TIPS FOR AN EFFECTIVE INVESTIGATION

1.Examine all sources of information available;
2.Constitute a team of investigators equipped with a dicta phone(tape recorder) and a camera;
3.Visit the spot of occurrence as soon as possible and try to involve general public to protest against the incident. Contact the victims or their kith and kin and instil confidence among them.
4.Make complete notes of all statements and investigations recorded during the inspection to the spot of occurrence. Take photographs of the scene and try to record the statements of the victims and witnesses and preserve it;
5.Convince the victim or his/her relatives that justice would be done to them and obtain power of attorney, if they are willing to avail free legal aid from the organisation;
6.Prepare a questionaire to be asked to the official after going through the statements and facts noticed during investigation. Take prior appointment from the official concerned and record his official version in the tape recorder or note down exact words spoken by the official;
7.In case of a custodial death, ensure that the post mortem and inquest proceedings are carried on without any fear or favour. Obtain the copies of First Information Report, complaint of the victim or his relatives, post mortem report and inquest report;
8.Prepare investigation report in detail incorporating facts under following heads:-

(i) Introduction
(ii) Name,address and details of the victim
(iii) List of persons whom you contacted during investigation
(iv) Facts
(v) Eye-witness account
(vi) Police version
(vii) Police action
(viii) Findings
(ix) Recommendations
(x) Conclusions

DEATH PENALTY—AN AFFRONT TO HUMAN DIGNITY

The Indian Constitution protects the right to life enshrined in Article 21, but for long the death penalty is being awarded by the Law courts unaware of the trauma and mental torture every awardee undergoes till he is executed. Even Section 302 of Indian Penal Code provides for punishment upto death to the convict. In 1999 the Union government proposed for extending the death penalty for the crime of rape--- a proposal that drew country wide criticism. Although the apex Law Court of India, Supreme Court of India has held on many occasions that death penalty can only be awarded in the “rarest of rare cases”, yet the number of persons being brought in this category is indeed depressing. The apex court falling prey to its human tendencies have, in many cases, extended the limitation of “rarest of rare case” and awarded the most inhuman punishment of death penalty even to such cases where only one political leader was killed, but took a lenient view in cases where many persons of a particular religious community were burnt alive in riots case and commuted the death sentence to that of life imprisonment.

On the one hand, we worship the father of the nation, Mahatama Gandhi for his principle of ahimsa, but on the other hand, have simply forgotten that he gave us the golden rule of humanity, “Hate the sin, not the sinner !” When we hear about a murderer, rarely do we understand what drove him to murder; more often we wish to kill him. The feeling toward a murderer, which drives us to champion execution, is identical to the wish for revenge the murderer feels for what he believes to be the horrendous injustice in his life. We feel as murderous towards him as he do toward those he had killed. This makes a murderer, if he is imprisoned, even more murderous. Just as the murderer’s murder accomplishes nothing, so too the death penalty has not in any way succeeded in preventing crime.

In plain words, if I have to define the curse of death penalty, I would say, it is a murder by the State. It certainly adds judicial murders to social murders. No Law or custom, for that matter can justify the uncivilized rule--- Blood for Blood ! Any country which still carry out such punishment are condemned as medieval. If a pre-meditated,planned murder shocks us for its cold-blooded cruelty, because of its intentional taking awy of someone’s life which can never be given back. Is not judicial execution more shocking—since it is the most pre-meditated,planned and cold blooded taking of life than can ever be ? Any Law or judicial pronouncement which justifies the awarding of death sentence must and should be condemned and society’s role in opposing such act takes the center stage. Each member of the intelligensia must come forward and express their concern that death penalty is not only contrary to justice, but also contrary to the law as well. It needs to be borne in mind that in one case the Supreme Court says that a sentence of death should not be given as a rule but only in exceptional cases and in another case, it does not feel hesitant to treat it as an exceptional case, without applying its mind toward the human psychology, his feelings and emotions. In the case of Kehar Singh and Satwant Singh, the alleged assassin of the former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the Supreme Court became a party to the political vendetta or social hysteria and saw the two accused as enemy of the deceased leader of the country and without any whims or reason ordered them to be hanged till death ! Many in India feel that Kehar Singh, and Satwant Singh were wrongly convicted and hanged. A day may come when the Supreme Court too regrets its confirmation of Kehar Singh’s death sentence. But can it then give back Kehar Singh his life ? Why then persist with this pretence of infallibility which is assumed by the courts when they sentence people to death ? Be it as it may, but why did they decide to distinguish the same crime if committed by Kishori, the person who burnt alive four members of a Sikh family in the anti-sikh riots in New Delhi, and commuted his death sentence to that of life imprisonment. Was the life of those four sikhs less valuable than that of Indira Gandhi ? If the dastardly act of burning alive four innocent people can be brought out of the category of “rarest of rare case” as they call it, Why can’t the apex court take such a view in all cases of murder ? A sane penal system must look at these conditions rather than to increase the weight of punishment to reduce the incidence of crime. The policy adopted by the Law courts in the country have brutalise the judicial system solving the problem of crime.

One thing we all must bear in mind that no punishment can act as a deterrent for the criminal. With the passage of time, it has been shown that the deterrent theory is not only outdated but without basis in a civilized society like ours. Had the punishment of death a deterrent, then the number of murders and serious crimes ought to have come down. Yet such number have not come down. To the contrary it is on the rise. Further, if justice means redressal of a wrong and not revenge, can the taking of a life be the answer for taking another’s life ? Deterrence also means,”setting an example” so that others will not repeat the same crime. Is that ethically justifiable ? If A has commited a crime, he must be punished for that crime. But is it permissible to punish X so as to set an example that will deter Y or Z from commiting a similar crime in the future ? How can justice hold me responsible for what others may choose to do tomorrow ? Thus, the deterrence function of death penalty is surely not an argument in its favor. In fact, it is wholly unjust to regard a criminal as a born inhuman. The propounders of reformist theory have a solid argument. It is possible that by keeping a person alive and his conscience haunting him every minute of the wrong done by him, he can be cured and his criminal state of mind is reformed enabling him to become a law-abiding citizen and lead a normal life. But killing a human being in a most gruesome fashion in public gaze, lower our eyes in shame, every time a human being is hanged. To think otherwise, is only to brutalize the system of justice, which should be humane and never brutal.

To conclude, I must say that we Indians love to regard ourselves as the most civilized country in the world in terms of humane and spiritual values. Can then we continue to hang people in the name of justice when nearly a quarter of the world has already stopped doing so ? So, for the sake of civilization, we all must strive for doing away of death penalty from the Statute books, leaving life imprisonment as the maximum punishment for any crime. Let KARUNA always prevail upon every Judge while awarding sentence to the accused.

CASE HISTORY OF CUSTODIAL DEATH OF SARABJEET SINGH ALIAS SURJIT SINGH OF VALTOHA, DISTT.AMRITSAR

On Ist November, 1993, a news report, “ killed once, twice.....” was published in The Tribune, published from Chandigarh wherein Surjit Singh alias Sarabjeet Singh of Valtoha was shown killed twice. The Supreme Court took suo moto notice of the news item and ordered a CBI inquiry on I.11.1993. The C.B.I. inquiry held that Sarabjeet Singh alias Surjit Singh, a young boy of Village Valtoha in Amritsar district was picked up by a police party comprising Sub-Inspector Sita Ram, head constable Harjinder Singh, Constable Punjab Singh and Constable Manohar Singh on 30th October, 1993 from his house. He was badly tortured in there after shot, illegal custody and his condition became serious. The policemen thought him dead. They brought him to Civil Hospital, Patti, district Amritsar at about 9 P.M.on 30.10.1993 for a postmortem examination. But the doctors found him alive at the postmortem table. He was immediately administered glucose and he gained consciousness. His parents at Valtoha were informed about his well being by the doctors. But as soon as the news reached the police officers who had brought him, they informed Sub-Inspector Sita Ram who rushed back to the hospital, forcibly took away Surjit Singh and after few minutes brought his dead body for the post mortem. Incidently, two lawyers of Amritsar, Mahabir Singh Gill and Surinder Pal Singh Ghariala witnessed the whole sordid event and reported the matter to Satya Pal Dang, a veteran CPI leader who brought this matter in the press. On the orders of the Supreme Court, the CBI brought the four police officers to trial for abduction, torture and murder of Surjit Singh in the Court of Additional Sessions Judge, Amritsar.

After trying the four police officers for more than four years, the court of Sh.Jora Singh, Additional Sessions Judge, Amritsar finally held Sub-Inspector Sita Ram guilty of murder under Section 302 IPC and sentenced him to life imprisonment and fine of Rs.2000. He was sentenced to another 10 years of rigorous imprisonment under Section 364 IPC (abduction) with fine of Rs.2000. His three accomplices were however let off by the court vide his order dated 18.5.1997.

CASE HISTORY OF FAKE ENCOUNTER OF A COUPLE IN TILJALA, CALCUTTA

On May 17, 1993, a team of senior police officers led by the then SP Bathinda, S.K. Singh alongwith DSP Sukhdev Singh Chahal, Head Constable Ram Dayal(who was later promoted as ASI), promotee head constable Sukhjivan Singh and promoted Cosntable Darshan Singh went to Calcullta without the knowledge of the West Bengal government and raided a flat in Tiljala locality in the wee hours and dragged out a couple, Mohammad Bashir Ahmad alias Lachmi Singh and his wife Sakina Begum alias Renuka, shot them at point blank range and took away their bodies. The bodies were not recovered. It was alleged that the deceased Lachmi Singh was a Punjab police deserter. The Calcutta police on coming to know of this dastardly act immediately intervened and the whole team of Punjab police was detained by the Police. It was indeed a matter of concern for the KPS Gill on whose orders the cold blooded murders were committed. The then Chief Minister Beant Singh had to assure Jyoti Basu, Chief Minister of West Bengal that in future no policeman from Punjab would step into their territory without informing the local police, before the team was allowed to go.

After few days in May,1993 a public spirited advocate of Delhi, Mr. B.L.Wadhera filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court bringing to its notice the gory killings. The bench of Supreme Court headed by Justice A.H.Ahmadi ordered a C.B.I. probe into the incident. It also observed that : “ If the facts are ultimately established, it would reveal that human life has no value to the men in uniform.” On April 17,1994 the CBI submitted its report on the basis of which the apex court ordered the prosecution of five Punjab police officers named above. On May 2, 1994 the same bench directed the Punjab government to decide the sanction application for prosecution of the five officers moved by the CBI within 15 days.

The Court of Sessions Judge, Calcutta finally proved justified the observation of the Supreme Court by convicting the five police officers and sentencing them to life imprisonment in May, 2000.

 
A force without a soul

Repeated incidents of Custody deaths in Punjab have not only brought the common masses to the street against the inhuman torture techniques adopted by the police, but has also highlighted the role of law enforcing agencies in checking such heinous crime against the humanity. The tall claims of the State government of restoration of rule of law have proved a farce with custodial crime becoming an order of the day. Policemen still consider themselves above the law. They have no fear of law or the Court. They know that they will be exonerated in the name of national security or maintenance of law and order. Their mindset is the same as it was during the earlier days of State terrorism. Their actions are the same. Rather, their authority have become more powerful with no action against their illegal actions. Under these circumstances, can any saner element boast of Punjab’s situation as peaceful?

During the dark days of State brutality in Punjab at its helm, people were less afraid of the satan than of a policeman. It was this fear and frustration, which routed the inhuman Congress government and offered an opportunity to the largest Sikh political party in the state, Shromani Akali Dal to end the Police Raj and establish rule of law. But even after four years of the so-called popular rule in the State, the situation has not changed a wee bit. When more than seventy people have lost their lives in Police custody since the Akali government came into power, it would be great folly to call it a State ruled by law? Where the government is under bounden duty to protect the life and liberty of every citizen, loss of even a single life in Police Custody certainly casts a blur on the government, lest every organ of justice delivery system should bow down in shame. The moot question that arises is that how the situation has been mis-handled that it has became so serious that every person is feeling insecure and prone to police brutality? Is it not a failure of the government where the police force has turned man-eater and the courts and the elected representatives of the people have closed its eyes and ears? The answer to all these questions must be emphatically “betrayal of the oath”.

It is an abysmal state of affairs in Punjab. Not only the government has failed to check its brutal force, but the judiciary or the human rights agencies have miserably failed to show its existence. It seems to be a matter of the past now that the judges were moved on reading the heart rending news of torture deaths in the morning day newspaper and took suo-moto cognizance of the matter. They also do not feel concerned today on learning that innocent people are being killed like animals. One wonders if they would feel disturbed on hearing the wails of torture victims in the Police stations in Punjab. Every Court granting police remand of a suspect fully knows that he is going to be given inhuman third degree treatment. It is their folly to believe that only third degree treatment could extract the truth from the suspect. It is no secret that the first thing a policeman does with the suspect in police remand is to give good bashing and then tell his fault. The title page of this book clearly exhibits the mindset of the police force in the state even today.

The study of recent cases of people being killed in Police custody and in the prisons have given a clear message that whosoever is taken into custody by police is sure to loose his life, lest he is too hard to bear the police torture, no matter, whether he is innocent or too poor to bribe the policemen. Punjab Police, known for its fake encounters, custodial deaths and other heinous crimes, received a big blow when the encounter theory of killing a youth, Kashmir Singh of Pandori Rukman in Hoshiarpur district on 14th March, 1997 came out to be a cold blooded murder. Even the Sessions Court, Hoshiarpur convicted the police party and sentenced them to life imprisonment for the offence of murder. National Human Rights Commission, also awarded a compensation of Rupees five lacs to the next of kin of the deceased. Similarly, the tale of torture methods described by the brother of Devinder Singh alias Bhola, a youth of village Hassanpur in Ropar district who was tortured to death on September 18, 1999 shook the state with grief. The accused policemen have recently been sentenced to life imprisonment for the custodial death. Many victims of police brutality have even gone un-noticed. What was the fault of Iqbal Singh of Jaitu in Faridkot when he was picked up by the Muktsar police on January 5,2001 and was so badly tortured that he died in the lock-up? But the police is so hardened liar that it claimed that the victim had committed suicide by hanging himself in the bathroom of the lock-up. Similar story was cooked up by the Police in the case of Surinder Pal who died in Police Station Dasuya in District Hoshiarpur on 7th January, 2001. The same day Avtar Singh, a youth of Ludhiana was shot dead by a militant turned Police Inspector Gurmeet Singh Pinky in Ludhiana because he objected to their drinking session at a public place. Is the life of these victims so valueless that the State government or the Police authorities could not afford to pay ex-gratia compensation to the next of the kin of the deceased killed by the Policemen ? The tragedy does not end here. Exactly a month later in 2001, Jaspal Singh, a 17 year old Dalit youth of Village Saheri in District Ropar fell to the torture methods of Punjab police and died in Police Station Morinda on 7th February, 2001. To add insult to the injury, every organ of administration including the civil and police administration in the district tried their level best to save their policemen who were responsible for the tragic death. The courts also showed little concern at this dastardly act. Another dalit youth, Madan Lal of Kapurthala was tortured to death in Police Station Kapurthala on 15th February, 2001.

One thing quite similar in all these incidents was that the police authorities and district administration failed to take necessary action against the guilty persons, unless the masses came to the street and protested by laying road blockade, dharna and even gherao the police station. In other words, the public outcries and street protests played an important role for forcing the authorities to take strict action against the erring cops.


BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK”GENESIS OF STATE TERRORISM IN PUNJAB” PUBLISHED BY LAWYERS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS INTERNATIONAL AND RELEASED ON 14TH JULY, 2001:-


“GENESIS OF STATE TERRORISM IN PUNJAB” , as its title speaks, describes the role of every organ of the administration in blowing to winds all laws and rules of the land and suppressing the fundamental right to life of its subjects. More particularly, it speaks volume of the unlawful and barbaric acts of Punjab Police and their modus operandi in committing excesses on innocent people in the name of fighting a proxy war against the militants. Divided into nine chapters of different topics which are inter-related with each other in the context of human rights situation in Punjab, the work is deeply influenced by the tales of excesses committed upon the people by the State agencies. It is the outcome of hard labour of few dedicated and committed members of our organisation led by its President, Amar Singh Chahal, and the work for compiling this book begun in 1991 and is continuing till date. It is the first among the many commitments of the organisation in undertaking action to undo the wrong done to the victims and try to heal the wounds left unattended by the present government.


While describing in so many words, the gory tales of human rights violations committed by various state agencies, including Police, bureaucracy, politicians and judiciary, during the period 1984 till 2001, the book has deliberately and intentionally left the issue of human rights violations committed by the armed groups during the same period, for the reason that State terrorism cannot take the place of individual terrorism and there could be no excuse for condoning the acts of omission and commission of crimes of unprecedented magnitude committed by the men in uniform that was duty bound to protect the lives of the people. Incidently, there are many books highlighting atrocities committed by armed groups (militants) and role of politicians in making the situation worse, there was no book daring to raise the issue of Police brutality in Punjab.

Chapter I and II of the book are historical in nature and gives brief information about the Sikh religion. Chapter III is the main part of the book. It explains the policies of the State government and Punjab Police, both hidden and publicly declared in the so-called fight against the militants. Chapter III also provides, details of the manner and circumstances in which thousands of people were killed by the police. In Chapter IV and Chapter IX, the authors have criticised the State government and their political actions and its failure to check human rights abuses and heal the wounds of the victims, inflicted during the decade long turmoil. In Chapter V, an attempt has been made to truly describe, the sorry state of judiciary in Punjab during those dark days. It would be a great folly to deny that judicial inaction is more heinous than the police excesses. The organ which the people trusted the most and approached it time and again to get justice, awfully acted in a very insensitive and indifferent manner that blood stained justice was being delivered every day and murder of justice was a normal occurrence in the court room. There is no desirable change even today. It is not our intention to make any derogatory remark against the judicial system, but the realities of functioning of the judiciary in this behalf cannot be ignored because the history will not forgive us, if such a blunt reality is not brought before the public. Chapter VI is the most fair criticism of the state sponsored human rights organ. It truly depicts the sorry state of affairs in the Punjab State Human Rights Commission. Even during the four years of its existence, the commission has not been able to deliver goods to the victims and that is why the people have lost faith in the commission and they would not approach it for redressal of their grievances. It would be too painful if it happens. Chapter VII narrates the events leading to the formation and putting curbs on the first ever Constitution of People’s Commission on Human Rights Violations in Punjab.

The book also has two annexures. Appendix–I contains a list of 839 victims who lost their lives at the hands of Punjab police, majority of them branded as un-identified terrorist and few shown disappeared and remaining untraced. Appendix–II carries a list of people killed in Custody in Punjab during the tenure of SAD-BJP Government from 1997 till June, 2001 which leaves no room to doubt that the State is still not ruled by the representative of the people, but by the Punjab Police that is notorious for its barbaric and inhuman acts.

