Chandigarh, April 27 (IANS) They are among the most heavily protected people in the country with gun-totting commandos, bulletproof vehicles, a cavalcade of security vehicles, fortified houses and advance parties around them at all time. But, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal say that they are unable to appear before a court here due to "security reasons".
The father-son duo has been dragged to court by a former Punjab government officer who filed a defamation and recovery suit against them 12 long years ago in 2001. The Badals, who have been in power in Punjab since 2007, are demanding that their statements be recorded outside the district courts complex here due to "security reasons".
The Badals have sought exemption from personal hearing in the matter citing "security reasons" through their lawyers. The latest hearing of the case, held this week in the court here, was adjourned till May 28 after Badals' lawyers said that they had challenged an earlier court order in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
The local court had earlier dismissed an appeal by the Badals for recording their statements outside the district court here through a local commissioner. The Badals have challenged this court order.
The officer, Jagdip Singh Chowhan, has claimed in his suit that he had spent Rs 2.32 lakhs from his pocket during the two Lok Sabha elections in 1998 and 1999 and a by-election in 1999 that Sukhbir Badal had contested. He claimed that Parkash Singh Badal, who was then the chief minister 1997-2002), had directed him to carry out the work, including issuing advertisements in newspapers and arranging hospitality for mediapersons, during the elections.
None of this was part of his official duties.
Chowhan, a former additional director of the Information and Public Relations Department, has filed a recovery suit of only Rs.82,000. He claims he has not sought the recovery of the entire Rs 2.32 lakh keeping in mind the court fee to be first deposited.
While Sukhbir Badal is the president of the ruling Akali Dal in Punjab, Parkash Singh Badal is its patron. The father and son are among the richest politicians in Punjab - and in the country.
The Badals are protected round-the-clock by elite National Security Guard (NSG) commandos, as also the Punjab Police.
"They (Badals) are seeking exemption from court appearance only to ensure that the public which comes to the court complex is not harassed and affected by the security accompanying them (Badals). They are not trying to avoid recording their statements," a close aide of the Badal family said.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)