Justice AN Jindal (retd), who had given a clean chit to Shiromani Akali Dal minister Sikandar Singh Maluka in the alleged multi-crore scam of government school books, is set to become the chairman of Punjab Value Added Tax (VAT) Tribunal.
Apart from the 63-year-old justice Jindal, justices SP Bangarh, Rakesh Kumar Garg, LN Mittal and Jora Singh — also retired from the high court — had applied for the post. Also in the race were three retired Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers of Punjab cadre, BK Srivastva (1977 batch), GS Sandhu (1978 batch) and AR Talwar (1980 batch), top government sources said.
The post has been lying vacant since February. The chairman or a member of the tribunal holds office for three years from the date of assuming charge. The VAT Tribunal chairman is either a retired judge of the high court or either a retired or serving IAS officer of the rank of chief secretary of the state government or secretary in the union government.
A high-powered committee comprising chief secretary, financial commissioner (taxation), principal secretary (welfare), principal secretary (personnel) and excise and taxation commissioner had prepared the panel of eight candidates — five retired high court judges and three retired IAS officers — with the name of justice Jindal figuring on the top. The list was sent to the Punjab and Haryana high court acting chief justice on October 7 for recommending the name of the VAT Tribunal chairman. “We have received the file from the high court which has recommended justice AN Jindal’s name,” a senior government official said.
The file will be placed before deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is also the excise and taxation minister, for giving his nod and formally issuing the appointment letter to justice Jindal.
Justice Jindal was elevated to the high court in April 2006 and had retired in May 2013.
Later, the Parkash Singh Badal government had appointed justice Jindal to hold a judicial inquiry into the alleged irregularities — when Sikandar Singh Maluka was the education minister — in purchasing government school library books and science lab kits worth Rs. 17 crore. The opposition Congress had alleged that justice Jindal had deep connections with the ruling Akali Dal-BJP government and had asked him to recuse himself from the inquiry.