacity as minister, sanctioned 42 shops, including seven in the posh Lodhi Road complex market.

Thungon allegedly got allotted two shops in the name of one L Tsering and Krishna in Pleasure Garden market by concealing the real identities of the allottees.

The applications for these allotments were received by both the former ministers directly from the aspirants.

''The antecedents of the allottees were not verified and the allotments were made arbitrarily,'' the sources said.

The CBI has already conducted searches at the residences of the two former ministers, besides filing a first information report in 1996.

Sheila Kaul resigned as Himachal Pradesh governor in 1996 following her indictment by the Supreme Court in connection with another case in which she had been charged with making out-of-turn allotment of thousands of residential quarters for government staff.

The Supreme Court had held Sheila Kaul prima facie guilty of misuse of her office and nepotism for ''extraneous considerations.''

Justices Kuldip Singh and Justice B L Hansaria had observed on November 6, 1996, that Sheila Kaul had been more callous than former petroleum minister Satish Sharma, who had been charged with showing official favour in the allotment of petrol pumps.

''In Captain Sharma's case there was no pecuniary loss caused to the government but in this case this is very clear. This is our prima facie view,'' the judges had observed.

On Kaul's contention that none of the allottees was known to her, the judges observed that the CBI report had clearly indicated the former minister made the allotments to her close friends and relatives.

''In our view, you squarely come within the ambit of imposition of exemplary damages if the charges were proved," the judges had stated.


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