The only message given and the purpose of publishing this book is to document cases of police brutality and to prepare a list of all victims killed by the Punjab Police during the period 1984 - 1996 and onwards, upto date. However, the work has remained inconclusive due to various reasons. We wish that the message we have tried to convey may be spread all over. Fair comments or criticism on the facts and thoughts mentioned therein are most welcome. We hereby give a clarion call to the champions of human rights to come forward and promote the cause of human rights without fear or favour.

 


NEED TO CURB POLICE POWER TO REGISTER F.I.R.

The words of Sir William Blackstone that “ It is better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent suffer” is always a guiding principle for a Judge to dispense justice. The Code of Criminal Procedure empowers the police to register a criminal case in the form of First Information Report, commonly called F.I.R. But every time, this power is mis-used and abused with impunity. In criminal jurisprudence, FIR means the first information report about the occurrence of a crime, which sets the criminal law in motion. It usually forms the basis of whole of criminal trial to ascertain the guilt of the accused. The accusation, arrest and trial based on such accusation in the FIR will certainly affect the right to personal liberty of the citizen, guaranteed under Constitution of India. It is therefore, most essential in the interest of probity and fairness that the duty to register the F.I.R. must be given to a most reliable and knowledgeable wing of the justice delivery system. Section 154 of Cr.P.C. defines the F.I.R. as “the writing of information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence”. This document ultimately becomes the most important part in the framing of the charge and conduct of trial against the accused. At present the power to register the F.I.R. rests with a matric pass MHC(Munshi Head Constable/Clerk of the Police Station) who is neither a technical person lacking any legal knowledge of related laws nor a reliable authority and is ordinarily immuned to greed and fear. With this important power in the hands of incompetent and non-technical person, harassment and highhandedness by the police makes a mockery of the Criminal Justice System. Legal luminaries and Judges at lower level upto apex court waste their wisdom and knowledge to find the validity of the document called F.I.R. and go on writing lengthy judgements for and against the document, which is, in most cases badly drafted by, an under-graduate clerk having no special training or knowledge to author it.

The power to register the F.I.R. given to the Police has done more harm than good to the Criminal Justice System. Burdening the Courts with false and fabricated F.I.R.’s and then cancelling it “in Public Interest” has been seen by Legal experts as an explosive in a child’s hand. Exercising discretion by the Police such as, implication of innocent people in false criminal cases on the one hand and denial to register the F.I.R. in case of Custodial crime on the other, have established beyond reasonable doubt that there is urgent necessity to curb the police power to register the F.I.R. Today the dubious role in recording false F.I.R. has certainly brought the Police force in the dock. Investigations into many criminal cases where F.I.R. had been registered by the incompetent and dis-honest policemen have brought to fore that while a person is picked up for one crime, he is booked for another crime by framing a concocted story in the F.I.R. Showing the recovery of arms or ammunition in order to book a person under arms act or planting a small quantity of some narcotic drug like poppy husk or opium for booking a person under N.D.P.S. Act is a favourite modus operandi of the Police. In most of the Punjab jails, hundreds of poor migrant labourers or villagers are languishing without trials for years, on charges of possessing few grams of opium or poppy husk, a local narcotic, simply because the courts are reluctant to order bail to the accused booked under N.D.P.S.

In December, 1998 three british Nationals on a tourist visa in India were arrested and booked under Arms Act and N.D.P.S. by Chandigarh Police. Detailed investigations and after the matter being taken by the British High Commission with the highest authority exposed the mis-deed of Chandigarh Police of falsely implicating the three youth. One D.S.P.one, Inspector and three Sub-Inspectors were suspended for their role in fabricating evidence and registering false F.I.R.

Virsa Singh, a 55 years old, baptized agriculturist of a village near Nawansheher in Punjab alleges from behind the iron bars of Central Jail Ludhiana that he was booked under N.D.P.S. by the Police simply because his wife had refused to withdraw a complaint against the Police officials in the Punjab State Human Rights Commission. While he was going in his village for some household work, he was picked up and five bags of poppy husk was planted upon him and a false F.I.R. was registered against him in Police Station Phillaur,Distt.Jalandhar on 15th February,2000. Narain Singh, another agriculturist of a village near Dera Baba Nanak in District Gurdaspur of Punjab also has a similar story to tell. According to a representation sent by him to the Director-General of Police and the Chief Minister, Punjab last year, an F.I.R. registered against him on 4.5.1999 at P.S. Dera Baba Nanak has been wrongly registered and that he has been falsely implicated in the case under Section 324/34 I.P.C. He has sought a high level inquiry into the false registration of the F.I.R. and action against the guilty police officials responsible for fabricating false document.

Not only that the accused against whom the F.I.R. is registered pleads innocence and makes out a case of false implication by the police, but the Law courts are also vigilant enough to judiciously scrutinize as to whether the prosecution case stands the litmus test of making out a case beyond reasonable shadow of doubt ? In a particular case of its kind, Ld. Additional Chief Judicial magistrate, Chandigarh Mr.Harmohinder Singh Madan, in his eight page lengthy judgement in the case of State- U.T. Vs. Head Constable Tirath Singh, Chandigarh Police, took the Chandigarh police to task. He wrote that, “The police later on fabricated a concocted /cooked up story, got registered case FIR no.148 dated 1.1.1996 under Sec.4/5 of Noises Control Act. This demolishes the prosecution story totally and it comes out that the prosecution story is a sheer concoction without any element of truth. Their such action deserves severe condemnation, since such types of acts are not expected from responsible police officers of such ranks. Nevertheless, they can be better dealt with for such acts at departmental level, but the hollowness of the prosecution story stands exposed totally.”

Another aspect of the matter that needs pointing notice is that for various reasons, such as greed, political or monetary influence over the Police,many complaints relating to cognizable offence go without registration of any First Information Report. Complaints of Custodial deaths, illegal detention and harassment of innocent people by the policemen and custodial torture are often rejected summarily and dumped into the dustbin by the concerned police officer. At the first instance no complaint is accepted from the victim or his relative and if at all the complaint is received, neither any receipt is given nor any F.I.R. is registered what to say of any action being taken on that complaint, perhaps for the reason that the offender is the man of their own force.

Kuldip Singh, a young resident of Village Geege Majra in Distt.Ropar in his complaint to the Punjab State Human Rights Commission, alleging violation of his human right to life and liberty at the hands of Punjab police has stated that he was illegally detained and subjected to inhuman third degree torture from 18.4.1999 till 28.4.1999 at Banur Police Station, a township in Distt.Patiala. But all his efforts in getting an F.I.R. of illegal detention and custodial torture, registered against the guilty police officials have failed and even the Senior Police officials adviced him to compromise with the guilty police officials if he wants to save himself from implication in false criminal cases. Harpal Singh Sahni, a computer engineer of SAS Nagar, Mohali was badly beaten and harassed during his day long illegal detention in October, 1999 by a Sub-Inspector Balwant Singh Majitha in Police Station, Phase VIII, Mohali. When he dared to bring this inhuman treatment to the Court in Ropar, he was falsely booked for a cheating case and was made to run from pillar to post for his safety. Gurpartap Singh Walia, a Chandigarh resident also faced a similar legal problem in getting the complaint of his custodial torture at the hands of Chandigarh Police registered even with the indulgence of the Court.

A large number of persons arrested and shown to be involved in cases relating to theft and dacoity and publicised through media are framed in false cases. Similarly, cases of eve-teasing in which persons are accused of eve-teasing, contain the same statement of the official eye-witness that “the accused passed particular objectionable remakrs on a female passer-by”. It is highly improbable that different persons on different occasions had uttered the same words and teased the woman in the same manner. It is ertainly a matter of shame for the Chandigarh Police that it has the largest number of acquittals in cases of eve-teasing.

From the above instances, the argument that the power to register F.I.R. must be withdrawn from the police, holds a solid ground . Instead, a “special cell” from among the Litigation and Prosecution department of the State administration with persons having sufficient legal knowledge only in Criminal laws should be created and power granted under Section 154 of Cr.P.C. should be delegated to this cell. The complainant should be dealt with by persons with complete legal knowledge who also understand the psychology of the complainants. If a cognizable offence is prima facie made out from the complaint, this “special cell” should register the F.I.R. and direct a Police officer not below the rank of a Sub-Inspector to investigate the complaint by recording the statements of both the parties and submit his report to the “cell”. The ultimate power to order arrest and prosecute a person for any cognizable offence should rest with the “special cell” and the police officer should be empowered only to detain a person on either the order of the Court or the Special cell. In this way, not only that the cases of Police highhandedness and false implication of innocent persons could be effectively checked but transparency and responsibility to exercise one’s authority could be build in the Police force. Division of power to another cell with limited role of the Police being an investigating agency and not a wild force that always transgresses one’s fundamental right to life and liberty, will help to some extent in restoring the faith of the people in the already out-dated criminal justice system.


Criminalisation of Punjab Police

Arunjeev Singh Walia
Advocate

Ever since the increasing criminal activities of men in force in the State of Punjab have forced every peace-loving citizen to find a solution in taming the outlaws, various issues have come to the fore calling urgent remedial action. With more than 1700 petitions pending in different law courts against Punjab police personnel mostly of the subordinate ranks till 2000, according to an official release from the Litigation and Prosecution department of Punjab, none of Senior Police authorities have added this vital information in the annual confidential report of these tainted police men. Many policemen even after being indicted in the departmental inquiries conducted by Internal Vigilance or Crime department of Punjab Police have not been reverted or sent to Police lines, inspite of instructions issued in this respect. This undue protection from the Senior Police authorities to the illegal activities of the subordinate men have encouraged lawlessness in the Punjab Police to a large extent. Every day newspapers are filled with reports of Police highhandedness and tales of third degree torture or even custodial deaths at the hands of Punjab Police. In the year 2000 alone, there had been 19 deaths in Police lock-up and in most of the cases, the police claimed that the victim committed suicide by hanging himself or consuming Celphos tablets while in police lock-up, due to fear of arrest in some petty case. Ironically, the Courts and even the Punjab State Human Rights Commission, failed to apply its mind and blindly accepted these repeated cock and bull stories to be true and exonerated the force in most of the cases of death in police-lock up.

The worst affected areas of Criminal-police nexus in Punjab are Ludhiana and Jalandhar. Ludhiana being the hub of trading activities and Jalandhar, world known city for its hawala business have remained in the limelight for a long time. It is said that the post of a Station House Officer of a Police Station is auctioned by the Senior Superintendent of Police for more than three lacs a month and the Post of Senior Superintendent of Police fetches more than twenty five lacs to the Senior authorities. Having said that every Station House officer of a Police Station paying more than three lacs a month to his Superiors must be earning more than double this amount and the Senior Superintendent of Police must be pocketing more than fifty lacs every month, this brings us to the moot question as to who is paying this money to the policemen ? A subordinate police official for the sake of anonymity whispered that underworld land mafia, hardcore criminals, besides money lenders share the booty to a large extent with the Station House Officer who in turn passes the buck to his superiors. According to available record in the Police Stations in Ludhiana alone, there are more than ten gangs of land grabbers, and about fifty history sheeters involved in petty cases of extortion, robbery and other criminal activities. Even few policemen have been found running the business of money lending and picking the defaulter loanee without any warrant for pressurising him to pay off the debt.

The gruesome killing of Avtar Singh, a youth of Ludhiana by Inspector Gurmeet Singh alias “Pinky” on 7th January, 2001 outside his house in Maya Nagar, Ludhiana has once again forced the people to think twice before speaking to a policeman, because the policeman in Punjab has free hand to take out his service revolver and shoot anybody down without any provocation and then slip away infront of the public like a king.


TORTURE IN INDIA

Arunjeev Singh Walia
Advocate

In India where rule of law is inherent in each and every action and right to life and liberty is prized fundamental right adorning highest place amongst all important fundamental rights, instances of torture and using third degree methods upon suspects during illegal detention and police remand casts a slur on the very system of administration. Human rights takes a back seat in this depressing scenario. Use of excessive force and exceeding lawful authority by the police, resulting in death in custody, have become quite common. If torture of a suspect during police custody is inhuman, causing death by beating in police custody is even more inhuman. Custodial death is perhaps one of the worst crimes in a civilized society governed by the Rule of Law. It is indeed a matter of great concern for every human being. Thinking of the pain and trauma that a victim suffers due to torture, the protection of his life and liberty from such inhuman treatment becomes the most sacred duty of every authority who cares for human rights. In custodial crimes, not only the infliction of body pain is worrisome, but also the trauma and mental agony which a person undergoes within the four walls of police station or lock-up. Whether it is third degree torture or death in police custody, the extent of annoyance caused to the humanity is beyond the purview of law. Repeated incidents of Custody deaths in the country have not only shaken the people’s conscience, forcing them to take to the street against the inhuman torture techniques adopted by the police, but has also highlighted the hostile attitude of law enforcing agencies in containing such heinous crime against the humanity. The sad part of the story is that the force which is supposed to protect the life and liberty of the citizen when behaves inhumanly and perpetrate crime it brings to fore the most crude form of violence against the whole humanity. It undoubtedly, encourages lawlessness and breeds contempt for law. The rights inherent in Article 21 and 22(I) of the Constitution of India require to be zealously and scrupulously protected.

Custodial violence including torture, death and staged encounter, strikes a blow at the Rule of Law, which demands that the powers of the executive should not only be derived from law but also that the same should be limited by law. Inspite of clear prohibition in law from subjecting third degree torture upon any person, Supreme Court and various High Courts and even the National Human Rights Commission and State Human Rights Commissions across the country are over flooded with complaints of custodial torture and deaths in police custody or fake encounters. According to a statement placed in the Lok Sabha in 2000, more than seven hundred and ninety persons lost their lives in police custody in the country in the past. Unofficial figures even go upto five figures. Showing deep concern over the increasing tendency among the police officials in subjecting third degree torture upon the suspect resulting in the custodial death of the suspect and the suppression of such occurrences by the erring cops, the National Human Rights Commission issued strict directions to all the State governments and Union territories in 1993 as under:-

“ In view of the rising number of incidents of custodial deaths and custodial rapes and reported attempts to suppress or present a different picture of these incidents with the lapse of time, the commission directs to all the District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police of every district in the country that they should report to the Secretary General of the National Human Rights Commission about such incidents within 24 hours of such occurrence or of these officers having come to know about such incidents. Failure to report promptly would give rise to presumption that there was an attempt to suppress the incident.”


The third report of the National Police Commission in India released in 1996, expressed deep concern at the increasing incidents of custodial violence and deaths in lock-up. It took serious note of the demoralizing effect which custodial torture was creating on the society as a whole. It held that “the Protection of the individual from oppression and abuse by the police and other enforcing officers is indeed a major interest in a free society; but so is the effective prosecution of crime, an interest which at times seems to be forgotten. The quality of a nation’s civilization can be largely measured by the methods it uses in the enforcement of criminal law.”The Magna Carta of human rights, as it is known, ‘The Universal Declaration of Human Rights’, which marked the emergence of a worldwide trend of Protection and guarantee of certain basic human rights, stipulates in Article 5 that “ No one shall be subjected to torture, or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Article 1 of the ‘Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading treatment or punishment’, defines torture as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed or intimidated or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or that person acting in official capacity.”

The Article 4 of the Convention says, “each state party shall ensure that all acts of torture are declared as offence under its Criminal Law. ”

The apex court as also various High Courts of the country have always shed light to dispel the darkness of inhuman and brutal torture techniques which amounts to an attack on the fundamental right to life and liberty of the victim.

Justice S. Mohan of Supreme Court of India speaking for the bench in the case of “Arvinder S. Bagga Vs. State of U.P.” aptly observed, “Torture is not merely physical, there may be mental torture and psychological torture calculated to create fright and submission to the demands or commands. When the threats proceed from a person in authority and that too by a police officer, the mental torture caused by it is even more grave.”

Justice Kuldip Singh and Justice Dr. A.S. Anand, the pillars of Human Rights movement in India observed in the landmark Judgment on Custodial crimes, titled “D.K.Basu Vs. State of West Bengal that “Custodial violence, including torture and death in the lock ups, strikes a blow at the Rule of Law, which demands that the powers of the executive should not only be derived from law but also that the same should be limited by law. Custodial Violence is a matter of concern. It is aggravated by the fact that it is committed by persons who are supposed to be the protectors of the citizens. It is committed under the shield of uniform and authority in the four walls of a police station or lock-up, the victim being totally helpless. The Protection of an individual from torture and abuse by the police and other law enforcing officers is a matter of deep concern in a free society. “Torture “ of a human being by another human being is essentially an instrument to impose the will of the “strong” over the “Weak” by suffering. The word “torture” today has become synonymous with the darker side of human civilization. It is a calculated assault on human dignity and whenever human dignity is wounded, civilization takes a step backward—flag of humanity must on each such occasion fly half-mast. In all custodial crimes what is of real concern is not only infliction of body pain but also the mental agony which a person undergoes within the four walls of police station or lock-up. Whether it is physical assault or rape in police custody, the extent of trauma, person experiences is beyond the purview of law.” He further observed in another judgment on human rights dealing with the effect of torture in the mind of common citizen, titled “ State of M.P. Vs. Shayamsunder Trivedi and others” and held that “tortures in police custody, which of late are on the increase, receive encouragement by this type of an unrealistic approach of the courts because it reinforces the belief in the mind of the police that no harm would come to them, if an odd prisoner dies in the lock-up, because there would hardly be any evidence available to the prosecution to directly implicate them within the torture. Torture in custody flouts the basic rights of the citizens recognized by the Indian Constitution and is an affront to human dignity. Police excesses and the mal-treatment of detainees /undertrial prisoners or suspects tarnishes the image of any civilized nation and encourages the men in “Khaki” to consider themselves to be above the law and sometimes even to become law unto themselves.”

Historian Badriana P. Bartow also explained the trauma of torture in his own words, “Torture is a wound in the soul so painful that sometimes you can almost touch it, but it is also so intangible that there is no way to heal it. Torture is anguish squeezing in your chest, cold as ice and heavy as a stone paralyzing as sleep and dark as the abyss. Torture is despair and fear and rage and hate. It is a desire to kill and destroy including yourself. ”

The temple of Justice, as he is known, Mr. Justice V.R.Krishna Iyer the then Chief Justice of Supreme Court, dwelled in detail the evil of torture in a case titled “ Raghubir Singh Vs. State of Haryana” and observed, “we are really pained to note that such things should happen in a country which is still governed by the Rule of Law. We cannot but express our strong displeasure and disapproval of the conduct of the concerned police officers. We are deeply disturbed by the diabolical recurrence of police torture resulting in terrible scare in the minds of common citizens that they are under a new peril which the guardians of the law gore human rights to death. The vulnerability of human rights assumes a traumatic, torture some poignancy when the violent violation is perpetrated by the police arm of the State whose function is to protect the citizen and not to commit gruesome offences against them as has happened in this case. Police lock-up if reports in newspapers have a streak of credence, are becoming more and more awesome cells. This development is disastrous to our human rights awareness and humanist constitutional order.”

