Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann on Sunday said his government will recover the Rs 55 lakh spent on the "cosy stay" of gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari in Rupnagar jail during the previous Congress government from former chief minister Amarinder Singh and then jail minister Sukhjinder Randhawa.
If the money is not paid by Singh, who is now a BJP leader, and Randhawa, a Congress MLA, then their pension and other facilities will be stopped, Mann said.
Ansari was in Rupnagar jail from January 2019 to April 2021 in an extortion case registered in Mohali before the Supreme Court directed the Punjab government to give custody of the gangster-turned-politician to Uttar Pradesh Police.
The apex court had also noted that the custody was being denied to the UP Police on trivial grounds under the guise of medical issues. Ansari was later moved to a jail in Banda in Uttar Pradesh.
In a tweet on Sunday, Mann said, "A (legal) fee of Rs 55 lakh for keeping UP gangster (Mukhtar) Ansari in a Punjab jail and fighting his case in the Supreme Court to fulfil friendship will not be paid from the Punjab treasury."
"This money will be recovered from the then home minister Captain Amarinder Singh and the then jail minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa. In case of non-payment, their pension and other government facilities will be cancelled," he said.
Later, in a statement, Mann said, “The state government will not pay Rs 55 lakh spent on the cosy stay of dreaded criminal Mukhtar Ansari in the jail."
"This was a serious crime against the state and its people,” said Mann, adding that those involved in it will have to pay for it.
Mann alleged that for reasons best known to them, both Singh and Randhawa extended “largesse” to the notorious gangster for his “comfortable stay” in the jail of Punjab.
"Why should the state waste taxpayers' money in this way just because those in power at that time had strong a bond with Ansari. This is brazen loot of the public money which cannot be tolerated," he said.
In April, Mann had said that he refused to clear a file with a bill of Rs 55 lakh as fees of the expensive lawyers hired by the previous government to defend Ansari. He also spoke about recovering the money from the then ministers.
Apart from ensuring a comfortable stay, the then government had ensured this "hardcore criminal" does not face any difficulty in jail and escaped the legal action against him, Mann had said.
While reacting to Mann's statement in April, the former Punjab chief minister asked the AAP leader to understand the system before speaking on the matter.
"Mann has just spent nine months in office while I was at the helm for over nine years," Singh said, suggesting that he had more experience than Mann when it came to running a government.
"Whenever any police investigation takes place, somebody who is in Tihar or any other jail, the investigating officer has every right to call for that man to come for investigation. If he has committed any crime in Punjab... then he is brought on transit remand," the former CM said.
"If Ansari is sitting there (Rupnagar jail) for two years, an investigation is going on and once that is done, they will decide. This is a system which works. This system is not a new thing. I think Mr (CM) Mann should understand this and first he should understand (the issue), then he should speak, Singh had said.
-With PTI Input