Former Punjab industries and commerce minister, Sunder Sham Arora was arrested on Saturday night while attempting to bribe an assistant inspector general of the vigilance bureau in Zirakpur, a senior officer of the agency said on Sunday.
Arora (62) is facing multiple vigilance inquiries related to a disproportionate assets case filed in connection with irregularities in allotment of industrial plots under the Punjab Small Industries and Export Corporation (PSIEC) and the sale of a 32-acre commercial plot to a reality firm in Mohali in 2020.
Vigilance bureau director, Varinder Kumar, said that a case was registered against Arora under section 8 ((taking gratification, in order, by corrupt or illegal means, to influence public servant)) of the Prevention of Corruption Act based on the statement of Manmohan Kumar, AIG flying squad, Vigilance Bureau, Punjab.
Raids were also conducted on Saturday night at premises linked to Arora and his family members in Hoshiarpur On Sunday, Arora’s personal assistant, Mani, was also arrested from his Hoshiarpur home.
The agency also recovered ₹50 lakh from Arora’s possession during the arrest, which it said was to be used to bribe Kumar.
A court in Mohali on Sunday sent Arora to three-day police custody, although vigilance officials had sought five-day remand contending that they have recovered fresh documents of various projects in the tricity (Chandigarh-Mohali-Panchkula) area after taking him into custody.
Outside the court, Arora refused to comment on the matter.
The former minister, who owns several educational institutes, a hospital and two banquet halls in Hoshiarpur, represented the Hoshiarpur assembly segment in 2012 and 2017 as a Congress representative and served as minister from 2018 to 2021. After losing the 2022 election, he had joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
He is the fourth former minister to have been booked by the state’s vigilance bureau recently.
In court, the vigilance bureau said they need to investigate the source of the ₹1 crore Arora had allegedly offered to Manmohan.
But the former minister’s counsel, HS Dhanoa, countered that the bureau already had all of Arora’s bank details.
HS Saini, the counsel for Arora, argued that the bureau had not found anything other than a note-counting machine and a passport from Arora’s house and asked that his client not remain in the police custody for long.
Citing Arora’s ill health, the counsels also moved an application seeking that he be given proper medication in custody.
Congress’s Partap Singh Bajwa, who is the leader of Opposition in Punjab assembly, said: “The arrest of the BJP leader Sunder Sham Arora in an alleged corruption case by the state vigilance bureau is fine, but what about cabinet minister Fauja Singh Sarari? Bhagwant Mann should not indulge in cherry picking or a ‘pick & choose’ policy when it comes down to eliminating corruption. Sarari does not deserve to be in govt even for a minute.”
Punjab minister and Hoshiarpur MLA Brham Shankar Jimpa said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) should introspect on its leaders.
“The biggest question is for the BJP who inducted former Congress leader Arora into their party fold. Arora just went to BJP with a single to aim, to save his skin from the enforcement directorate. Our party has zero tolerance over corruption.”
Punjab BJP president Ashwini Sharma hit out at the AAP alleging ‘vendetta politics’.
“The AAP government should also take action against their own minister, Fauja Singh Sarari, over the alleged audio tapes, with the same pace of action they have taken against Arora. BJP has zero tolerance over the corruption but there should not be any vendetta against anyone.”