In an attempt to weed out the evil of torture from the Police Stations, Punjab & Haryana High Court in a Public Interest Litigation, titled, “Dr.Vineeta Gupta and another Versus State of Punjab & others” reported in Judicial Reports(Criminal) 1998 Page 561 held that no instruments of torture would be kept in any Police Station in Punjab, Haryana and Union Territory of Chandigarh and no person would be subjected to torture in Police Custody.

Dr. Martin Luther King (Jr.) in a letter to his country men once wrote, “Injustice anywhere is threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of density. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

It is a matter of common knowledge that when a complaint is made against torture, death or injury in police custody, it is difficult to secure evidence against the policemen responsible for resorting to third degree methods since they are in charge of police stations easily manipulate the record and tamper with the evidence. The courts and the judges, if we may say so with respect, exhibit a total lack of sensitivity and a “could not careless” attitude in appreciating the evidence on the record and thereby condoning the barbaric third degree methods which are still being used, at every police station, despite being illegal. They must bring a change in their attitude particularly in cases involving custodial crimes and should exhibit more sensitivity and a realistic rather than a narrow technical approach, while dealing with such cases, so that as far as possible within their powers, the guilty must not escape and that the victim of the crime has the satisfaction that ultimately the majesty of law has prevailed. Otherwise, the victim becomes frustrated and contempt for law develops.

CUSTODIAL DEATHS IN PUNJAB -1997-June 2001

 

Figures shows that incidents of custodial violence and abuse of power by the police have been largely reported in the states where militancy and insurgent activities are at its peak. For example, Punjab and Kashmir tops the list of States where thousands of innocent people have been killed in fake encounters and summary executions. In Punjab, during the period 1988-1995, thousands of people were killed by the Punjab police in fake encounters, custodial deaths and summary executions. The situation is no better even today. The Police has become man-eater and resorting to extra-judicial methods is their favourite sport. There is an un-declared war against human rights by the police force. Innocent people are daily done to death in a very cruel manner which cannot be described in words. Even the women and children are not spared. The victim is tied upside down with pressure put on his head from below, heavy iron roller applied on his sensitive parts. Petrol is put on private and sensitive parts. He is mercilessly beaten with wooden stick and iron rod. The legs are torn apart at 180 degree and then pressure is put on the thighs. The nails are pulled and salt is put on the injuries. Electric shocks are given in the private parts viz.. penis and testicles. They are more brutally tortured and even killed publicly by the devils in khaki. Still every justice loving person in the country turns a blind eye to these gory details of police excesses when reported in the newspapers quite often.

Many politicians or police authorities says that the State of Punjab is now a peaceful state and the period of turbulence has gone for the good. Rule of law has been restored and human rights of the people are most respected. But the figures disclaim this theory. More than seventy five reported custodial deaths in four years and a thousand reported incidents of tortures of innocent people in police custody, casts a slur on the law enforcing machinery in the State. It will be our endeavour through this book to explore as to how far the State government and its law enforcing agencies have been sensitive to the human rights issues and respected the fundamental right to life and liberty of its subjects. Here is a fact finding report by the organisation which needs pointing attention of every justice loving person.

The tall claims of the Punjab government of restoration of rule of law have proved a farce with custodial crime becoming an order of the day. Policemen still consider themselves above the law. They have no fear of law or the Court. They know that they will be exonerated in the name of national security or maintenance of law and order. Their mindset is the same as it was during the earlier days of State terrorism. Their actions are the same. Rather, their authority has become more powerful with no action against their illegal actions. Under these circumstances, it would be foolish to claim of situation being under control. Even after four years of the so-called popular rule in the State, the situation has not changed a wee bit. The number of deaths have certainly gone down, but the killer instinct of a rowdy and inhuman policeman is still the same in the flesh and blood of the policemen. When more than seventy people have lost their lives in Police custody since the Akali government came into power, it would be a great folly to call it a State ruled by law. While the government is under bounden duty to protect the life and liberty of every citizen, loss of even a single life in Police Custody, must bring the head of every responsible officer bow down in shame. The moot reality is that the situation has been so badly mis-handled that it has become critical and every peace loving citizen is feeling insecure and prone to police brutality. Is it not a failure of the government where the police force has turned man-eater and the courts and the elected representatives of the people have closed its eyes and ears? The answer to all these questions is emphatically “betrayal of the oath”.

It is a shocking state of affairs in Punjab. Not only the government has failed to check its brutal force, the judiciary and the human rights agencies have also miserably failed to show its presence. It seems to be a matter of the past now that a judge is moved on reading the heart rending news of torture death in the morning day newspaper and takes suo-moto cognizance of the matter. Today the judges also do not feel concerned on learning that innocent people are being killed like animals in fake encounters, summary executions etc. One wonders if they would feel disturbed on seeing and hearing the wails of torture victims in the Police stations in Punjab. Every Court granting police remand of a suspect fully knows that the suspect will be given inhuman third degree treatment. It is their folly to believe that only third degree treatment could extract the truth from the suspect. It is no secret that the first thing a policeman does with the suspect in police remand is to give good bashing and then tell his fault. The title page of this book showing the policemen trying to put a shikanja ( knot with a rope) on a suspect, clearly exhibits the mindset of the police force in the state even today. Hats off to Mr.Amrik Saggu, Press photographer of “Daily Jagran”, Jalandhar for shooting such a secret incident.

The deep study of the pattern and modus operandi of the policemen in killing suspects in police custody vert recently have led us to hold without any iota of doubt that whosoever is taken into custody by the police is sure to loose his life, lest he is too hard to bear the police torture, no matter, whether he is innocent or too poor to bribe the policemen.

Punjab Police, notorious for its fake encounters, custodial deaths and other heinous crimes, received a blow, when the encounter theory of killing a youth, Kashmir Singh of Pandori Rukman in Hoshiarpur district on 14th March, 1997 came out to be a false one. Even the Sessions Court, Hoshiarpur held the said incident to be a cold blooded murder of an innocent youth by the policemen and convicted the police party. He sentenced all the guilty police personnel to life imprisonment for the offence of murder. A compensation of Rupees five lacs was also awarded by the National Human Rights Commission to the next of kin of the deceased. Similarly, the tale of torture method described by Sapinder Singh, the brother of a victim of Police torture, Devinder Singh alias Bhola, a youth of village Hassanpur in Ropar district who was tortured to death on September 18, 1999 shook the conscience of every justice loving person with grief. According to the eye-witnesses who were also tortured during illegal custody,the victim was tied upside down with pressure put on his head from below, heavy iron roller was applied on his sensitive parts. Petrol was put on his private and sensitive parts. He was mercilessly beaten with wooden stick and iron rod. His legs were torn apart at 180 degree and then pressure was put on the thighs. The nails were pulled and salt put on the injuries. Electric shocks were given in the private parts viz.. penis and testicles. Not bearing the inhuman torture, the victim succumbed to his injuries then and there. The accused policemen who were arrested and brought to trial, have recently been sentenced to life imprisonment for the custodial death. Many victims of police brutality have even gone un-noticed. What was the fault of Iqbal Singh of Jaitu in Faridkot when he was picked up by the Muktsar police on January 5,2001 and was so badly tortured that he died in the lock-up? But the police is so hardened liar that it claimed that the victim had committed suicide by hanging himself in the bathroom of the lock-up. Similar story was cooked up by the Police in the case of Surinder Pal who died in Police Station Dasuya in District Hoshiarpur on 7th January, 2001. The same day Avtar Singh, a youth of Ludhiana was shot dead by a militant turned Police Inspector Gurmeet Singh Pinky in Ludhiana because he objected to their drinking session at a public place. Is the life of these victims so valueless that the State government or the Police authorities could not afford to pay ex-gratia compensation to the next of the kin of the deceased killed by the Policemen ? The tragedy does not end here. Exactly a month later in 2001, Jaspal Singh, a 17 year old Dalit youth of Village Saheri in District Ropar fell to the torture methods of Punjab police and died in Police Station Morinda on 7th February, 2001. To add insult to the injury, every organ of administration including the civil and police administration in the district tried their level best to save their policemen who were responsible for the tragic death. The courts also showed little concern at this dastardly act. Another dalit youth, Madan Lal of Kapurthala was tortured to death in Police Station Kapurthala on 15th February, 2001.

One thing quite similar in all these incidents was that the police authorities and district administration failed to take necessary action against the guilty persons and even left no stone unturn to save the erring policemen. No action was taken against any of the guilty policemen, unless the masses came to the street and protested by laying road blockades, dharnas and even gheraoed the police station. In other words, the public outcries and street protests played an important role for forcing the authorities to take strict action against the erring cops.

Another thing noticed in the case of prison death being quite common was that in every case, the jail authorities cook up the theory of the victim committing suicide in a fit of depression. It is not amazing that in about twenty five cases of prison deaths reported to the Punjab State Human Rights Commission, almost all the cases have the same theory of suicide either by hanging or consuming some poisonous substance in the cell. Still, the Commission failed in its duty to take such liar jail authorities who not only killed the prisoners, but also attempted to conceal the truth from the Commission. Although compensations have been awarded to the next of kin of the victims, no criminal proceedings have been initiated nor any jail official arrested or tried for murder, who was found prima facie guilty of negligence in performing his duty which resulted in the death of the prisoner.


DISMAL STATE OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN INDIA

Even after more than five decades since India became a State party to the fundamental document of Protection and Promotion of human rights viz.. Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted and proclaimed by the member states of the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 10,1948, what we see everyday is the rape and murder of human rights of its subjects by the State. The fundamental right to life and liberty enshrined in the Constitution has ostensibly remained an utopian idea and having regard to the changing social realities and emerging trends in the nature of crime and violence, transparency and accountability of the organs of the State have gone on a long holiday. We have forgotten that our character is the result of our conduct.

The highest duty of a ruler is to protect his subjects; the ruler who enjoys the rewards of his position is bound to that duty. The fundamental right to life and liberty is the paramount essential to human dignity and human happiness. Only the rule of Law could bring good governance in our country and it becomes the onerous responsibility of the government to strive for upholding rule of Law. The three tier Criminal justice system--- Law making process by the Parliament, investigative and enforcement process by the Police and implementation of the law by the judiciary, is an integral part of the country with good governance. But awfully all the organs have failed to come up to the expectations of the people and have become a means of self-interest rather than the common good of the people. Nobody seems to be interested to admit that “tyranny is the rule of one seeking his own interest. Oligarchy seeks the interests of the rich, democracy seeks the interests of the poor.” The result of this apathy is that the crime against humanity is today screaming to unforeseen heights. Citizens deprived of their basic human rights suffer irresistible pain and suffering, particularly in the context of political unrest and violence in Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Nagaland. The Government of India has come under heavy fire of accusations and allegations of gross violations of human rights of its citizens from all quarters and it was made known that violence can never be extinguished by violence nor private crime be put to sleep by State crime. This forced the rulers to take steps for repairing its dented image. The Protection of Human Rights Act,1993 was enacted for securing the Protection of human rights of the citizens of India. But as the wise saying goes, that the country which has too many laws has too little justice, India has painfully became one of the most vulnerable countries where human rights violations are the highest. This act alike other laws of the country have failed to stop the Communal riots, massacre of lower class people by feudal lords, indiscriminate killings and setting fire of people belonging to minority communities, mass genocide of particular religious community and killing thousands of civilians in the name of war.

Every day, media reports about killing of terrorists, security men and people belonging to particular community in different parts of the country worries every human being. Undoubtedly, the killer of a human life can never get respect in a civilised society. But everyday Criminal elements wearing the mask of Politicians and Policemen are rewarded by the people. Is it that we have lost our sense of thinking or our yardstick for good or bad has changed ?


PUNJAB – DARK CLOUDS OF STATE REPRESSION


Even after fifty years of India’s Independence and ter-centenery celebrations of the Khalsa Panth, the State of Punjab suffers the wrath of Police brutality and indifference of State machinery towards the economic and political development of its subjects. The Problem which started with the religious fundamentalism in the forefront, attack on the supreme religious temple, Sri Darbar Sahib, Amritsar by the Indian army and killing of thousands of Sikhs across the country in November 84’anti –Sikh riots, mass genocide of Sikhs at the hands of butcher brigade of Julio F.Riberio, K.P.S. Gill and commanders like Ajit Singh Sandhu in Punjab and continuing onrush of Security forces have burnt the soul of every peace loving citizen. The nature burdened the people with so many tragedies that their eyes lost tears and they find no words to explain their grief and sufferings. Many torch-bearers of human rights and social activists paid the price of fearlessly treading the path of political justice with their lives. Grief stricken subjects cursed the foe that made their mother-land a bloody-battle field where the life lost its sanctity and every day either you or I could have fell to the prey of mis-deeds of the devils in uniform, the Punjab Police.

Whereas the official figures put the total number of “persons” killed in Punjab during the period 1985 till December, 1996 in their fight against so-called terrorism in the State, as 15,000 , various investigating agencies and N.G.O.’s after taking details of persons “missing” from their homes and counter-checking it with the Police records, describe the elimination of more than twenty five thousand Sikh Youth of Punjab by the Punjab Police as the most sordid event in the history of the country. No other state in the Republic of India, have suffered such a loss. The Congress Govt. under the draconion leadership of Beant Singh, the slain Chief Minister of Punjab, lent free hand to the Police force headed by “Super Cop” K.P.S.Gill which created a situation where even the subordinate level of police functionary became the Judge, jury and the executioner. Boys were picked up from their houses or fields and taken blindfolded to isolated places and asked to run and a burst of AK-47 rifles culminated their story in the next day’s newspaper which reported, “ The police was ambushed by a gang of militants led by the Chief of ABC (Sikh militant organisation) and in the ensuing encounter five militants were killed and 4 AK-47 rifles and a large catche of arms and ammunition was recovered from them.” But no body dared to ask as to why not even a single bullet hit the Policemen in the cross-fire. Hundreds and thousands of policemen got out of turn promotions, monetary rewards and postings of their choice for their “heroic” deeds. One feels sad that the State and the Judiciary abets this crime in uniform by remaining silent.I felt ashamed as a human being when the High Court of Punjab & Haryana used to dismiss hundreds of Habeas Corpus petitions filed by parents of the “missing” Youth after receiving the Police report that on such and such date the detenue was killed in an encounter or that the detenue is not in their custody. Even a Writ Petition filed by the Punjab & Haryana High Court Bar Association, Chandigarh in the High Court of Punjab & Haryana for seeking inquiry into the alleged “Killing” of a fellow Lawyer and Human Rights Activist, Kulwant Singh of Ropar and his wife and two years old child at the hands of Ropar Police was dismissed with objectionable comments against the Lawyer community for observing a month long strike against the dastardly killing. Later on, the Supreme Court passed unprecedented strictures on the High Court and ordered a C.B.I. inquiry into the alleged killing. The C.B.I. in its report submitted to the Supreme Court held the Ropar police responsible for the heinous crime of killing the Lawyer,his wife and two years old child, which ultimately resulted in the trial of One D.S.P. and four police inspectors of Punjab Police.

It is another story that now all the police officers are roaming scot free and intimidating witnesses with impunity.

To sum up, Police acts of commission, corruption and barbaric methods of torture, kidnapping and ransom, false encounters, summary executions and custodial deaths put to shame any civilized society, but the State Government had gone on a long vacation with its eyes and ears closed to the unending tale of woes of the victims. Police terror was breaking the backbone of the State , On the one hand, whereas poor economic condition of the agriculturists due to indifference of State Government in meeting their demands of adequate water and fertilisers on subsidy on the other hand ,besides rampant corruption, mal-treatment of weaker classes, mis-administration of Govt.departments, Landed this State into a situation where rule of baton replaced the Rule of Law. The assassination of the Chief Minister, Beant Singh on 31st October,1995 paved a way to the end of corrupt and inhuman Congress Rule in the State. The Shromani Akali Dal-BJP which had been in the forefront of inciting the village folk across the State against the Congress regime, jumped into the election fray and decided to fight the by-elections jointly , held in January,1997. They promised the end of “Police Raj” and justice to the victims of State terrorism, besides releasing all the TADA detainees lodged in different jails in Punjab . Establishment of corruption free administration, respect of Human Rights of the subjects and giving loans and facilities to the farmers were the prominent issues on which the Shromani Akali Dal contested the elections. Expectedly, the SAD-BJP alliance got a sweeping majority by routing the Congress with only four seats in the State Assembly. With the Akali Dal-BJP govt. coming to power on February 12,1997 came the recognition that the State needed a new type of police force, one which would protect the citizens against crime and ensure their rights were not violated. The People of the State heaved a sigh of relief and hoped for a better tomorrow without any Police brutality and corruption-free administration.
But all their hopes have turned to ashes. After assuming the reigns of the State, the first thing which the Chief Minister of Punjab and the President of the Shromani Akali Dal ,Mr. Parkash Singh Badal, did was to order the withdrawal of C.B.I. enquiry against his confidant, Mr. Bikramjit Singh and the withdrawal of TADA cases against thirty one politicians including himself. Not even a single police officer was condemned for his acts of vandalism. No corrupt civil servants were taken to task, rather a new policy of hiding every wrong in the administration gathered force. The farmers already burdened with the financial crunch and lack of farming facilities were denied free water or electricity and the situation was made to reach a point where hundreds of farmers under the fear of debt committed suicide with the State not even showing any pity on their conditions. In Bhatinda District alone as many as seventy farmers reportedly committed suicides due to failure to pay off their debts. The plight of the families of such helpless citizens could be well imagined. Gurdaspur Distt.with largest number of suicides described the pathetic conditions of the agriculturists in the State.

The illiteracy level of the State saw a considerable decline owing to indifference of the State machinery in maintaining govt. school buildings and posting of adequate teaching staff in the rural areas. As per the report submitted by the Secretary Education, Punjab, on a Petition filed by our Organisation, Lawyers For Social Reforms in the Punjab State Human Rights Commission, Chandigarh , it has been awfully admitted that there are only 649 School buildings in the State which are in dilapidated condition. Only 2003 schools of primary, middle and Senior Secondary level Lack teaching staff and more than 10 million rupees are required for providing basic amenities such as drinkable water and toilets in the school buildings. As per our initial investigations, majority of children in rural areas of Punjab prefer doing labour then going to school. Increasing problem of unemployment is one of the reason for this situation. At present, there are more than two lakh educated unemployed and equal number of illiterate unemployed youth in Punjab. Brain drain and extremist movement is another piquant question remains to be answered. No body seems to be worried about the country or the State, and rampant corruption and free-for-all policy has further aggravated the deteriorating law and order in the State.

