Chandigarh: Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA Amit Rattan Kotfatta, arrested by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau Thursday, has been accused of forcing a sarpanch’s husband to pay a bribe over three meetings, in order to release funds for panchayat development works, according to the FIR, accessed by ThePrint.
Rattan, the legislator from Bathinda rural assembly constituency, has been arrested on the complaint of Pritpal Kumar, husband of Seema Rani, the sarpanch of Ghuda village in Bathinda.
The AAP MLA was produced in court Thursday and sent to police remand for 5 days.
The latest development comes a week after the bureau arrested Rattan’s close aide Rashim Garg from the Bathinda circuit house for allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs 4 lakh. The MLA, who was present at the circuit house during Garg’s arrest, was also questioned in the matter. The bureau recovered the money from Garg’s car, which was parked inside the circuit house.
In a video message released after Garg’s arrest, Rattan said the latter is not his personal aide and he has nothing to do with the case.
According to the FIR, dated 16 February, Pritpal Kumar approached the bureau after Rattan demanded Rs 5 lakh to release a grant of Rs 25 lakh for the Ghuda village panchayat.
The day after Garg’s arrest, the state opposition attacked the Bhagwant Mann-led Punjab AAP government, demanding Rattan’s arrest.
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‘MLA met the complainant thrice’
According to the FIR, Pritpal Kumar told the vigilance bureau that he first met the MLA and Garg in October last year at the Bathinda circuit house where the MLA demanded Rs 5 lakh.
The complainant, the FIR adds, said he had approached the MLA as all development works in the village had come to a standstill because the panchayat didn’t have enough funds to clear payments for previous works, an amount totalling Rs 12-13 lakh.
In October, the MLA allegedly called the block development and panchayat officer (BDPO) concerned to the circuit house and asked him to release a part of the payment to the village panchayat. After the BDPO made payments to the tune of Rs 5-6 lakh, Kumar, the FIR says, received a call from Garg demanding Rs 1.5 lakh, which he said was a share of the payment that had been made by the BDPO.
When Kumar did not make the payment, Garg called him again, saying that the MLA was upset with him for not making the payment as promised and threatened him to do so immediately, the FIR adds. The complainant then sought a meeting with the MLA, and a second meeting took place at a private residence in Bathinda on 10 February, the FIR states.
According to the complainant, as quoted in the FIR, during this meeting, the MLA again put forth a demand of Rs 5 lakh, adding that a portion of that amount be paid immediately, failing which further funds would not be released by the BDPO.
The complainant has claimed in the FIR that he recorded the entire conversation of the 10 February meeting.
The complainant last week released an audio clip of his alleged conversation with the MLA as proof that the latter had demanded money to release the funds. ThePrint hasn’t been able to independently verify the authenticity of the audio clip.
The FIR adds that the complainant did not want to pay the bribe amount but was left with no option but to gather the money and give it to the duo.
After Garg’s arrest on 16 February, Kumar told media persons about the third alleged meeting. He said he had first met the MLA at the circuit house earlier on the day of Garg’s arrest, and told the latter that he had brought the money. “The MLA asked me to hand over the money to Garg,” Kumar said.
(Edited by Anumeha Saxena)
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