STATE TIMES NEWS
JAMMU: After 24 years of filing of charge-sheet by the Crime Branch Jammu in the then much publicised ‘Excise scam 1995-96’, the Court on Wednesday found the accused prima facie guilty of commission of offences of cheating and forgery which had caused loss of around Rs 3 crore to the government .The order in this regard was announced by Additional Sessions Judge Jammu Tahir Khurshid Raina today on virtual mode. However, charge will now be framed against accused on next date of hearing, provided physical hearing in courts will start.As per details, a scam in the Excise Department Jammu surfaced in 1995-96, then popularly called Excise scam which caused around Rs 3 crore loss to government exchequer. The scam was related to payment of contract bid of country liquor vends which was then allotted by Government to M/s Kuldip Singh and Co, for supply of country liquor vends to six different groups in Jammu province.The contract bid amount fixed to be given by aforesaid firm to the Excise department was Rs 13,23,00,000 (Rupees Thirteen crore, twenty three lakh) which was to be paid by the firm in 24 fortnight installments first starting from April 1995 to 31st March 1996.The bid money was to be deposited in banks and treasuries, and thereafter their receipts and vouchers were to be presented before Excise Office Jammu to get permit of equal quantity of liquor to be purchased from Ware House on still head price. A bulk of more than 17,000 ltr liquor was allotted to the firm against above quoted bid money.However, at end of financial year, DC Excise Jammu made a verification of bid amount paid by the firm. During verification, he found some receipts and vouchers doubtful and sent them to concerned treasury and banks for verification, during which it was found that there is a huge variation in the amount paid by firm and that shown in those vouchers and receipts presented to Excise office with a requisition memo for grant of permit for purchasing liquor. For instance they deposited 1 lakh in the bank, but on voucher got from the bank added on more zero to it making it 10 lakh. This illegal practice continued throughout the year causing loss of about Rs 3 crore to Excise Department Jammu.On surfacing of this fraud, a complaint was filed by the then Deputy Commissioner Excise Jammu J S Modi at Crime Branch Jammu, after which a FIR vide No. 8 /1996 was registered against the firm for commission of various offences under Sections 409, 420, 467, 468, 471, 477-A & 120-B of RPC . On basis of investigation done by Crime Branch Jammu, chargesheet was filed against 16 accused persons for commission of offences, including Hansraj Mangotra (Retired IAS), Manoj Mangotra, son of Hansraj Mangotra, Amardeep Sharma, son of Manmohan Sharma, Kuldip Singh, son of Sarak Dev Singh Jamwal, Rashpal Singh, son of Gian Singh (Dead), Rameshwar Singh, son of Gian Singh, Ripu Daman Sharma, son of Manmohan Sharma, Ashok Aggarwal, son of Shadi Lal (Dead), Sudershan Singh Jamwal, son of Narinder Singh, Thakur Shiv Ram, son of Rangu Ram (Dead), Mool Raj son of Amar Nath (Dead), Sunil Masih Matto, son of Safiq Masih Matto, Surinder Singh, son of Balwant Singh (Dead), Narinder Sharma son of Isher Dass, Sardari Lal, son of Isher (Dead) and Randhir Singh, son of Gian Singh.During pendency of charge-sheet in Sessions Court Jammu, accused Kuldip Singh filed bail application in High Court Jammu, after which the Court called the report from Vigilance Organisation. After filing of report, the High Court directed Vigilance Organisation to register the case and make fresh investigations. The Court also stayed the proceedings in first charge-sheet pending in Court of Sessions Judge Jammu.Acting on directions of court, the second FIR 34/ 1997 was registered by Vigilance Organsiation and investigation ensued afresh in case. Finally chargesheet was submitted in the court of Special Judge Anti-corruption Jammu in 1998 against J S Modi, the then DC Excise Jammu and other officials of the Excise Department along with all other accused who were earlier chargesheeted by the Crime Branch Jammu for offences under Prevention of Corruption Act and other offences under penal code.In the meantime, J S Modi challenged second FIR and sanction of Government for his prosecution in the High Court and same got decided in his favour.Second FIR and chargesheet based on it got also quashed by HC in 2005 which was later upheld by DB in 2016.On basis of mandate of judgment of High Court given in case of J S Modi, the Anti-Corruption Court Jammu discharged all 24 accused from charges on the issue of pendency of first charge-sheet. This order of Anti-Corruption Court didn’t get challenged in High Court by Vigilance Organisation and attained finality. However, in the same order, the Anti-Corruption Court observed that by dismissal of second charge-sheet, the first charge-sheet automatically revives and sent it back to Sessions Court Jammu for further proceedings, which forwarded it to Addl. Sessions Court Jammu for further proceedings in 2016. So in totality, the charge-sheet which is the first charge-sheet in scam, took 24 years to get opened for debate on charges.Finally court observed that of the basis of prima facie appreciation of material on record, offences of cheating and forgery are made out against 10 surviving accused out of 16 and charges will be framed against them on the next date as the physical hearing in cases stand dispensed within courts on account of pandemic COVID-19.
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