The Punjab police even today maintain private goons, patronize criminals ,grab lands belonging to poor and weak, uses muscles to crush opposition. Everyday excessive use of baton with an occasional dangling of a carrot is made in most of the Police stations in Punjab. It is quite often said here that when policeman could not solve the problem, he himself becomes part of the problem. Today, the State has “bestowed” awesome powers to the Police force. Tragically, the perspective, value and ideals in life which makes him responsible are lacking. In the forgotten corners of dusty Police stations, lathi and roller continue to make harsh contact with flesh and bone. The devils in uniform have sat in judgment over their own case and made the judiciary redundant. This violates the principles of natural justice and subverts the very basis of the Rule of Law. Only the innocent people of the State who daily undergo the traumatic agony of police brutality can tell that a policeman is more ferocious than the wildest animal. If today people hesitate to go the Police station and their eyes get pale color on seeing a Policeman, much of its credit goes to the Punjab Police.

What is more shameful for the citizens of the State is that inspite of speaking loud and high about upholding the Rule of Law and giving opportunity to the released militants to bring them into the national mainstream and rehabilitate themselves, by the Chief Minister of the State, the Director-General of Punjab Police, Mr. P.C.Dogra and his brigade is picking up Ex-militants from their homes and planting cases of explosives and other arms and ammunition and claiming in widely publicised press conferences that these terrorists were arrested while attempting to Kill V.V.I.P.’s of the State and their family members. And the Chief Minister of Punjab have turned a blind eye towards the plight of the citizens who had voted him to power. No body says that Crime should not be controlled, but when the basic Human Right to life and liberty of the citizens on a mass scale are eroded by the State forces, then no words of condolence can heal the wounds. Even the Lawyers, Human Rights Activists and media men are being targetted and implicated and provoked by the D.G.P. himself when he shouts that “ Eye is being kept on Human Rights bodies” and
“Most Human Rights bodies funded by militant organisations abroad” and the slogans of the like.

The Chief Minister of the State had declared on 2nd October,1997 that the cases of all those prisoners who are languishing in jails under TADA and other crimes would be considered and they will be released within a short period. But the declaration was forgotten soon thereafter and even till today, there are more than 20,000/- Sikh youth who had nothing to do with the militant activities and they are languishing in jails as it was in the Congress regime in 1992-96. I do not find any words to differentiate this government with the Congress Government of Beant Singh . Now the Chief Minister of the State have also started making provocative statements by saying that “ Peace would be maintained in the State at all Costs.” But for the sake of humanity, Let me advice the rulers of the State that the people of the State wants peace in the State but not at the cost of lives of innocent people who have nothing to do with the Crime or any criminal activity. And the peace of the State must be restored , but not by nailing the innocent citizenry of the State but by bringing to justice all those Police officers who have committed atrocities on the human beings taking themselves to the the Judge, Jury and the Executioner.
I cannot do anything except striving for the upholding of the Rule of Law in this land of the Saints and praying to the almighty to give senses to the Rulers of the times enabling them to respect the Human Rights of the Citizens and do full justice to each and every subject of the State.

 


“4 cops sentenced to Life Imprisonment in Custodial death case” -- A positive analysis

Chandigarh.
17th May, 2001

The judgement of a Sessions Court at Ropar sentencing 4 Punjab police personnel to life imprisonment in a case commonly known as ”Hassanpur Custodial death”, on 15th May,2001 has assumed significance for more than one reason. Human rights activists term it as a landmark judgment in the human rights era of the country.

Devinder Singh alias Bhola, son of Gurmukh Singh aged 21 of Village Hassanpur in District Ropar (Punjab) was picked up from his house, along with his younger brother Sapinder Singh and two of his friends, Inderjit Singh and Karnail Singh of the same village by a police party headed by Inspector Didar Singh,SHO Police Station, Anandpur Sahib, Distt. Ropar and consisting of Sub-Inspectors Malvinder Singh Malhi, Gurcharan Singh and Constable Manjeet Singh and Special Protection Officer, Devinder Singh on the ill-fated day of 18th September, 1999 at about 4. a.m. and taken to CIA Staff, Ropar where all of them were subjected to inhuman third degree torture by the above named police officers, besides one retired Assistant Sub-inspector Sant Singh, whose services were taken only for subjecting third degree methods upon the suspects. All the four were suspected of keeping an assault rifle in the fields of the village. While Sapinder Singh, Inderjit Singh and Karnail Singh suffered serious bodily injuries due to extensive torture, but survived, Devinder Singh could not bear the torture and succumbed to his injuries in the CIA staff, Ropar in the evening of 18th September. His dead body was brought to Civil Hospital, Ropar by Sub-Inspector Malvinder Singh Malhi of CIA Staff, Ropar at about 8.35 p.m.

When the villagers of the village and the relatives of Devinder Singh raised great hue and cry and even laid a road blockade outside the Civil Hospital, Ropar, the police authorities reluctantly booked four policemen for the custodial death. A team of Lawyers for Human Rights International and Lawyers For Social Reforms, Chandigarh, also conducted an on-the-spot investigation and found that not only the police officials but the doctors conducting the post-mortem examination and the civil administration tried its best to save the guilty policemen. A strange fact was brought to light by the lawyers that one retired cop, named Sant Singh had tortured the deceased and other victims, whereas he was not shown posted in the CIA Staff. It was revealed that he was employed only for torturing the people in the CIA staff, and was given the salary in the name of some inexistant person. The lawyers bodies released its investigation report in September,1999 holding Inspector Didar Singh, Sub-Inspectors Gurcharan Singh, Malwinder Singh Malhi, Constable Manjeet Singh and SPO Davinder Singh besides retired ASI Sant Singh, responsible for the custodial death of Devinder Singh and also expressed displeasure over the role of doctors as well as judicial magistrate, Kharar,Distt.Ropar in helping the accused policemen.

Succumbing to public pressure and expose of its mis-deeds by the Lawyers bodies, the Ropar Police registered a murder case against Inspector Didar Singh, Sub-Inspectors Malvinder Singh and Gurcharan Singh, retired Sub-Inspector Sant Singh, Constable Manjeet Singh and SPO Davinder Singh. They were arrested and sent to judicial custody. Later on, retired ASI Sant Singh was got discharged by the police and all the remaining police officers named above except Sant Singh, were brought to trial for the murder of Devinder Singh alias Bhola in the Court of Mr.Maghar Khan, Sessions Judge, Ropar. While all other accused except Sub-Inspector Malvinder Singh Malhi were enlarged on bail, Malhi was lodged in Central Jail, Patiala.

It is a first case of its kind where few strange things had happened. Firstly, the role of retired cops like ASI Sant Singh in torturing the suspects in the CIA staff, came to light. Secondly, its’ the only case where the police had registered the FIR relating to the death of the deceased on the statement of Sub-Inspector Malvinder Singh Malhi, and later on booked the same police officer for the murder of the deceased. It proves that the police left no stone unturned to manipulate the records. but had to follow the rule of law when cornered by the people and the Laywers body. Inspector Didar Singh, the SHO of the Police Station, who had claimed innocence was also charged for the first time in the murder case alongwith other policemen which is also not a normal thing. Another strange event has been highlighted in the present case for the first time which is not ordinarily heard in Punjab. It was alleged that even after his detention in jail, Sub-Inspector Malvinder Singh Malhi was roaming outside the jail, on the pretext of getting medical treatment in civil hospital and visiting the village of the complainant and he threatened the witnesses of dire consequences in case they deposed against him. On the complaint of the father of the deceased Devinder Singh, the Ropar police booked him once again for intimidation and threatening the witnesses. Then it was also strange that Sub-Inspector Malwinder Singh Malhi had accused the men of his own force, with torturing him while in judicial custody. In a separate complaint filed in the Punjab State Human Rights Commission, Malhi has alleged that he was picked up from the civil hospital, Patiala by a police party of Ropar Police and was tortured in the presence of SSP, Ropar at the instance of Inspector Didar Singh, because he had dared to expose the mis-deeds of the senior police officers. This is not the end of the surprises. This is also for the first time, that the Punjab State Human Rights Commission, who was approached by the father of the deceased recommended to the State government to pay a sum of Rs.2.50 lacs as interim compensation to the next of the kin of the deceased and Rs.50,000/- to each victim who were subjected to third degree torture.

Interestingly, Gurmukh Singh, father of the deceased and the complainant in this case, had also approached the High Court, seeking transfer of the trial from Ropar to some other place, with the apprehension that the accused police officers may tamper with the evidence or put pressure on the witnesses. But later on the said application was ostensibly withdrawn, even though Sub-Inspector Malwinder Singh Malhi also expressed similar apprehensions and demanded the transfer of the trial to Chandigarh. For unexplained reasons, the trial of the case remained stayed during the pendency of the matter before the High Court.The accused police officers succeeded in purchasing the two eye-witnesses. Inderjit Singh and Karnail Singh the two prime witnesses who were also tortured by the accused policemen, surprisingly turned hostile by denying that they were ever tortured. But the brother of the deceased namely Sapinder Singh and complainant Gurmukh Singh, besides other witnesses stood to truth and supported the prosecution story. It was also for the first time, that the prosecution of the State had conducted the prosecution of the policemen sincerely and impartially and aptly assisted the court in getting the accused punished. Otherwise, in every case of custodial death, the prosecution conducts the case in a manner which ultimately result in the acquittal of the accused.

On the top of it, Mr.Maghar Khan, the Sessions Judge, Ropar also acted contrary to what was expected of him and behaved in a totally indifferent manner and acquitted Inspector Didar Singh, who was held to be leading the police party when the deceased was picked up from his house, inspite of solid testimony of the witnesses against him.

Be it as it may, the Lawyers For Social Reforms, express its satisfaction at the final result of the case. The guilty people have been finally punished. Its’ a day when one feels really obliged to the rule of law. The judgment has reposed the faith of every law abiding citizen in the law of the land. Even though the acquittal of Inspector Didar Singh in the case is unfortunate, but it has certainly sent appropriate signal to the rowdy police force in the state that whosoever will take the law into his own hands, would have to pay for his excesses one day.

(ARUNJEEV SINGH WALIA)
General Secretary
Lawyers For Social Reforms, Chandigarh.
Chamber No.119, Distt.Courts,
Sector 17,Chandigarh. Ph: 0172-723187, 01762-51398
E-mail: waliars@glide.net.in

 

 


INVESTIGATION REPORT OF JETHU KE’S POLICE FIRING


Chandigarh: Feb.7, 2000

During a violence incident between the villagers of Jethu Ke, Distt.Bhatinda and police during the agitation against overcharging of fare by local bus operators, two dalit youths were killed in police firing and twenty people including a woman and fifteen policemen on 31st January,2000, at Village Jethu Ke, District Bhatinda. Over 60-70 villagers are still reported missing.

Information collected by a team of Lawyers For Social Reforms,Chandigarh from the villagers of Jethu Ke in District Bhatinda, revealed that for the past many days people were agitating under the banner of Bhartiya Kisan Union(Ekta) against the overcharging of fare by local mini-bus-operators. Inspite of bringing this illegality to the notice of Senior Civil authorities, when the culprits were not booked for cheating the people, the villagers laid a dharna on the railway line near the Railway Station on 30th January, 2000. On the intervention and assurance given by the Senior authorities including Deputy Commissioner, Phul, that a meeting of transporters and the village leaders would be called and the grievances would be amicably settled, the dharna was lifted. In the absence of Deputy Commissioner, the Additional Deputy Commissioner, Sh.Ajaib Singh Bhatti called a meeting of transporters and leaders of Bhartiya Kisan Union on 31st January, 2000. After about two rounds of talks when no result was in sight, the leaders of Bhartiya Kisan Union including its Distt.President Jhanda Singh, Buta Singh Burj Gill, Ruldu Singh Vice-President, Thaba Singh and Shingara Singh Gidar, walked out of the meeting in protest. Immediately on their coming out of the office of Additional Deputy Commissioner, the police arrested them and when the villagers sitting near the railway line learnt of this, they again sat on dharna on the railway line. On receiving information, heavy contingent of police force led by S.P.(Operations) Bhatinda, Sh.M.S.Chinna reached the spot. During this period, the U.V train coming from Tapa railway station also came near Jethu Ke railway station. Protestors stopped the train from going further. All the efforts of the Civil and Police authorities to pacify the protestors and lift the dharna failed and the villagers threatened to continue the dharna till their leaders are released. Villagers allege that the police at first fired tear gas shells and then resorted to heavy lathi charge. After this when the people started dispersing in small groups, then police followed them and fired at them as a result of which two Dalit youths namely, Des Pal Singh alias Desa, son of Buta Singh and Gurmit Singh son of Mithu Singh were killed whereas Bhola Singh, Bogha Singh, Bhalwant Singh and Jasvir Kaur were seriously injured. Deceased Gurmit Singh was the father of two small children and Des Pal was still bachelor. Local MP Comrade Bhan Singh Bheora and members of opposition showing the empty gun shells in the houses of the villagers alleged that the policemen intruded into the houses of innocent villagers and during indiscriminate firing killed two youth and injured many others. He demanded the registration of a criminal case against the officer on whose orders indiscriminate firing was resorted to and a judicial inquiry into the incident besides compensation to the next of kin of the deceased and injured .

According to Police, a large mob had assembled led by the leaders of Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta) and on the instigation of the union leaders the violent mob attacked Senior Civil authorities and policemen present on duty.Sh.Jatinder Jain, Senior Suprintendent of Police Bhatinda who was present in Civil Hospital, Rampura Phul had reportedly told the press correspondents that on the provocation of leaders of Bhartiya Kisan Union , the villagers attempted to torch the train, but the police acting swiftly prevented them from doing so and sent the train back to Tapa railway station. He also told that in the presence of Duty Magistrate, the villagers were warned through public address system to lift the dharna, but instead, the violent mob attacked the police with brick-bats and fire-arms. As a result, 14 policemen including Sh.M.S.Chinna, S.P.(Operations) Bhatinda and Sh.Surjit Singh, D.S.P.(Operations) Bhatinda, Sh.Surjit Singh, D.S.P.Phul and Sh.Mohinder Kumar S.H.O.Rampura Phul, were injured. After firing tear gas shells, the police fired in the air in their defence. In the darkness two dalits were killed. The Police chief accused the leaders of Bhartiya Kisan Union of spoiling the atmosphere only for the sake of their political gains. He said that the village panchayat has also condemned the union leaders for spoiling the situation. In this regard, Railway police has registered an F.I.R. in Police Station Bhatinda under Sections 307, 382, 333, 506, 188, 148, 149, 427,353,186 IPC, 25,27,54,59 Arms Act, 146,147 and 174 Railway Act. Injured policemen have been admitted to Civil Hospital, Rampura Phul. The postmortem of the two youth killed in the incident was also conducted by the doctors in Civil Hospital, Rampura Phul.

It may be worth mentionable here that the Lok Sabha M.P. from Bhatinda, Comrade Bhan Singh Bheora, Distt.Secretary of C.P.M. Com.Darshan Singh Mahiraj, Zonal leader of Bhartiya Kisan Union(Ekta) Sh.Gurdev Singh Dradi, Distt.President of Kisan Sabha Sh.Kartar Singh Mandi Kalan, Distt.President of Khet Mazdoor Sabha, Com.Gama Ram and other leaders while condemning the unprovoked firing on innocent villagers termed it as uncalled for. They accused that the police by intruding into the houses of the villagers not only killed two innocent dalit youths, but also injured Jasvir Kaur, sister-in-law of deceased Gurmit Singh and Bhola Singh, Bhoga Singh, Kulwant Singh etc. Com.Bhora showed three live and three used cartridges found from the house of the deceased Gurmit Singh. He said that the two killed youths had no affiliation with the Bhartiya Kisan Union. One was a labour and another a worker with an agriculturist. He also said that the police did not allow the villagers to participate in the cremation of the two deceased and allowed only five men and women to attend the last rites. After holding a prayer meeting in the village, a large gathering of villagers led by Com.Bhora and few other leaders reached the cremation grounds and paid their last respects to the killed youths. It is appropriate to mention here that the police had laid siege to the cremation ground and entire village besides sealing the Railway Station. The village was turned into a police contonment. Com.Bhora and leaders of different political parties have demanded immediate suspension of the officer who ordered indiscriminate firing on innocent villagers and registration of a murder case against him . A judicial inquiry, besides the payment of interim compensation of Rs. 1 lac each to the next of kin of the deceased and Rs.10,000 to the injured in the incident has also been demanded. Expressing fear of torture and elimination of “missing” villagers in police custody, the people have also demanded their immediate release.

Deputy Commissioner, Bhatinda assured the team members that a magisterial inquiry would be held into the incident. He lauded the role of police in using restraint. He said that two youths lost their valuable lives only for a rupee and injured at least two dozen policemen. When asked about the administrative officers who were not available on the fateful day, he said that he himself was on leave. A.D.C. Ajaib Singh Bhatti said that he had gone to make arrangements for transporting the railway passengers to their destinations.

In our considered view, it is a blatant case of State Excesses committed by the very people who were supposed to protect the citizens and being the Chief of the District Police, the S.S.P. Bhatinda is squarely responsible for this dastardly act. After finding enough proof and eye-witness account of Indiscriminate Police Firing by intruding into the houses of the un-armed villagers, we could not find words to express the anguish and grief the poor residents of Village Jethu Ke have been undergoing. It would be most appropriate if the State Govt. itself orders the registration of Criminal Case against the guilty police officials including the Senior Superintendent of Police, Bhatinda for playing with the lives of the villagers and ordering an interim compensation of Rs. 1 lac each to the next of kin of those killed and Rs.10,000/- each to the injured persons.

(ARUNJEEV SINGH WALIA)
General Secretary

 

INVESTIGATION REPORT INTO THE ILLEGAL DETENTION AND TORTURE OF RANDHIR SINGH OF LUDHIANA BY PUNJAB POLICE
CONDUCTED BY;-
LAWYERS FOR SOCIAL REFORMS, CHANDIGARH
CHAMBER 119, DISTRICT COURTS, SECTOR 17,CHANDIGARH

Ludhiana
23.3.2001

Another case of Police torture in CIA Staff, Ludhiana has raised a serious question about the role of Punjab police in continuing human rights violations of innocent citizens.

Randhir Singh, son of Bhan Singh, aged 22 years is a resident of H.No.2011, Street No.3, Abdullapur Market, Ludhiana. He is an under graduate with diploma in Computer sciences. His father is a daily wage mason. The family is a middle class family with no extra money to indulge in expensive litigation. The family had a civil litigation with an industrialist named Kishan Singh who is also the President of a Local Gurdwara and maintains good relations with senior political leaders of the ruling party in Punjab. A civil court had given a stay order in favour of the family of Randhir Singh way back in 1983 restraining the parties not to dispossess them from their land.

With a view to pressurize the family for handing over their industrial property to Kishan Singh, he got Bhan Singh implicated in a false case of attempt to murder in Police Post Bus Stand, Ludhiana in 1999. Bhan Singh was later acquitted of all the charges by the court. After his acquittal, he filed a civil case in a court against the Punjab State and Kishan Singh and others which is still pending.

