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Punjab Health minister sacked by CM Mann over corruption charge, arrested

Punjab Health minister sacked by CM Mann over corruption charge, arrested
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Chandigarh: Punjab Health minister Vijay Singla was sacked from the state Cabinet on Tuesday over graft charges, and was arrested shortly afterwards, with Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann asserting his government has zero-tolerance for corruption.

The chief minister himself announced Singla's removal from the Cabinet which was sworn-in just two months ago after the Aam Aadmi Party stormed to power, riding on the agenda of corruption-free governance, and other poll promises.

Mann said the decision was made after he came to know that Singla was allegedly demanding a "one per cent commission" in tenders and purchases of his department.

As he announced Singla's sacking, Mann also said he also directed the police to register a case against the minister.

Soon afterwards, the 52-year-old Singla was arrested by the Punjab Police, sources said.

Singla was taken to the Phase VII police station in Mohali. An FIR number 65 under Sections 7 and 8 of the Prevention of Corruption Act has been registered against him. He was later presented before the court of Ravtesh Inderjit Singh, which sent him to three-day police remand till May 27.

Singla, a dental surgeon, was elected to the Assembly from the Mansa seat, defeating Punjabi singer and Congress candidate Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu, also known as Sidhu Moosewala.

Official sources said Mann came to know about Singla's alleged wrongdoings through an official 10 days ago.

The CM assured the official that he was with him and that he does not need to fear anyone.

With the help of the official, an operation was conducted after which it came to fore that Singla and his aides were demanding a "one percent commission".

It is learnt that an audio recording was also made which purportedly implicates Singla.

"A case was brought to my notice in which one minister in my government was demanding a one per cent commission from each tender or purchase of his department. I took this case very seriously," Mann said in a video message on Tuesday.

"I am taking strict action against that minister and I am removing him from the Cabinet. I am also giving directions to the police to register a case against him," Mann said. "That minister's name is Vijay Singla. He was the Health minister."

Mann said Singla has admitted to his alleged wrongdoings.

Asserting that the AAP government has zero-tolerance to corruption, Mann said the party convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had also removed his Food and Supplies minister in 2015 over corruption, and handed over the case to the CBI.

Kejriwal lauded Mann for his decision and said corruption is a betrayal with the country.

Addressing a virtual press conference, the Delhi chief minister said his AAP is a diehard honest party and will not tolerate corrupt activities.

"We will not spare even our own leaders if they are found to be involved in corruption. We are proud of Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann who immediately removed his minister found involved in corruption," he said.

Kejriwal said corruption is a betrayal with the country and Bharat Mata. "We will rather die than betray the country." Mann said the decision to oust Singla was historic. "I will not tolerate corruption of a single rupee. We want to turn Punjab into a corruption-free state."

The Punjab chief minister said some rival parties will now try to corner the AAP by pointing out that one of its ministers was found involved in corruption within just two months of coming to power.

"But only I knew this case. Neither the media nor the opposition knew it. It is me who is taking action," he said, alleging the Opposition, including his predecessors, has always sheltered and promoted corrupt leaders.

Mann said he could have easily buried this matter but by doing so he would have "betrayed" his conscience and broken the trust of lakhs of people. Mann said his government will not allow corrupt practices, and warned that no one indulging in such activities will be spared.

He said people have chosen the Aam Aadmi Party for a transparent and corruption-free system and he is duty-bound to fulfil the aspirations of every Punjabi.

Reacting to the dismissal of Singla from the Cabinet, AAP MP Raghav Chadha lauded CM Mann, and said the AAP has zero tolerance towards corruption.

The Aam Aadmi Party had bagged 92 of the 117 seats in Punjab, decimating the Congress, the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bahujan Samaj Party combine, and the BJP-Punjab Lok Congress-SAD (Sanyukt) alliance in the 2022 state assembly polls.

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