Congress leaders in Punjab on Wednesday demanded a probe against Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh, piling pressure on him even after he was shorn of his additional charge as financial commissioner.
Three ruling party MLAs, including a minister, asked Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to order an inquiry, accusing the state's most senior bureaucrat for alleged loss of excise revenue.
One of them, Gidderbaha legislator Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, also asked the CM to remove the bureaucrat from the post of chief secretary.
Warring's demand for a probe was backed by Jails Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and Urmur legislator Sangat Singh Gilzian.
Warring and Gilzian are advisors to the chief minister. Karan Avtar Singh was relieved Tuesday night of his charge as financial commissioner after two ministers declared that they would not attend any meeting in which he participated.
Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal and Technical Education Minister Charanjit Singh Channi had taken exception to the bureaucrat's unacceptable behavior at a meeting last week where relief for liquor vend owners in the post-lockdown period was discussed.
In a tweet on Wednesday, Warring asked the chief minister to order an inquiry against the CS for revenue loss of over Rs 600 crore. I request you to kindly remove him from his post of Chief Secretary so that he is unable to influence the enquiry," he tweeted.
Jails minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa backed the demand for an inquiry, saying it will ensure that someone is held responsible for the revenue loss in the excise department over the past three years.
Sangat Singh Gilzian said he agreed with Warring and Randhawa on the inquiry into the alleged losses in the department. After Saturday's showdown between the CS and the ministers, Warring had also alleged that the bureaucrat's son has an undeclared business interest in a Punjab distillery.
Warring on Tuesday night thanked Amarinder Singh for stripping the CS of his additional charge. On Tuesday, Congress MP Partap Singh Bajwa had also sought a probe into the functioning of the excise and taxation department while blaming an alleged government-contractor nexus behind the missed revenue targets in the past three years.
The showdown between the ministers and the CS is said to have taken place after Technical Education Minister Charanjit Singh Channi opposed any relief for liquor vend owners in the excise policy under discussion.
The CS had allegedly made some curt remarks after Channi spoke at Saturday's pre-cabinet meeting. Badal and Channi had then walked out, reportedly followed after some time by the other ministers.
This led to the postponement of a Cabinet meeting scheduled for that day. The CS did not attend the reconvened Cabinet meeting Monday on the state's excise policy. Badal and Channi gave an ultimatum of sorts to the chief minister there, saying he should either call them or the CS for any meetings in the future.
The finance minister told reporters then that the behaviour" of Karan Avtar Singh before the cabinet, his body language and the manner in which he talked did not behove the chief secretary's office.
He did not share details on how exactly the CS had misbehaved. The CS was on Tuesday night relieved of his additional charge of Financial Commissioner, Taxation, which has now been handed over to Principal Secretary (Water Resources) A Venu Prasad.
Karan Avtar Singh is a 1984-batch IAS officer who was handpicked by Amarinder Singh in 2017 for the chief secretary's post. He is due to retire in August.