In order to settle his score, Bhan Singh was again abducted by Chain Singh, Station House Officer of P.S. Model Town, Ludhiana on 10th December, 2000 at the behest of Kishan Singh. He was subjected to inhuman third degree treatment and threats to life of his family members if he failed to hand over the disputed property to Kishan Singh. His son Randhir Singh, knocked at the doors of Punjab & Haryana High Court and a Warrant Officer was appointed by Punjab & Haryana High Court which found Bhan Singh in the illegal custody of Police officer. He secured the release of the detainee. The Habeas corpus petition in that connection is still pending in the High Court.

Few days later in January, 2001, Kishan Singh using his political connection with one local leader Amarjit Singh Bhatia, President of Akali Dal (Badal) got Randhir Singh implicated in a false case under Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act through Inspector Narinder Bedi, Station House Officer of Police Station CIA Staff, Ludhiana. He was picked up from his house on 6th January, 2001 and taken to CIA Staff, Ludhiana. No information was given to him or his family member about the offence he was allegedly accused of. No Complaint or F.I.R. was registered against him at that time. In the CIA staff, he was made nude and subjected to inhuman third degree torture. His hands were tied at his back with a piece of cloth and with the help of a rope, he was lifted upside putting all pressure of the body on his tied hands. His legs were stretched apart at 180 degree and given good beating. He was repeatedly asked to withdraw his petition in the High Court regarding the abduction of his father and also to stop all legal battles against Kishan Singh. On his refusal to do so, he was threatened of being falsely implicated in a case for possessing narcotic drugs. He was also forced to name his father in the offence of drug peddling which he refused to do. After subjecting him to inhuman torture, he was at last booked in the false case under NDPS Act and produced before the Judicial Magistrate, Ludhiana who remanded him to judicial custody. From the jail, he sent complaints to the Chief Justice of Punjab & Haryana High Court, Director-General of Police, Punjab, Punjab State Human Rights Commission and National Human Rights Commission describing the wrong done to him. He was later granted bail by the Court on 25th January, 2001, but due to apprehension of further implication and torture at the hands of the police, his parents did not submit the bail bonds and he remained in judicial custody till 15th March, 2001. During the period of his detention in jail, his parents remained out of their house because Kishan Singh had been threatening them of more harassment if they followed their cases in the High Court against him and the police. On 15th March, 2001, the son of Kishan Singh rang the father of Randhir Singh and threatened him that they will not sit silent and will try to cause more harm to his family. Randhir Singh moved the Punjab & Haryana High Court for adequate protection of his life and liberty from Kishan Singh and policemen. He has been provided two official Personal Security Guards at State expense on the orders of the High Court. But still, his family members have not returned back and are living under constant fear of Police and their opponent Kishan Singh. Interestingly, one local Akali Leader Amarjit Singh Bhatia is repeatedly calling Randhir Singh at his house to withdraw all cases against the Policemen and Kishan Singh as they are close to him failing which Randhir Singh would be further implicated in other false cases. But Randhir Singh has shown exemplary courage and is committed to take the culprits to the court and get them punished.

(ARUNJEEV SINGH WALIA) GENERAL SECRETARY


People’s Commission, Banned:

I wish to come on record by calling the Judgment banning People’s Commission on human rights violations in Punjab as arbitrary, vindictive and a slur on the institution. It would not be unjust to say that this document is the worst gift from the Punjab & Haryana High Court to the new millennium. The judgment has baffled many human rights organisations associated with the activities of the People’s Commission.

The human rights activists were not surprised at the decision of the High Court. What surprised them the most was that the judgment came after a gap of nine months after it was reserved for pronouncement on 13.3.1999. It has also brought to fore that not only the trial of the cases are delayed but the judgments are also delayed for reasons best known to the bench. This could by no stretch of imagination be blamed to the Lawyers or the Judicial system as such.

The issuance of a Writ banning People’s Commission, a private institution run solely by non-govermental organisation has made a flutter of the judgment. Earlier a Writ could be issued by the High Courts only against the Government or a body run by the Government. The judgment in a way widened the scope of Public Interest Litigation, although no Public Interest was sought to be protected by the Petitioner except that the People’s Commission has tried to denigrate the Law Courts and established a parallel judicial system to even raise a finger at the orders of the Law Courts where injustice was writ large. Thirdly, the purpose of the People’s Commission has been vindicated by the said judgment. The Co-ordination Committee on disappearances in Punjab which constituted the People’s Commission was trying to un-earthen the mass scale human rights violations in Punjab during the last over a decade, and in the process lost many precious human lives including that of Jaswant Singh Khalra, Kulwant Singh Advocate, his wife and two month old Child and many more, but by banning the People’s Commission from carrying on its avowed objects, the High Court has confirmed in ice-cold words that human rights have no place in our society, where even High Court and Supreme Court Judges are driven by money, bias and relationships. It has also exposed its stance that nobody would be allowed to speak against the atrocities and brutality committed upon them by the Law enforcers. One cold question of law which makes me frighten still remains un-answered, Whether we are living in a civilised society ? Is our civilisation too narrow-minded and trashy that even freedom of Speech and expression could be denied in the name of upholding the dignity of the Law. After going through the lengthy judgment, every man with prudence fails to understand as to what offence or wrong the People’s Commission would have committed if it had been allowed to function. The judgment is another blot to the Indian Judicial System and voice of the people for a total reform in the institution and accountability for the Judges now hold more solid ground than ever before.

(Arunjeev Singh Walia)

PUNJAB POLICE---SHATTERING ITS IMAGE

Arunjeev Singh Walia


The unlawful activities and heinous acts of Punjab police even during the peace time have re-iterated the fact that they have scant respect for the law. The Senior police authorities had defended their men in the past for fighting terrorism and counter insurgency operations. For the sake of argument, let’s presume it a valid defense. But would anybody tell why the men in Khakhi are committing human rights violations even today, when the police itself claims that the militancy has been flushed out for all times to come ? The former Police chief KPS Gill and Mr.P.C.Dogra had strenuously and studiously sought clemency for their men for their extra-judicial acts done by them during the days of militancy in the State on the ground that the people they were fighting knew no law, so they could only be tackled in the extra-judicial manner. But it would be a great folly to put such an argument which costs thousands of innocent lives for eliminating few hundred outlaws. Can any disciplined force in the country, afford its men to become terrorist and adopt the same methods as were done by the armed groups in the name of eliminating terrorism ? This precisely happened in Punjab during the days of State terrorism in Punjab. The tragedy has not ended. The same policemen sitting in the Police Station with more free hand to maintain peace at any cost, are committing more human rights violations than in the past. More than seventy nine custodial deaths in four years of popular rule, and thousands of complaints of Police highhandedness and custodial crime filed in the law courts are ample proof of the lawlessness prevailing in the Punjab Police. The involvement of a number of policemen in heinous crime of murder and custodial torture during the recent days have brought the force to disrepute. It is more shocking to learn that many ex-militants after their absorption in the police force, are showing their colours and committing terrorist activities in the garb of uniform. The murder of Avtar Singh in Ludhiana by an ex-terrorist and a Police informer, Inspector Gurmeet Singh “Pinky” in January and the cold blooded murder of an NRI girl Jaswinder Kaur Jassi by another ex-militant turned Head Constable Joginder Singh in Jagraon few days ago and torture of an innocent person by Inspector Manvinder Singh Bedi in Ludhiana, have exposed the criminal elements in Punjab Police. It is a matter of shame for the entire force that two of their Senior officers have been accused of molestation.

It is the result of judicial apathy and inaction of law enforcing machinery that today Police stations have become a place for illegal detention, torture and harassment of innocent people. To every accused, Police remand means a period where the Police is authorised to use third degree methods, like giving thrashing with Leather belts, tying upside down and applying heavy iron rods on legs and sensitive parts, giving of electric shocks on private parts and applying of petrol on vital organs. People feel afraid of going into a police station and quite often a hale and hearty person going to a police station has to be brought out on a stretcher due to injuries inflicted during Police Interrogation. No one including the State Human Rights Commission or the High Court has the courage to take suo moto notice of the inhuman treatment subjected to the victims in the Police Stations. It is because of this lackadaisical attitude, that in the last three years more than twenty five policemen have been booked for criminal offences committed by them. It is a matter of serious concern for the people at this sensitive juncture to save themselves from the Police highhandedness ? We have seen that the police fears nobody in this state of lawlessness. But public outcry and pressure built up by human rights organisations certainly puts the police in a difficult situation and they are forced to bow before the people’s demand. In more than one incident of Police highhandedness, while Senior Police authorities were earlier openly shielding their men, but they were forced to book the guilty Policemen bowing to public pressure and street protests by the residents of the area.

Be it as it may, here I wish to highlight the three incidents of Police highandedness where three different lawyers were illegally detained, mis-behaved and mal-treated by the Station House Officer of different Police Stations in Punjab.

The first incident happened with Arunjeev Singh Walia, a human rights activist and a lawyer of Punjab & Haryana High Court on 4th october, 1998 when he had gone to Police Station Phase VIII, SAS Nagar, Mohali on court orders for meeting his client during Police remand. When he objected to the third degree treatment given to his client by the Police, he was illegally detained for more than four hours, mis-behaved, abused and assaulted by the Station House Officer, Assistant Sub-Inspector, Balwant Singh Majitha. The lawyer was saved after few lawyers accompanied by the President of the Punjab & Haryana High Court Bar Association forced the policemen to restrain from taking the law into their own hands. Later on a Petition was filed by the lawyer against the policeman in the High Court which was treated as Contempt of Court petition, but no effective hearing has taken place for more than two years. Ironically, inspite of the matter being brought to the notice of the then DGP, Punjab, Mr.P.C.Dogra, the erring cop remained posted in the same police station and recently he has been promoted as the SHO of a bigger police station.

In the second incident, Gurpal Singh Bains, a young lawyer of Chandigarh was falsely implicated in a case of abduction by the SHO of P.S. Kharar, Mr.Gurbinder Singh on 27th March, 2000. He was charged with conspiring to abduct a minor girl alongwith a boy with whom that girl had married against the wishes of her parents. It was later on revealed that the girl was major and had married with the boy of her own free will and was never abducted or raped. Then the police filed an application in the court for discharge of the lawyer in the said case. Interestingly, the main person who allegedly abducted the girl was not arrested but the lawyer was arrested and sent to judicial custody for two months. The SHO had threatened the lawyer that he will abduct his sister in the same manner as he had conspired to abduct another girl. The complaint filed by the Lawyer in the Punjab State Human Rights Commission is gathering dust since August, 2000 and the erring policeman is still serving at the same post with same lawlessness.

The third incident relates to the illegal detention and mis-behavior of Mr.Rajesh Kumar Sharma, a young lawyer of Chandigarh by the Station House Officer of Police Station Phase VIII, SAS Nagar, Mohali, Mr.Sukhwinder Singh on 4th March, 2001. He had gone to the Police Station alongwith another lawyer colleague to inquire about a complaint filed in the Police Station against the brother of a lawyer. Instead of showing the complaint, the S.H.O. started mis-behaving with the lawyer and threatened him that if he will not produce the accused before him, he will also be implicated in the false case which will be registered against the accused. They were allowed to go home only after they tendered written apology under force to the Policeman.

These incidents sufficiently prove that an open rivalry between the human rights lawyers and the police force in the State is inevitable where the lawless police force keeps upper hand as far as the question of free hand is concerned. Because most of the policemen are in the dock due to strenuous efforts of the human rights lawyers, they find the whole lawyer fraternity as their enemy and try to implicate or harass them in legal or illegal manner. If the Senior Police authorities and the law courts do not intervene at this crucial time, there could be very unpleasant situation with more lives to be lost at the hands of brutal Punjab Police.

INVESTIGATION REPORT OF CONTINUING POLICE BRUTALITY IN PUNJAB

CHANDIGARH
JUNE 13, 2000

“Punjab Police at your service”. The Catchline of Punjab Police aimed at projecting the force as most polite and people friendly is belied on hearing the horrific experience narrated by the victims of Police brutality in Punjab even today. Instances of Punjab Policemen acting beyond the pale of law in the name of “Containing terrorism” does not seem to be a thing of the past, going by the instances of Police highandedness reported even today in a most blatant fashion and the Policemen becoming the Judge, Jury and the Executioner in settling private property disputes, which is evident from the tale of woes and injuries present on the body of Shashi Parkash Sharma, a businessman of Jalandhar.

Shashi Parkash Sharma, a young transporter of Jalandhar was having litigation over a rented property, No.770,Mota Singh Nagar,Jalandhar, owned by the wife of a Punjab Superintendent of Police, Mr.Gurcharan Singh who is currently posted in Assam. Inspite of having Stay order from the Civil Courts, Shashi Sharma was implicated in a false case of tresspassing into the said premises by the Police of P.S.Div.No.6,Jalandhar, in 1998. After he obtained bail, the police started using unlawful methods and even attacked him in order to force him to vacate the premises. The matter became worse in the year 2000 when he and his employees were unlawfully kidnapped and kept in illegal detention by a Police informer (CAT) turned Inspector, Mr.Gurmeet Singh alias “Pinky”, Incharge of CIA Staff, Jalandhar. During this illegal detention, Mr.Sharma was subjected to third degree torture, given electric shocks on his private parts and made to lay naked on ice-slabs for hours. All this was done by Inspector Gurmeet Singh “Pinky” in the presence of Mrs.Manjit Kaur, the landlady(wife of Gurcharan Singh, SP, Punjab Police) between 4.2.2000 till 8.2.2000. He was later thrown on a garbage dumping point in Jalandhar when his relatives approached Punjab & Haryana High Court and search warrants were issued against the Police. Even after that he was constantly harassed and threatened of more serious consequences, if he did not left the premises of the Superintendent of Police. He even made several representations to every concerned authorities and even met Chief Minister, Punjab, and continued suffering the wrath of Punjab police even after getting assurance from the Chief Minister. Thereafter his cousin brother Anil Sharma, who had to give evidence in his favour before the Punjab State Human Rights Commission, at Chandigarh was kidnapped and threatened with false implication in criminal cases if he dared to give evidence against Inspector Gurmeet Singh “Pinky”.

While the inquiry relating to above violation of his human right is pending in Punjab State Human Rights Commission, he was caught unaware on 16th May, 2000 at 11 a.m. in the office of Indo-Canadian Transport Company, Jalandhar where he had gone for business dealing, when a police party headed by Station House Officer of Division No.4, S.I.Nirmal Singh and eighteen other policemen picked him up at gun-point and even arrested his two official gunmen without informing him about the ground of the arrest. He was taken to the Police Station where he was told that since he had jumped bail in a case pending against him, he should furnish fresh bail-bonds if he wants to get released. In the evening his Uncle gave his surety and sought his release from the Police custody. But instead of freeing him and his gunmen, the Policemen handed them over to the SHO of another Police Station Sadar,Jalandhar who told them that a case had been registered against them in his police station and he has to arrest them. He was taken by Inspector Gurmeet Singh “Pinky” illegally to Police Station Div.No.4 where in the first floor of the Police Station, he was brutally tortured and was threatened with life if he did not agree to withdraw all his cases against Gurmeet Singh "Pinky". He was made naked and given severe beating on each and every sensitive part of the body. His only offence was that he was not ready to vacate the tenancy premises under Police pressure and refused to withdraw court cases against Gurmeet Singh “Pinky”. Later on when he became un-conscious, he was shifted to the lock-up and implicated in two false cases at the instance of Gurmeet Singh Pinky. Even one case has been filed against Shashi Sharma by the SP in Guwahati (Assam) using his influence over local police.

This was not the end of his suffering. His cousin brother Anil Sharma was also subjected to similar treatment. He was picked up from a hospital in Jalandhar where his sister was struggling for her life in an accidental burn case. He was taken to Police Station Division Sadar and booked in the same case with Shashi Sharma. He was also badly tortured and was even forcibly made to consume poison as a result of which he became ill and even collapsed in the Court room and sensing his serious condition, he was shifted to Civil Hospital, Jalandhar and had to be given emergency medical treatment. He is still struggling for his life in the jail hospital in Central Jail, Jalandhar. Even the gunmen of Shashi Sharma were not spared. The two gunmen were also arrested, their arms and ammunition snatched and put behind the bars for no fault of theirs. They were simply performing their duty of protecting Shashi Sharma as per the orders of Punjab State Human Rights Commission, but the Punjab Police of Jalandhar even did not care to spare their men and implicated the two gunmen also, in false cases with Shashi Sharma.

The moot question that remains to be answered is, if such treatment is given by Punjab Police today, to a highly resourceful person like Mr.Shashi Sharma, what good an ordinary citizen could expect from these “butchers” in Khaki ? Importantly enough, isn’t this behavior of the Police that forces a peace loving citizen to take to gun rather than adopting the path of law that “takes its own course”, as the cliched phrase goes. Its’ high time, that the rulers of the times and the concerned authorities in the Punjab Police must sternly deal with Police officers like Gurmeet Singh “Pinky”, if they want to restore normalcy in the State, otherwise, the most probable prediction that Punjab would again be ruled by the gun and not the law, will become a reality.

THREE YEARS OF MIS-RULE


Putting a cursory glance over the policies and functioning of the SAD-BJP Government in Punjab during the three years of its mis-rule, one could easily hold that the Badal-SAD govt. has proved to be another regime that could prove every bit as monstrous. After seeing the present government, no difference between the Congress Govt.headed by Beant Singh and SAD-BJP Govt. led by Parkash Singh Badal comes to sight.Both the governments have proved anti-people, anti-human rights and a government promoting one’s family interests. With a record number of scams, scandals and cases of rampant corruption in the Administration and even at Ministerial level and first ever situation of total bankruptcy in the state since the SAD-BJP Govt. took charge, Parkash Singh Badal has exposed his intentions and backed out from the pre-poll promises made to the people of the State. Tragic indeed, People were once again befooled, but this time by their own men. Badal’s whimsical style of functioning has alienated the faith of the people. The tale of blunders committed by the Badal Govt. in the last three years is a case of total betrayal. Even the repeated warnings of “Perform or perish” given by the people in the form of volatile mandate against the Badal Govt. in assembly election in Adampur in 1998 and Parliamentary elections in 1999 also failed to bring him closer to reality. It would not be gainsaying the fact that the next two years may bring a revival of terrorism of unimaginable magnitude in the State and the everlasting downfall of the Shromani Akali Dal and the Badal family.

