New Delhi(PTI): The CBI on Wednesday arrested S Bhaskararaman, a close associate of Lok Sabha MP Karti Chidambaram, in connection with a Rs 50 lakh alleged bribery case for clearing visas of 263 Chinese nationals working at Talwandi Sabo Power Ltd in Punjab, officials said.

The bribery incident is reported to have taken place in 2011 when Karti Chidambaram's father P Chidambaram was the Union home minister.

The CBI took Bhaskararaman for questioning late Tuesday night and he was placed under arrest in the early hours of Wednesday, the officials said.

The agency has alleged that Bhaskaraman was approached by Vikas Makharia, the then associate vice president of Talwandi Sabo Power Ltd (TSPL), for the reissue of project visas for 263 Chinese workers working at the Mansa-based power plant which was in the process of being set up.

The CBI FIR, which contains a findings of the investigating officer who probed the PE, has alleged that Makharia approached Karti through his "close associate/front man" Bhaskararaman, the officials said.

"They devised a back-door way to defeat the purpose of ceiling (maximum of project visas permissible to the company's plant) by granting permission to reuse 263 project visas allotted to the said Chinese company's officials," they said.

Project visas were a special type of visa introduced in 2010 for the power and steel sector for which detailed guidelines were issued during P Chidambaram's tenure as the home minister but there was no provision of reissue of project visas, the FIR alleged.

"As per prevalent guidelines, deviation in rare and exceptional cases could be considered and granted only with the approval of the Home Secretary. However, in view of the above circumstances, the deviation in terms of reuse of project visas is likely to be approved by the then Home Minister...," it further alleged.

Makharia allegedly submitted a letter to the Home Ministry on July 30, 2011, seeking approval to reuse the project visas allotted to his company, which was approved within a month and permission was issued, the officials said.

On August 17, 2011, Makharia, on being directed by Bhaskararaman, sent a copy of the above letter dated July 30, 2011 to him through e-mail which was forwarded to Karti...Bhakaskararaman after discussion with P Chidambaram, the then Home Minister, demanded an illegal gratification of Rs 50 lakh for ensuring the approval," the FIR alleged.

It alleged that the payment of the said bribe was routed from TSPL to Karti and Bhaskararaman through Mumbai-based Bell Tools Ltd with payments camouflaged under two invoices raised for consultancy and out of pocket expenses for Chinese visas related works.

Makharia had later thanked Karti and Bhaskararaman on email, it added.

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New Delhi(PTI): The Union Home Ministry has asked all states that there should be no delay in registration of FIRs in cases of crimes against SCs and STs and closely monitor such cases where investigation goes beyond two months.

In a communication to all states and Union Territories, the home ministry also said that the district Superintendent of Police (SP) must ensure timely attendance and protection of all prosecution witnesses including police officers and official witnesses for speedy trial of cases related to crimes against Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.

"There should be no delay in the registration of FIR in cases of crimes against SCs and STs. Ensure proper supervision at appropriate level of cases of crimes against SCs and STs, from the recording of FIR to the disposal of the case by the competent court," it said in the communication accessed by PTI.

The home ministry said the delays in investigation (beyond 60 days from the date of filing of FIR) shall be monitored at the district and state level in every three months, and wherever required, special DSPs shall be appointed to expedite the process of investigation.

"The authorities concerned in the state governments must ensure proper follow up of reports of cases of atrocities against SCs and STs received from various sources, including the National Commission for SCs and STs," the communication said.

The home ministry said atrocity-prone areas may be identified for taking preventive measures to save life and property of the members of the SC and ST communities. Adequate number of police personnel, fully equipped with policing infrastructure, should be posted in the police stations in such vulnerable areas.

"Delay in trial of cases of crimes against SCs and STs may be reviewed on a regular basis in the monitoring committee or monthly meetings chaired by district and sessions judge attended by District Magistrate, Superintendent of Police and Public Prosecutor of the district," it said.

The union government attaches the highest importance to matters relating to the prevention of crime, and therefore, it has been advising the state governments and UT administrations from time to time to give more focused attention to the administration of the criminal justice system with emphasis on prevention and control of crime including crimes against SCs and STs, the communication said.

The government of India is deeply concerned with the crimes against the weaker sections of society, particularly the SCs and STs and would therefore re-emphasise that urgent action should be taken by the state governments and UT administrations in such cases, it said.

The home ministry said the administration and police should play a more proactive role in detection and investigation of crimes against SCs and STs and ensure that there is no under reporting.

The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (POA Act) has been amended in 2015 to make it more effective.

New offences such as tonsuring of head, moustache, or similar acts, which are derogatory to the dignity of members of SCs and STs have been added. The punishments have also been enhanced. Provisions of special courts and speedy trial have been added.

The Act was further amended in 2018. Section 18A has been inserted whereby conduct of preliminary enquiry before registration of FIR, or to seek approval of any authority to arrest an accused is no longer required.