On the basis of pre-poll promises of withdrawing all cases under TADA and release of detenues languishing in jails, end of Police Raj, holding inquiries into the causes and effect of terrorism in the State, punishing the guilty police officials and a government free from corruption and self interest, the Sharomani Akali Dal bagged over-whelming majority in 1997. Had the Akalis been sincere to their commitment from the begining, withdrawl of TADA cases against all the detenues who are languishing in jails would have been ordered. But instead, TADA cases were withdrawn only against 31 politicians including the Chief Minister himself and former SGPC President,Gurcharan Singh Tohra in March 1997 much to the disenchantment of poor prisoners. The cause of human rights in the State has been kept in abeyance since the day Mr.Parkash Singh Badal took oath as Chief Minister of Punjab while tainted police officers toy with crisis of their own creation. The Chief Minister even went out of his way to emphasize his debt to the cruel men of his force and exonerated all policemen responsible for killing hundreds of innocent Sikh youth in false police encounters, summary executions and even made them dis-appear for ever. He stirred a hornets’ nest by giving the slogan of “the past ought to be forget and buried” which evoked strong protests from every corner, especially the human rights lobby. Agitation and mass movement was built to force the party to fulfill pre-poll promises made by it. But not even a single policeman in Punjab has been brought to book during the long spell of three years of Akali rule. This soft stance of Badal encouraged the ruthless Punjab policemen to continue with their onrush of atrocities on poor people, resulting in more than fifty custodial deaths in 1997, seventy two in 1998 and thirty two in 1999. The Punjab State Human Rights Commission constituted by the State govt. under tremendous pressure from the human rights activists also failed to make their presence felt. The lackadaisical approach of the Judges of the Commission made its functioning redundant. It always accepts the police version as a gospel truth and dismisses complaints of victims on flimsy grounds. Many cases of custodial deaths were simply dismissed for lack of evidence.


Kith and kin of the Chief Minister and his favourite Akali leaders found special favour from the government for pocketing various political posts. The trend was set into motion by the Chief Minister himself when he succeeded in inducting his son Sukhbir Badal as Industries Minister in the Centre in 1997, followed by his nephew Manpreet Badal, as MLA and recently his son-in law Adesh Partap Singh Kairon as Cabinet Minister in his ministry. His brothers-in-law Gurpreet Singh and Inderjit Singh were made Sarpanches of two panchayats after carving out a new panchayat named Bhai Harjoginder Nagar. Toeing the path, Mr.Sikander Singh Malooka, a Cabinet Minister got his son Gurpreet Singh, Balwinder Singh Bhunder, an M.P. got his son Balraj Singh Bhunder ,Baldev Singh Khaiala, a Cabinet Minister got his son Nirmal Singh Khaila inducted as director of Central Co-operative Banks. Senior Akali leader Jagdev Singh Talwandi got his son Ranjit Singh as Chairman of Punjab Mandi Board, which he continued to occupy even after his conviction for life in a murder case. Even the younger son of Jagdev Singh Talwandi was gifted with Chairmanship of another corporation. Dissention started brewing within the party for distribution of all political posts to the near and dear ones of the Chief Minister. In 1998 even Harsimrat Kaur, the daughter-in-law of Chief Minister, and wife of Sukhbir Badal, created a flutter in administrative circles in Faridkot, when she summoned and misbehaved with deputy commissioner and other senior police officials. According to media reports, Badal’s putra-moh was one of the reason for the miserable defeat of SAD in the Parliamentary elections in 1999.

Political interference in religious matters of the Sikh community by the Akalis witnessed many unpleasant happenings in the last three years. Meddling into the religious affairs, the Chief Minister stirred a hornets’ nest when he got his first opponent Gurcharan Singh Tohra removed from the Presidentship of Shromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee followed by the sacking of Bhai Ranjit Singh, the daring Jathedar of Akal Takht on April 28,1998 and installation of Giani Puran Singh as the new Jathedar on February 15,1999. These events furiated not only the two leaders, but also the entire Sikh community, who took it as an attack on their religious freedom and saw a traitor in Badal. This development ultimately led to the un-precedented loss of vote bank of Akalis in the rural areas. Gurcharan Singh Tohra had rightly warned Mr.Badal of revolt from within if he continued with his policy of self-interest. After routing almost all the Parliament seats in the General elections in 1999, Mr.Badal or his loyalists may blame Tohra or Bhai Ranjit Singh for their defeat, but for the masses, it was a fatwa against unwarranted interference by politicians in their religious affairs. Lowering the sanctity and respect of the highest temporal Institutions by installing Bibi Jagir Kaur and Bhai Puran Singh as the President of S.G.P.C. and Akal Takht respectively in a most obtrusive manner, raking a controversy during the ter-centenary celebrations of the Khalsa at Anandpur Sahib in April, 1999 by dividing the Sant Samaj, also evoked strong public resentment. More than a hundred crore rupees have allegedly gone down the drain and ostensibly distributed among the corrupt politicians and religious leadersfor bringing a new life to Anandpur Sahib. What good all this tantara did to the people, is any body’s guess. Putting Baba Darshan Singh of Dhakki Sahib Dera in Distt.Ludhiana in jail for months and the failure of the State Govt. in arresting the accused persons who set the dera on fire in December, 1999 gave a blow to the reputation of Shromani Akali Dal .

It was perhaps, for the first time in history that the State exchequer became empty and bankruptcy was deckared in the State in December 1998. This grim fiscal scenario badly affected the wheels of development in the State. So tight is the situation that even the Govt. has no money to pay salaries to its employees and funds for running essential services like Transport ,education and medical services. Among the many reasons for this state of bankruptcy as explained by the experts were, slow infrastructural development, increasing direct and indirect subsidies to many sectors, falling rate of growth of tax and non-tax revenues and abolition of important local taxes in order to please the business class. The employees did not get their salaries for months, state transport buses failed to come on road due to non-availability of oil, Schools came on the brink of closure with teachers without salaries and buildings in dilaphilated condition, pensioners cried for their pension. Even the High Court of Punjab & Haryana made it clear that a total restrain order on the payment of salary to the employees of higher strata would be passed unless the State govt. pays salary to its Class IV employees. Inspite of this crisis, it was informed by Finance Minister of Punjab in the Vidhan Sabha that a total sum of Rs.12 crore is incurred every month for maintaining the vehicular and security needs of the Ministers and MLA’s. On account of State’s failure to pay salary to its employees and creditors for many months, the state govt.found itself in a quandary with many govt. buildings and moveable properties brought under court attachment. The MARKFED, Punjab even decided to mortgage their building in order to clear off their debts. Inspite of Court’s order for one car-one officer policy, every corporation and department of the State still keeps more than four cars putting heavy burden on the State exchequer. The Cavalcade of the Chief Minister, himself included about a hundred govt. cars in the Parliamentary elections in 1999 during election rallies at Faridkot in support of his son Sukhbir Badal. The expenses incurred by his loyalists on their travelling could be well imagined.

Trapped in a precarious debt, hundreds of farmers committed suicide across the state, leaving a trail of suffering to the bereaved families. A recent study based on the detailed investigations conducted by two eminent social scientists, Dr.Mehar Singh Mamick and Dr.K.Gopal Iyer, into the circumstances which led the poor farmers to commit suicide in Punjab, tells a disturbing story. During their investigation stretched upto twelve villages in Sangrur and related belt, it was found that of the 80 farmers who committed suicide, 62.5 % were cultivators, 31.25% were agricultural labourers and rest 5.25 % were engaged in non-agricultural occupation. A majority of farmers were small landless agriculturists who could not even pay off the lease money to the landowners and the bank loans due to less crop produce and insignificant price of the produced crop. Ironically, the State Govt. did not even found a word to console the bereaved families. Instead, the policy of the govt. in levying huge taxes, octroi and increase in the price of the fertilizers, diesel and other items virtually broke the back of the farmers. The policies of the State Govt. including that of free electricity to agriculture sector, benefited only big landlords and proved to be a curse for the small agriculturist. The common man was the worst sufferer with increased bus fares, black-marketing of essential commodities and rampant corruption at every level of the government affecting their right to life. Today, Govt. jobs are available at a price and transfer and promotions have become a source of income for the Ministers and even the kith and kin of the Chief Minister. From a Village Patwari to a Minister of cabinet rank in Punjab Govt. and even the Chief Minister, his son and wife have been accused of amassing huge wealth through corrupt means. The agenda of the SAD promising a corruption free-government seems to have been kept in abeyance by the very persons who promoted it tooth and nail. Every govt. servant blames the system in which a subordinate pays bribe for getting a job and demands bribe in return. No body appears to be interested in finding a solution to the question that, what’s the fault of a common man who approaches the administration for getting justice?

The level of education in government institutions has reached a rock bottom level with inadequate funds for appointing qualified teachers and constructing buildings. According to a report submitted by Education Secreatary of Punjab in the Punjab State Human Rights Commission during the hearing of a complaint of human rights violation of govt.school students in Punjab, more than five hundred and eighty five school buildings have been declared unsafe and at present more than two thousand vacancies of teachers, head masters and other staff exist in govt.schools. Inspite of so many vacancies, thousands of ad-hoc teachers were shunted out by the Punjab govt. which furiated them and even one teacher sacrificed his life during the three month long agitation in Chandigarh. The decision of Punjab govt. in de-recognising Registered Medical Practitioners also evoked great public annoyance and agitation. The problem of un-employment would have been easily overcome by accomodating qualified teachers in govt. schools where vacancies already exist, but the State govt. appears to be more interested in becoming a part of the problem rather than finding a solution.

There has not been any change in the law and order problem in the State. Roaming in a public place with yellow turban and loose beard is seen with suspicion even today. There is no change in the attitude of the Punjab police towards the sikhs. About two thousand youth have been falsely implicated in militancy-related crimes since the Akali rule. This statement is corraborated by the report of Additional Director General of Police, Punjab attached with the Punjab State Human Rights Commission. The then D.G.P. of Punjab police Mr.P.C.Dogra had ordered that all the human rights activists and other persons highlighting their misdeeds should be implicated in the case of attempt to kill VVIP’s in the State. Even today, newspapers prominently quote police officers saying as having busted a suicide gang of militants attempting to kill the Chief Minister or other VVIP’s and show recovery of huge quantity of RDX and other explosives. After investigation by different human rights groups, all these claims prove to be a figament of imagination and total failure of control over corrupt police force in the State. Mr. P.C. Dogra even went to the extent of claiming that certain terrorists groups had planned to put cyanide in the water supply in the State, without realizing that Cyanide when mixed into water becomes harmless. While the Chief Minister aptly visits the house of every soldier of Punjab killed in the Kargil conflict in Kashmir, he has no time to say even a word to console the bereaved families of innocent people killed in police custody or false encounters. His govt. has to cough out at least fifty lacs rupees in compliance of the orders of National Human Rights Commission for killing or torturing innocent citizens in police custody. Awefully, the murder of justice saw no bounds in this state of saints and the every member of the jumbo ministry of Shromani Akali Dal-BJP, mocking at it unmoved from every loss of life in the State.

Mis-use of official machinery during Parliamentary elections in the State broke all records of even Beant Singh led Congress regime. Perhaps, it was also the reason why the people rejected the Shromani Akali Dal during every subsequent election in the State. The people had expected a government free from corruption, and a government which would heal their old wounds by punishing all those police officers responsible for killing their near and dear ones. Releasing all innocent people detained under TADA for long, adoption of people-friendly policies and giving a transparent governance are the burning questions of the time which do not fall in the govt.’s agenda for the moment. But the explanation of Mr.Badal after his tragic defeat in Parliamentary elections in 1999 that “people had more expectations from his government” is a statement born out of desperation. His claim of a government with a “mission” and “vision” has proved to be an illusion. From what has gone in the State during the three years of mis-rule, one could aptly judge that the mission of the Shromani Akali Dal is to promote self interest, grab as much money as one could and to put every person behind bars who dares to speak against the wrong policies of the govt. Making Sikhs enslaved and poor to the majority class , by hitting economically is the vision of the Shromani Akali Dal today. Mr.Badal has forgotten that his guide viz.. Atal Bihari Vajyapee and L.K.Advani won’t be able to sail him out of this critical situation and the people of the State are prepared to write the obituary of Shromani Akali Dal in the elections at the cost of peace and prosperity in the State.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE IN INDIA

Our criminal justice system can be classified into four successive stages. First comes the enactment of criminal law by the legislature. Secondly, the task of the police to enforce them; thirdly, the stage of criminal trial where the question of guilt is decided; and finally the task of reformatory exercise to change the convict through the process of reformatory punishment. But each tends to be the province of a different group of people. Politicians make the laws; lawyers run the trials; magistrates and judges give their verdict on punishment; and the prison authorities deal with the convicted offenders. None of these organs are sensitive enough to give thought to the problems of the other or to consider the working of the system as a whole. For instance, it would not do any good if the legislature passes the laws, but the police do not enforce them. There is no use in catching a criminal, if the system of trial is so inefficient that it lets the culprit go free. The aspects of justice about which one may think are strictly not the business of the law enforcement agencies---the criminal laws, the system of trial and the question of punishment. These things all affect law enforcement work to an extent which is not sufficiently realised.

Dissatisfaction with the administration of justice is as old as law. These are not idle words. Is our machinery for administration of justice working well ? Certainly not ! The basic purpose of Criminal Justice System in India appears to have lost somewhere in the complicated and mis-interpreted procedures created by the law enforcement agencies. The stone heart judges contributes to a large extent in throwing all principles of equity, natural justice and fair play to winds. The net result is that our Criminal Justice system has become sick and needs urgent reforms. In such a epressing situation, it would not be gainsaying the fact that something is rotten in our criminal justice system. It thus, casts an onerous responsibility upon justice loving persons like us, to find out possible remedial measures to end this tyrannical system and bring sensitive, reasonable and fair procedure to do justice with the litigants. But before going into this discussion, I feel that it is necessary to understand the reasons and effect of such unjust, illegal and insensitive system of criminal justice in our country.

From the experience gathered during practise in criminal law, I can say without hesitation that practically speaking, major drawbacks in the working of law enforcement agency viz.. the police and the criminal courts defeat the whole spirit of the criminal law. Firstly, the prosecution and even the trial court from the day one considers the suspect as an accused and believes the prosecution story as a gospel truth. What to say of the subordinate magistrate, but even the sessions judge and high court prima facie believes the police story while deciding the bail plea or quashing proceedings of the complaint or First Information Report. This, despite the fact, that the police personnel who author the document is unqualified and untrained person, generally prone to bias and influence on acount of subordination in rank in the police department. If the job to record the First Information Report is entrusted to a qualified person having thorough knowledge of the Criminal Procedure Code and Indian Penal Code, the attitude of the Judges to treat the document as correct may be justified, but today it is the pitiably the opposite. Nevertheless, the duty of the court to punish the culprit cannot be ignored, but the legal maxim, “A person is innocent until proved guilty”, has lost its significance in India, due to overzealous behavior of the criminal courts while trying the suspects on the basis of a document which ordinarily fails in the acid test of judicial scrutiny. In this way, before a person gets a decision from the court, he has already suffered the humiliation, harassment and agony of being condemned as “an accused”. Further, our subordinate judges lack up- date knowledge of latest law and judicial pronouncements on different subjects. In a country like India, where more than a thousand amendments or statutes are made every year, the judges behave like an illeterate in law. The outcome of this laxity falls on the head of poor litigants who loose their cause inspite of being legally correct. Is it not archaic ? Another sad fact is that the judges take different view while dealing with different persons. In other words, there is one law for the rich and another for the poor. In the case of a policeman being the accused, the judge adopts leniency, but treats a similarly placed common man with severity. For a policeman, bail is a right while it is not so for a common man. You file a complaint of a human rights violation against a police officer and see the fate of your case. It is going to be a humiliating experience, a battle lost before it starts, because the whole system stand by these criminals in uniform. Life Imprisonment or death sentence is a rule for a murder accused, but if a policeman beats a suspect to death in police custody or kills anybody in a fake encounter, the case becomes too weak to even secure conviction. Ways and means to acquit a policeman is considered with appreciation of a judge these days. Accountability, transparency and fair play is the price we have paid for keeping this inhuman and corrupt system alive. Having said these strong words, I would now place before you the case of our state, Punjab, in which our daring lawyers and human rights defenders strived hard to set right the criminal justice system to some extent.
State of Punjab reeled under a decade of bloodshed from 1984 till 1995. During this period, we saw the worst show of incompetence or rather impotence of all institutions of justice delivery system. It was a police state with no accountability of any organ of administration. Anybody raising voice against the police was sure to loose his life. The common man was apprehensive and frightened. More than ten thousand innocent persons lost their lives either at the hands of Punjab police or armed groups called “terrorists”. “Death” had become a matter of morbid humour in Punjab. Young sikh boys were picked up from the home or field and summarily liquidated by the police. The petitions for justice to the civil administration or judiciary were coldly turned down. In retaliation, the ‘sufferers’ took the life of innocent persons and this vicious circle went on for many years. When an institution consistently fails to perform the job that the people reasonably expects of it, its legitimacy ultimately comes into question. I can sadly recollect the behavior of judges of Punjab & Haryana High Court in 1989 when hundreds of Habeas Corpus petitions seeking the production of detenus were dismissed daily without any effective order. The Judges openly supported the police action of summary execution of alleged “terrorist”. The lawyers who opposed the police action were accused of abetting “terrorism”. Human Rights defenders who sought the prosecution of the policemen accused of extra-judicial killings, in accordance with law, were an eyesore in the eyes of police force and the judges supporting police brutality. Media too was hostile towards them. Even the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the High Court. Getting a shot in the arm, the Punjab police were at daggers drawn with the human rights lawyers. One lawyer Ranbir Singh Manshahia of Bathinda, was picked up and made to ‘disappear’. Not many voices condemned his extra-judicial murder by the police. Thereafter, five human rights defenders were similarly done to death. This raised hackles among the lawyer fraternity. The most gruesome act of Punjab police was the murder of Kulwant Singh, his wife and three months old child in 1994. Lawyers all over the region went on a month long strike demanding prosecution of police personnel responsible for the inhuman act. The Punjab & Haryana High Court dismissed the petition by the lawyers seeking a CBI inquiry into the gruesome killings. It was then the Supreme Court of India responded positively and ordered a CBI inquiry which led to the prosecution of five Punjab police personnel responsible for the heinous crime. Encouraged with this landmark judgment and few other pronouncements from the Supreme Court holding the police force guilty of serious violations of human rights in Punjab, the lawyers fighting against State repression jointed together and formed an organisation called, “LAWYERS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS INTERNATIONAL” and provided free legal aid and protection of law to the victims of police atrocities. We sensitised the courts and convinced them that end cannot justify the means and the police cannot be permitted to transgress the law in order to end violence. Every policeman must bear in mind that “howsoever high you may be, law is above you”. With our efforts the wheel of justice started moving on the right path in the state and media exposed the cruel and dastardly acts of the policemen and courts started punishing them for their wrongdoings. Encouraged by the positive response, we convinced the same judges to act appropriately and got favourable orders. The judges who had earlier condoned the human rights abuses committed by security forces came to the rescue of the victims. Soon, flood gates of litigation was opened against the excesses committed by the men of the Punjab police. More than fifteen hundred policemen were brought to the dock by human rights lawyers in Punjab. CBI inquiries were held in as many as three hundred and twenty cases of “disappearance” or “fake encounter”. Many inquiries held policemen responsible for extra-judicial killings. Around eight hundred policemen were brought to trial and with our free legal aid and tierless effrots, around eighty policemen were convicted and sentenced to imprisonment varying from Life Imprisonment to seven years R.I. Around seventy policemen are still facing trial for various human rights abuses committed by them. Among them are senior police officers like Sumedh Singh Saini, Inspector General of Police, Mr.Rajan Gupta, Deputy Inspector General and others of subordinate ranks. But one thing which disturbed human rights lawyers was the faulty and poor quality of investigation done by the Central Bureau of Investigation while finding the truth behind the excesses committed by Punjab police. CBI has come out as merely a toothless, diseased paper tiger whose roar is more effective than its maul. How lackaisical is the CBI conduct can be gauged from the fact that in all cases filed by CBI against the police officers in Punjab, bails have been granted to the accused policemen. Fabricated witnesses and lenient sections of Indian Penal Code framed against the accused policemen enable the accused to easily go out of the bounds of law.


TADA—A MONSTER HANDCUFFING HUMAN RIGHTS


“The Rowlatt Act is far fairer and whatever the situation in Punjab, a pan Indian criminal procedure prescribed by this special legislation, TADA, must shock the conscience of those who hold humanist values of justicing inalienable.”
…….. Justice V.R.Krishana Iyer


Draconian law enacted by the legislature hits at the very root of a democratic, welfare state. Most of the security legislations enacted in India so far aims at giving excessive power to the police to curb constitutional freedoms of the people in the name of national security. TADA (Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act,1987) is one of many security legislations, enacted with the object of fighting terrorism with toughest means. Soon, it began to show result and became notorious more for its abuse than for its legal use. The long list of instances of its misuse have become legendary. The Act also served as an inspiration for the enactment of a similar legislation, Prevention of Terrorism Act,(POTA), 2000.

Under TADA after an area is declared as a “disturbed area”, stringent provisions of law could be used against any person. With its draconian provisions, it defeated the purpose of a fair trial, including denial of right to anticipatory bail, extention of period of remand, admissibility of confessions to a police officer as evidence, onus shifting upon the accused to prove innocence (contrary to the usual presumption of innocence drawn in favour of accused) and awarding of death sentence to an accused under the Act. When TADA was in force, it was an open secret that the law was grossly misused by the police in various parts of the country. The minorities were often targetted. It was for these reasons that Parliament allowed it to lapse in 1995 before that it had caused irreparable loss to the criminal justice system of the country where thousands of persons suffered long incarceration and even convictions.

The validity of TADA was challenged in the Supreme Court on many occasions but upheld in various judgments. In Kartar Singh Vs State of Punjab, the apex court upheld the validity of the Act except for Section 22 which provides for identification on the basis of photographs. Two judges in their dissenting judgment held that Section 15 which provides for admissibility of confession made before a police officer as violative of Articles 20 and 21 of the Constitution, while the majority judges laid down certain guidelines for the same.

18,686 persons were arrested under TADA in Gujarat, followed by Punjab where 15,314 persons were arrested since 1984 and all of them were from minority community. In Punjab, all the arrested persons under this act were Sikhs. During the same period, 15,225 muslims were arrested in Jammu & Kashmir and 12,715 in Assam.

The statistics of arrests and convictions made under TADA in different parts of the country made a valid point for its condemnation. In actual practise, anybody raising a voice of dissent against the policies of the government was booked under this act. The true picture of its abuse by the police can be gauged from the fact that ninety seven percent of arrests made under this act were of people belonging to minority communities. According to a status paper prepared by the Union Home Ministry in April, 1995, a total number of 18,686 persons were arrested under TADA in Gujarat, followed by Punjab where 15,314 persons were arrested since 1984 and all of them were from minority community. In Punjab, all the arrested persons under this act were Sikhs. During the same period, 15,225 muslims were arrested in Jammu & Kashmir and 12,715 in Assam. Interestingly, the Act was applied only against members of minority community and even people who committed petty offences were booked under TADA, like raising Khalistan slogans in a sikh religious temple. A startling case which could clearly describe the extent of mis-use of TADA by the police was of Baljit Singh of Chandigarh. He was booked under Section 3 and 5 of TADA, for entering into a piece of land where a stone was placed and he picked up that stone and threw it out of that land and raised pro-khalistan slogans. It was alleged that with a view to create terror among hindu community, he entered a place of worship and demolished the ‘Shivling” and threatened to create a separate sikh nation. After sufferring imprisonment for more than six months, he was ultimately released on bail and discharged after the court held the gross abuse of the law by the police. In all, Chandigarh police booked 249 persons under TADA till 1995, out of which 248 persons were acquitted by the ‘designated court’ for lack of evidence. Similarly in Punjab, more than 98% cases failed in the acid test of judicial scrutiny, which casted a blow in the face of Punjab police. But the irony is that before the decision of the case, the accused had already suffered long incarceration and the fundamental right to liberty had become the biggest casualty for the poor victims of police excesses.

The judicial attitude in cases under TADA was no good. It needs pointed notice that the courts blindly trusted the police story and tried the accused under TADA even if the ingridient of the offence under the Act were not available in the F.I.R. The courts diverted from usual procedure and the onus to prove innocene shifts upon the accused. While the accused persons who killed thousands of innocent and unarmed sikhs by burning them alive and butchered even women and children in broad day light on the roads of Delhi were not booked under TADA and awarded life sentence, but recently a sikh, Devender Pal Singh, who had allegedly attempted to kill a politician was booked under TADA and awarded death sentence by the court simply on the basis of an alleged confession made by the accused to a police officer.

From the above discussion, we wish to make out a point that draconian law like TADA or POTA can do more harm than any good to our society and such laws have no place in a civilised country. Now it is upon us to decide, whether we want to make India a civilised country or not ?




Punjab State Human Rights Commission—A farce of the probe

 


Harminder Kaur, of Village Amargarh, District Sangrur does not know the whereabouts of her husband Amrik Singh since 1st October, 1992 when a Police party in civil clothes abducted him from a private bus near Nabha. She approached Punjab State Human Rights Commission and sought probe to find out his whereabouts. Result: Complaint dismissed as being hopelessly barred by limitation. Similar was the fate of the complaint of Ravinder Kaur of Village Ladhupur, District Gurdaspur, whose husband Sarwan Singh disappeared on 1st February, 1993 from Police Custody. Ravinder Kaur too wanted to find the whereabouts of her husband whom they alleged had escaped from police custody during an armed ambush by the terrorists. There may be hundreds of people like Harminder Kaur, who are not able to get any relief from the tedious functioning of the state sponsored Punjab State Human Rights Commission, empowered to inquire and investigate into the complaints of human rights violations in Punjab.

CASE HISTORY OF CUSTODIAL DEATH OF SARABJEET SINGH ALIAS SURJIT SINGH OF VALTOHA, DISTT.AMRITSAR

On Ist November, 1993, a news report, “ killed once, twice.....” was published in The Tribune, published from Chandigarh wherein Surjit Singh alias Sarabjeet Singh of Valtoha was shown killed twice. The Supreme Court took suo moto notice of the news item and ordered a CBI inquiry on I.11.1993. The C.B.I. inquiry held that Sarabjeet Singh alias Surjit Singh, a young boy of Village Valtoha in Amritsar district was picked up by a police party comprising Sub-Inspector Sita Ram, head constable Harjinder Singh, Constable Punjab Singh and Constable Manohar Singh on 30th October, 1993 from his house. He was badly tortured in there after shot, illegal custody and his condition became serious. The policemen thought him dead. They brought him to Civil Hospital, Patti, district Amritsar at about 9 P.M.on 30.10.1993 for a postmortem examination. But the doctors found him alive at the postmortem table. He was immediately administered glucose and he gained consciousness. His parents at Valtoha were informed about his well being by the doctors. But as soon as the news reached the police officers who had brought him, they informed Sub-Inspector Sita Ram who rushed back to the hospital, forcibly took away Surjit Singh and after few minutes brought his dead body for the post mortem. Incidently, two lawyers of Amritsar, Mahabir Singh Gill and Surinder Pal Singh Ghariala witnessed the whole sordid event and reported the matter to Satya Pal Dang, a veteran CPI leader who brought this matter in the press. On the orders of the Supreme Court, the CBI brought the four police officers to trial for abduction, torture and murder of Surjit Singh in the Court of Additional Sessions Judge, Amritsar.
After trying the four police officers for more than four years, the court of Sh.Jora Singh, Additional Sessions Judge, Amritsar finally held Sub-Inspector Sita Ram guilty of murder under Section 302 IPC and sentenced him to life imprisonment and fine of Rs.2000. He was sentenced to another 10 years of rigorous imprisonment under Section 364 IPC (abduction) with fine of Rs.2000. His three accomplices were however let off by the court vide his order dated 18.5.1997.

 


CASE HISTORY OF FAKE ENCOUNTER OF A COUPLE IN TILJALA, CALCUTTAOn May 17, 1993, a team of senior police officers led by the then SP Bathinda, S.K. Singh alongwith DSP Sukhdev Singh Chahal, Head Constable Ram Dayal(who was later promoted as ASI), promotee head constable Sukhjivan Singh and promoted Cosntable Darshan Singh went to Calcullta without the knowledge of the West Bengal government and raided a flat in Tiljala locality in the wee hours and dragged out a couple, Mohammad Bashir Ahmad alias Lachmi Singh and his wife Sakina Begum alias Renuka, shot them at point blank range and took away their bodies. The bodies were not recovered. It was alleged that the deceased Lachmi Singh was a Punjab police deserter. The Calcutta police on coming to know of this dastardly act immediately intervened and the whole team of Punjab police was detained by the Police. It was indeed a matter of concern for the KPS Gill on whose orders the cold blooded murders were committed. The then Chief Minister Beant Singh had to assure Jyoti Basu, Chief Minister ofWest Bengal that in future no policeman from Punjab would step into their territory without informing the local police, before the team was allowed to go.

After few days in May,1993 a public spirited advocate of Delhi, Mr. B.L.Wadhera filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court bringing to its notice the gory killings. The bench of Supreme Court headed by Justice A.H.Ahmadi ordered a C.B.I. probe into the incident. It also observed that : “ If the facts are ultimately established, it would reveal that human life has no value to the men in uniform.” On April 17,1994 the CBI submitted its report on the basis of which the apex court ordered the prosecution of five Punjab police officers named above. On May 2, 1994 the same bench directed the Punjab government to decide the sanction application for prosecution of the five officers moved by the CBI within 15 days.The Court of Sessions Judge, Calcutta finally proved justified the observation of the Supreme Court by convicting the five police officers and sentencing them to life imprisonment in May, 2000.

 

Case Studies of Cops Conviction in Punjab

CHANDIGARH.
January 15,2002
It is not the severity of the punishment that acts as a deterrent.
It is its inevitability

Ist Case:

Surinder Kaur Vs Dilbagh Singh and others

Date of Decision: January 11, 2002
Court: Mr.Lakhbir Singh, Additional Sessions Judge, Chandigarh-India
List of accused:

1.Then Assistant Commandant, BSF, Dilbagh Singh
2.Then, Sepoy Om Parkash, BSF
3.Then, Sepoy Jagdish, BSF
4.Then,Lans Naik Mohan Lal, BSF
5.Then, Constable Mange Khan,BSF
6.Then, Sub-Inspector Jaimal Singh, Station House Officer, P.S.Sadar,
Pathankot, District Gurdaspur of Punjab Police
7.Then, head Constable Kuldip Singh, P.S. Sadar,Pathankot, Distt.Gurdaspur.
8.Then, Constable Mukhtiar Singh, P.S.Sadar, Pathankot, Distt.Gurdaspur.
9.Then, Head Constable Joginder Singh, P.S. Sadar, Pathankot, Distt.Gurdaspur
10.Then, Constable Sukhwinder Singh, P.S.Sadar,Pathankot, Distt.Gurdaspur

In a case of judicial victory, Surinder Kaur, a widow of Sube Singh, resident of village Talwandi, District Gurdaspur(Punjab-India) succeeded on January 11, 2002 in getting seven policemen convicted for the killing of his husband in fake encounter and sentencing them to life imprisonment and a fine of Rupees Two hundred and fifty only each.

Sube Singh, a 35 years old married Sikh sports teacher of village Talwandi in District Gurdaspur was leading a peaceful life till October 2, 1984. He never remained associated with any political or militancy movement. On October 2, 1984, when Sube Singh had come to his house after completing his duty in the afternoon, he had told his wife that he had gone to the room of Constable Mukhtar Singh in Police Station Dinanagar, in Pathankot and when he opened the door of his room, he saw one Jaspal Singh of the village tied from the legs, mouth and hands and the policemen surrounding him in the room. On seeing this, he had returned back immeidately from that room. On his way back, he met Constable Mukhtar Singh, who got anxious on knowing that Sube Singh had come from his room. At about 5 p.m. Constable Mukhtar Singh, came to his house and asked him to accompany him to Police Station Dinanagar, in Pathankot, as the Station House Officer, wanted to meet him. His wife and other family members were present in the house at that time. Mukhtar Singh being a friend of Sube Singh, Sube Singh went with him. When Sube Singh did not return for long, his wife and elder son went to the room of Mukhtar Singh and when they were on the G.T.Road at the turning of the street, they saw a police jeep standing there. Sube Singh and Jaspal Singh were in handcuffs in that jeep. Sub-Inspector Jaimal Singh, the then Station House Officer, Constable Mukhtar Singh, Head Constable Kuldip Singh, driver of the jeep, alongwith two other policemen were forcibly making Sube Singh and Jaspal Singh sit in the jeep. Sube Singh was telling them that he will not tell the fact of Jaspal Singhs’ detention to anybody and he be set at liberty. Jaimal Singh remarked “Tun Sadian Jaran vich Kal Nu Baithenga”( Tomorrow you will bring us into trouble). Thereafter both Sube Singh and Jaspal Singh were taken in the jeep by the police party towards Pathankot side. Surinder Kaur, the wife of Sube Singh and her elder son went to the Police Station Dinanagar, from where they came to know that driver Sukhjinder Singh was recently transferred from Dinanagar Police Station to Police Station Sadar, Pathankot and Mukhtar Singh was also recently posted there and the whole party in the jeep was of Police Station Sadar, Pathankot and not of Dinanagar. The next day, i.e. October 3, 1984, Surinder Kaur and her family members including her eleder son went to Police Station Sadar Pathankot where they tried to meet Constable Mukhtar Singh in order to know the whereabouts of Sube Singh but in vain. In the meantime, the same jeep came in the Police Station. Sub-Inspector Jaimal Singh, Constable Mukhtar Singh and other Police officials were sitting in it. She tried to meet Constable Mukhtiar Singh but he refused to meet her. After some time, these officials went away in the jeep. After some more time, the wife of the victim and her son came to know that hip joint of Sube Singh was fractured due to severe torture by the policemen during the earlier night at Shahpur Kandi and the Police officials had approached the Senior Superintendent of Police and Commandant Border Security Force, Gurdaspur for further action. She and her son rushed to Gurdaspur and went to the headquarter of the Border Security Force, Gurdaspur. At about 5 p.m. when they were waiting to meet Commandant of Border Security Force, the same jeep came, in which S.I. Jaimal Singh, Head Constable Kuldip Singh, Constable Mukhtar Singh,Driver Sukhjinder Singh and two other policemen were sitting. The jeep stopped near the BSF officers Mess. Sube Singh was bodily lifted and was kept in the officers Mess. S.I.Jaimal Singh went inside the residence of the Commandant of BSF and after few minutes came back and thereafter went away in the same jeep. After sometime, Assistant Commandant BSF, Dilbagh Singh, Lans Naik Om Parkash and Jagdish Singh came to the Mess alongwith the Commandant BSF, Sharma. They started beating Sube Singh. When his cries were heard by his wife and son, hey rushed towards the officers mess, but were stopped at the gate by the armed Santry. They started crying loudly seeking mercy for her husband. The Commandant on hearing her voice, came out and asked about the matter. She pleaded with him that the detainee is her husband and he should be spared. Commandant remarked, “Eh te Sala Atwadi Hai”( The bastard is a terrorist). He threatened them to go away or be ready to meet severe consequences. She, her son and her father went away out of fear and sat under the Mini tree in a plot from where everything was visible. At about 9.10 p.m. one Matador of BSF came near Officers Mess. Lans Naik Mohan Lal and two other constables were present in the vehicle. They went inside the mess. Assistant Commandant Dilbagh Singh, Om Parkash, Jagdish Singh, Mohan Lal and Mange Khan bodily lifted Sube Singh and put him in that vehicle. After holding some conversation with the Commandant Sharma, Dilbagh Singh and others sat in the vehicle and went towards the border side. All this was seen by the wife and son of Sube Singh in the light of the street light in the premises of the Officers Mess. After taking the victim Sube Singh to the border in the area of village Kamalpur, the above officers of the BSF made a false encounter and by placing Sube Singh on the ground shot him dead. Before he was killed, his hip joint was already fractured by the policemen. To cover up their misdeed, Dilbagh Singh made a false report and lodged F.I.R. No.165 of 1984 in Police Station Kalanaur, stating that an un-identified terrorist has been killed in the cross-fire when he opened fire on the police party after being cornered. The next day, they learnt that one dead body was brought to the Civil Hospital, Gurdaspur for postmortem examination by the Police. Before they could see the dead body, it was cremated by the police. Relatives of the victim continued searching for Sube Singh and they came to know that after shooting him at Kamalpur, the photographs of the dead body were kept by the Police at Police Station Kalanaur and it was identified as that of Sube Singh. It was alleged by the victims family that the above named police officials connived with the BSF personnel with the common object and intention to murder Sube Singh only to eliminate the evidence of Jaspal Singhs’ illegal detention at Dinanagar Police Station and Sube Singh had seen Jaspal Singh, whom the Police wanted to finish. Jaspal Singh was also killed on the intervening night of October 3-4, 1984 in a fake encounter, by a police party headed by SI Jaimal Singh, Head Constable Kuldip Singh, Head Constable Joginder Singh, Constable Mukhtar Singh and other policemen.

The wife of the victim, Surinder Kaur approached many Senior Police authorities, and administrative functionaries, but the police refused to register any case in the matter, because Punjab Police officers were involved in the crime. Inspite of finding it too difficult to make her both ends meet, she filed a Criminal Complaint against Seven BSF officials and three Punjab police officials in the Court of Judicial Magistrate, Gurdaspur in November 1985. She also filed a Civil Suit for damages against the said officials for killing her husband in an extra-judicial manner, before the Civil Judge, Gurdaspur.

The Judicial Magistrate, Gurdaspur after satisfying himself from the Complainant’s(Surinder Kaur) evidence, summoned the above named officers to appear and stand trial for the crime in 1985. But since all the accused being police officers, they evaded the process of law and summons could not be served upon them till 1991. One accused Sub-Inspector Jaimal Singh, the then S.H.O. of P.S.Kahnuwan, Distt.Gurdaspur failed appear before the Court inspite of serving in the police force. He was consequently declared Proclaimed Offender by the Court in 1985 and remained a P.O. till 1997. During this period, he remained in the service of Punjab police and secured many undue rewards and got promoted to the rank of Superintendent of Police although, he was declared a Proclaimed Offender in Court record. Another accused, Head Constable Sukhwinder Singh of Police Station Kahnuwan, District Gurdaspur fled from the country and got settled in Canada. Later on he was also declared a Proclaimed Offender. Two other accused, Mukhtiar Singh and Joginder Singh expired during the trial of the case.

In 1988, the accused policemen approached the Punjab & Haryana High Court seeking transfer of their cases(both criminal and civil) to some court outside Punjab on the plea that they fear of militants in Punjab. The hidden motive of the accused was to cause maximum possible harassment to the Complainant-lady and get the case delayed. The High Court inspite of being opposed by the Complainants counsel, transferred the cases from Gurdaspur to Chandigarh in 1988. When all the allurements and intimidation given to the Complainant by those accused policemen failed, they went to the High Court thrice thereafter on one ground or the other so as to delay the trial. While huge state funds were provided to the accused policemen from the secret fund established by the Punjab police on the directions of the then Director-General of Punjab Police, K.P.S.Gill, the Complainant was provided free legal aid by Amar Singh Chahal and Arunjeev Singh Walia, the President and General Secretary of the Lawyers For Human Rights International, respectively. The Complainant, inspite of being a poor lady, attended every hearing of the case by travelling about 300 kilometres throughout the trial which got prolonged to more than sixteen years.

The then Superintendent of Police, Jaimal Singh was got arrested by the Complainant after his retirement in 1997 and he remained in jail for more than nine months. Other accused, except the two dead and one fugitive, got bails from the trial court, although its very difficult for an accused of murder to get bail during trial.

The Court of Civil Judge, Chandigarh allowed the civil suit of the Complainant Surinder Kaur against the accused policemen and awarded a compensation of Rupees Two lacs. The amount was enhanced to Rupees Two lacs sixty eight thousand, by the District & Sessions Judge, Chandigarh in an appeal filed by the Complainant in 2001. Even that amount was not paid by the State government and the executing court had no option but to attach the salaries of the Punjab Government in July 2001. Later on a part of the said amount was paid by the State government, but more than Rupees One lac remains to be paid to the Complainant.

The Criminal complaint was fought by the Complainant herself through her counsel till the framing of the additional charge under Section 302/149 etc. Thereafter, when the charge was framed, as per the requirement of law, the public prosecutor of State of Punjab was appointed to assist the court in the prosecution of the accused police officers. The case filed in November 1984, was transferred to Chandigarh in 1988 ended after a prolonged trial of more than sixteen years, on January 11, 2002. The Additional Sessions Judge, Chandigarh Mr. Lakhbir Singh held all the seven policemen guilty of murder of Sube Singh in a fake encounter and sentenced all of them to Life Imprisonment and a fine of Ruppes two hundred and fifty each and in default of the deposit of the fine, another imprisonment for a period of 15 days. All the seven accused were arrested and sent to judicial custody after their bail bonds were forfeited by the Court on the conclusion of the trial. The convicts plan to file appeal against their conviction in the High Court shortly.
DEFENCE VERSION:-
Taking a defence that the victim Sube Singh was killed in an encounter near the Indo-Pak border on October 3, 1984, the accused policemen said that they killed him being a terrorist only in self defence as he had fired upon them when cornered by the police party. They argued before the Court that the First Information Report lodged by them with the Police Station regarding the encounter has not been challenged by the Complainant and that F.I.R. is correct one. Another argument of the defence was that the identity of the intruder killed in the encounter could not be established by the Complainant as being her husband.
RARE THINGS IN THE CASE;-

The present case is a rare case for many reasons. Firstly, it is the only successful case where the Complainant herself has secured conviction of the accused policemen in a fake encounter case. Generally, since the offence of murder or abduction, being an offence against the State, the State or the C.B.I. prosecutes the accused, but in this case, the State government refused to prosecute the officers. Secondly, it is also a case where no sanction of the State or Central Government was obtained before prosecuting the police officials, because the accused had not committed the offence in due discharge of their official duty, a ground usually taken by the accused policemen in all cases of fake encounters or summary executions in Punjab. Another interesting aspect of the matter in the present case is that most of the policemen could not be traced by the trial court for more than six years in 1985 till 1991 inspite of the fact that they were present on their duty in the police department. The co-accused Jaimal Singh, inspite of being promoted and serving at the post of Superintendent of Police in Punjab Police was declared a fugitive and could not be arrested till his retirement in 1997. It depicts a sorry state of police apathy where a fugitive is allowed to serve on the senior most position of a Superintendent of Police in Punjab police during the peak of militancy in the State. The case is also a rare case from the angle that all the accused policemen remained in service during the period of their trial. Generally, service rules prescribe suspension during the trial of the case and dismissal from service in case the employee is held guilty. Another interesting thing is that the officers of the Punjab Police, who boast of fighting bravely with the terrorists in a war like situation in Punjab, sought the transfer of their case from Punjab to outside the State on the ground of fear of militants. If they are brave enough to fight militants, why did they seek the transfer of their trial outside the State, when they could easily intimidate or purchase the witnesses or even use their influence over the judicial system in Punjab.

Legal experts on human rights analyse the judgment as another landmark judgment in the era of human rights protection. It has been rightly re-established, that in a case of extra-judicial killing, the onus of proving innocence shifts upon the accused, whereas in ordinary criminal law, the onus to prove guilt rests upon the person alleging it. The present case speaks volume of a gross violation of human right to life of an innocent school teacher, Sube Singh, who was liquidated in an extra-judicial manner in a fake encounter by the Police in the garb of fighting terrorism in Punjab. It is a clear evidence in support of the argument of human rights organisations in Punjab that the security forces killed more innocent people then the actual militants in the garb of fighting terrorism, during the peak days of militancy in Punjab.


2nd Case:

CBI Vs ADGP Daljit Singh Bhullar & others

Date of Decisioin: August 3, 2001
Court: Mr.S.N.Aggarwal, Sessions Judge, Patiala (Punjab-India)
List of Accused:

1.Daljit Singh Bhullar, the then Additional Director General of Police, Punjab
2.Agyapal Singh Bath
3.Ladwinder Singh
4.Krishan Kumar, the then Assistant Sub-Inspector
5.Sandeep Ohri

The Conviction of four persons including a Senior Police officer of Punjab police in a case of triple murder by the Sessions Court at Patiala (Punjab) on Saturday, the 3rd August, 2001 has raised undercurrents in police circles. It has once again called in question the excesses committed by the uniformed men in the past.

Additional Director-General of Punjab Police, Mr.Daljit Singh Bhullar alongwith four of his accomplices had been accused of murdering three persons in September 1996. On the ill-fated intervening night of September 15-16, 1996, the police recovered three charred bodies of Paramjit Singh Sahota, an Non-resident Indian, his driver Vikram Singh and another employee Satnam Singh in Ghaggar Majra village near Khanna on GT Road( District Ludhiana) in highly decomposed condition. It was learnt that Paramjit Singh Sahota, an NRI Scientist, was a partner of the son of Mr.Daljit Singh Bhullar, Additional Director General of Punjab Police and Mr.Daljit Singh Bhullar and another partner Mr.Agyapal Singh Bath got him killed in order to wrest control over his business and wealth. The Punjab police shielded its officer and closed the case, but the then Chief Minister of Punjab Mrs. Rajinder Kaur Bhattal ordered a CBI inquiry into the incident and the CBI succeeded in finding enough proof of the ADGP and his three accomplices, namely ASI Krishan Kumar, Agyapal Singh Bath, Ladwinder Singh and Sandeep Ohri’s involvement in the abduction and cold blooded murder of the three persons with the sole motive of snatching the property of the victims.

From the day of the trial before the Sessions Court at Patiala, the ADGP Bhullar remained in hospital on false medical grounds and did not stay in the jail premises for even a day. He was later on granted bail by the Court on medical grounds. The trial continued for five years. He remained in service during this period, contrary to the service rules that any public servant remaining in judicial custody for more than 48 hours must be suspended. He was held guilty of criminal conspiracy, murder and destruction of evidence under Section 302/34,120-B, 427, 471 of Indian Penal Code and finally sentenced to life imprisonment alongwith three others namely Agyapal Singh Bath, Ladwinder Singh and ASI Krishan Kumar and also directed to pay a compensation of Rs.30,000/- to the widow of the deceased taxi driver Vikram Singh. The Sessions Judge, Mr.S.N.Aggarwal, giving benefit of doubt acquitted another accused Sandeep Ohri.

While the other four accused were sent to Central Jail, Patiala, Mr.D.S.Bhullar again got himself admitted to the Intensive Coronary Care Unit of Rajindra Hospital, Patiala on the ground of his ailing health and is at present enjoying health in the hospital.

It may be interesting to note that Mr. Daljit Singh Bhullar is the fifty first police officer of Punjab police convicted for murder or other crimes. It may be worth mentionable here that more than fifty cops of Punjab police have already been convicted by the courts for various human rights abuses including fake encounter, revenge killing and forced disappearance. Among the policemen awarded life sentence include, the then DSP Baldev Singh Sekhon of Taran Taran, convicted for murdering seven members of a family including a child and a woman for taking revenge in 1997, the then Inspector Gulzar Chand of Taran Taran for killing Kashmir Singh of Pandori Rukman village in Hoshiarpur district on March 14, 1997, the then Senior Superintendent of Police S.K.Singh and DSP Sukhdev Singh Chahal, convicted for murdering a couple in Calcutta on May 17,1993, Sub-Inspector Malwinder Singh Malhi of CIA Staff, Ropar, convicted for torturing and killing Devinder Singh alias Bhola in September, 1999. More than seven hundred and eighty police officers are facing trial in the court for many heinous offences ranging from fake encounter, forced disappearance to custodial torture and illegal detention or other crimes. There are more than thirty cases of fake encounter, abduction or disappearance of innocent persons at the hands of Punjab police pending trial in the court of Special CBI Court in Patiala. Ironically, almost all the undertrial police officers have been granted bail pending trial by the courts, even though similarly situated accused are coldly denied this benefit. Few policemen who have been convicted by the courts, are either taking “rest” in hospital on false medical ground or enjoying luxurious life while in jail.

It would be great folly to deny that almost every case where the men of Punjab police have been booked or convicted, the offence had not even remote relation with the militants and the victims were eliminated to settle personal score or for greed of money, as in the present case of ADGP Daljit Singh Bhullar. It is more disturbing that the prosecuting agency in every case where the policemen were convicted was the CBI. It speaks volume of shady investigation of the State agency. Firstly, it is not possible to get an F.I.R. against the rogue policemen. The state police flatly refuse to register any first information report against its men and if any court or senior authority orders the registration of the case against their men, the case is so weakly prepared that it usually results in the acquittal of the accused. In plain words, the policemen leave no stone unturn to save their men accused of even heinous crimes. Still, if the efforts of the victims’ family and the CBI succeed in securing conviction of the guilty from the court, a war of words is started and the judiciary and the human rights activists are blamed and illegal and unwarranted demand for granting immunity to the tainted policemen is raised on the ground that, “ they fought an army of terrorists for protecting the security and integrity of the nation”. Few tainted police officials of Punjab police have even threatened to return their gallantry medals to the President of India if the cases of human rights violations registered against them were not withdrawn. Two ex-police chiefs of the Punjab police have strenuously argued in favour of the guilty police officials that nothing done in good faith and in due discharge of official duty, should be taken to court and such police officials should be protected by the State. It is an absurd argument from a bull in China shop. Nobody is really interested in getting upto the real question, that under which law the acts of brutality and barbarities committed by the very protectors of law could be condoned ? How could agree to grant immunity to Mr.D.S.Bhullar and his accomplices if tomorrow they may seek similar favour in the name of containing terrorism knowing fully well that they had done killed three innocent persons in a most gruesome manner only for wresting their wealth?

6th August, 2001

It was a pleasant surprise for every justice loving citizen when one heard the news of the conviction of a senior police officer of Punjab police in a triple murder case. The Additional Sessions Judge, Patiala Mr.M.S.Chauhan, deserves commendation for an upright judgment sentencing four persons with life term holding them guilty of murdering three persons in a gruesome manner, which has proved the legal maxim that “justice must not only be done, it must appear to have been done”. It was indeed an uphill task in trying the case involving a senior most police officer of Punjab police under very hostile conditions. Convicting a Senior Police officer of Punjab police in a case of triple murder and sentencing him to life imprisonment in todays’ situation was not an easy task. The judgment has upgraded the esteem and honor of the law in the eyes of general public. It is no doubt a very upheaval decision knowing fully well that it will raise undercurrents in already charged atmosphere when tainted police officials are crying for immunity on frivolous ground. It has once again established that no body could escape from the arm of the law. It will definitely serve as an eye-opener for other policemen who consider themselves to be above the law.

Additional Director-General of Punjab Police, Mr.Daljit Singh Bhullar alongwith four of his accomplices were tried for the offence of murdering three persons in the intervening night of September 15-16, 1996, when the police recovered three charred bodies of Paramjit Singh Sahota, an Non-resident Indian, his driver Vikram Singh and another employee Satnam Singh in Ghaggar Majra village near Khanna on GT Road( District Ludhiana) in highly decomposed condition. It was proved that Paramjit Singh Sahota, an NRI Scientist, was a partner of the son of Mr.Daljit Singh Bhullar, Additional Director General of Punjab Police and Mr.Daljit Singh Bhullar and another partner Mr.Agyapal Singh Bath killed him alongwith his employee and a taxi driver, in order to wrest control over his business and wealth. Firstly, it was too difficult to nail such a senior police officer and it took full five years and eight months for the CBI in securing the conviction. The Punjab police had left no stone unturn to shield its officer and closed the case, but a CBI inquiry was ordered into the incident and the CBI succeeded in proving that the ADGP and his three accomplices, namely ASI Krishan Kumar, Agyapal Singh Bath, Ladwinder Singh and Sandeep Ohri’s had actually killed the trio in cold blood with the sole motive of snatching the property of the victims.

I am reminded of the words of a Sub-Inspector Balwant Singh Majitha, the then Station House Officer of Police Station Phase VIII, SAS Nagar, Mohali when he boasted that he had killed as many as twenty five persons and there were many cases pending against him, but no court has been able to nail him down. Rather he has been rewarded with out-of-turn promotion and the Presidents’ Gallantary medal. He had told me this, when he had illegally detained me in the Police Station during my visit to the station on the court orders to meet my client during police remand. He had threatened me that I would be the twenty sixth victim in the line and I would soon become a matter in the news. He was quite true on his words. On my enquiry after few days from the Punjab & Haryana High Court, there were at least twenty cases against this chap for eliminating innocent people in fake encounter or torture during illegal custody. But all the cases are eating dust in the thousands of almirahs lying in the dark corner of the High Court.

In this context, yet another notorious police officer, Inspector Budh Singh of Punjab police, who is accused of as many as twenty five cases of human rights violation beginning with illegal detention to rape and murder, what to say of corruption and dereliction in duty, needs to be talked of. In 1997, he was booked for stripping an old lady in front of his son in Bathinda CIA Staff and torturing her and her son. Later on he was booked for murder, but still got promoted to Indian Reserve Battallion as Inspector. Very recently, he has been arrested for smuggling drugs and narcotics in the area where he was posted.

Coming back to the main topic, it may be interesting to note that Mr. Daljit Singh Bhullar is the fifty first police officer of Punjab police convicted for murder or other crimes. It may be worth mentionable here that more than fifty cops of Punjab police have already been convicted by the courts for various human rights abuses including fake encounter, revenge killing and forced disappearance. Among the policemen awarded life sentence include, the then DSP Baldev Singh Sekhon of Taran Taran, convicted for murdering seven members of a family including a child and a woman for taking revenge in 1997, the then Inspector Gulzar Chand of Taran Taran for killing Kashmir Singh of Pandori Rukman village in Hoshiarpur district on March 14, 1997, the then Senior Superintendent of Police S.K.Singh and DSP Sukhdev Singh Chahal, convicted for murdering a couple in Calcutta on May 17,1993, Sub-Inspector Malwinder Singh Malhi of CIA Staff, Ropar, convicted for torturing and killing Devinder Singh alias Bhola in September, 1999. Inspector Sita Ram of Valtoha(District Amritsar) convicted for gruesome killing of Sarabjeet Singh alias Surjit Singh in the infamous case of killing a boy twice when he had gained consciousness in the postmortem table in the hospital mortuary and again shot dead from point blank range by Inspector Sita Ram. Interestingly, all these convictions were secured by the independent prosecuting agency, Central Bureau of Investigation on the directions of either the Supreme Court or the High Court. More than seven hundred and eighty police officers are facing more than one trial in the courts for heinous offences ranging from fake encounter, forced disappearance to custodial torture and illegal detention. There are more than thirty cases of fake encounter, abduction or disappearance of innocent persons at the hands of Punjab police pending trial in the court of Special CBI Court in Patiala. Ironically, almost all the undertrial police officers have been granted bail pending trial by the courts, even though similarly situated accused are coldly denied this benefit. Few policemen who have been convicted by the courts, are either taking “rest” in hospital on false medical ground or enjoying luxurious life while in jail. These days, many unprecedented decisions are being heard from the courts when the convicted policemen are granted bail pending appeal even in cases where the sentence is of life imprisonment. It has never happened that a murder convict is admitted to bail on the day of pronouncement of order, but the convicted policemen of Punjab police usually get such favours.

To deny it would be a great folly that almost every case where the men of Punjab police have been booked or convicted, the offence had no relation with the militants and the victims were eliminated to settle personal score or for greed of money, as in the present case of ADGP Daljit Singh Bhullar. It is more disturbing that the prosecuting agency in every case where the policemen were convicted was the CBI. It speaks volume of shady investigation of the State agency. Firstly, it is not possible to get an F.I.R. against the rogue policemen. The state police flately refuse to register any first information report against its men and if any court or senior authoritt orders the registration of the case against their men, the case is so weakly prepared that it usually results in the acquittal of the accused. In plain words, the policemen leave no stone unturn to save their men accused of even heinous crimes. Still, if the tierless efforts of the victims’ family and the CBI succeed in securing conviction of the guilty from the court, a war of words is started and the judiciary and the human rights activists are blamed and illegal and unwarranted demand for granting immunity to the tainted policemen is raised on the ground that, “ they fought an army of terrorists for protecting the security and integrity of the nation”. Few tainted police officials of Punjab police have even threatened to return their gallantary medals to the President of India if the cases of human rights violations registered against them were not withdrawn. Two ex-police chiefs of the Punjab police have strenuously argued in favour of the guilty police officials that nothing done in good faith and in due discharge of official duty, should be taken to court and such police officials should be protected by the State. It is an absurd argument from a bull in China shop. Nobody is really interested in getting upto the real question, that under which law the acts of brutality and barbarities committed by the very protectors of law could be condoned ? How could agree to grant immunity to Mr.D.S.Bhullar and his accomplices if tomorrow they may seek similar favour in the name of containing terrorism knowing fully well that they had done killed three innocent persons in a most gruesome manner only for wresting their wealth?


 


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