New Delhi: “I do not remember anything about this.” This was the standard response of a retired Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) SP, who investigated the illegal detention and abduction case against former Punjab DGP Sumedh Singh Saini, to a CBI court Monday.
Dharampal Singh, now 78 years old, was the CBI’s investigating officer in the kidnapping case in which Saini, along with three other police officers, is facing trial. The officers allegedly kidnapped three persons — Vinod Kumar, Ashok Kumar and their driver Mukhtiar Singh — from Ludhiana in 1994.
Singh had filed the chargesheet in the case, and made the statements Monday before special judge Anju Bajaj Chandna at Delhi’s Rouse Avenue court while he was being examined.
Since Singh contradicted his own investigation, he was declared hostile and was cross-examined by the CBI Special Public Prosecutor on 20 July. He was cross-examined by the defence counsel Monday. On both occasions, Singh pleaded lack of memory for most questions put to him.
Visited CBI office to refresh memory
Singh accepted in court that he did visit the CBI office recently to refresh his memory on the case as he was retired and had been “out of touch” for 18 years now. But his responses remained the same.
“I do not remember whether I investigated this case in Delhi,” he said.
“I don’t remember whether during investigation of the case I visited PS Kotwali Ludhiana.”
“I do not remember if I verified the contents of the reply/affidavit filed by accused Paramjit Singh.”
“I do not remember whether I recorded the statement of Baljinder Singh cited as witness number 29 in the chargesheet.”
24-year-long legal battle
It has been alleged that in order to settle a personal score, Saini hatched a conspiracy with fellow officers Sukh Mohinder Singh Sandhu, Paramjit Singh and Balbir Chand Tiwari.
In March 1994, Vinod and Mukhtiar were allegedly picked up by the police from the parking lot of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, while Ashok was taken from Ludhiana. The three of them have never been seen since.
Soon, the probe was transferred to CBI by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, on a plea filed by Vinod’s brother Ashish Kumar.
A case was subsequently registered against Saini and three other cops, for illegal detention and abduction, but not murder, since no bodies were found.
Then, in 2004, the Supreme Court transferred the case to Delhi at the behest of Amar Kaur, Vinod’s mother, who had cited Saini’s influence in the state to demand a transfer for fair trial.
The case has, however, proceeded very slowly since then. Ashish Kumar’s cross-examination continued for three years, starting May 2012. His ‘examination-in-chief’ — the questioning of a witness to give evidence in support of the case — had started in November 2011.
Confined to a wheelchair, Kaur continued writing telegrams to the Delhi High Court for fast-tracking the case. Her letters from a hospital bed demanded a speedier trial so that she could “die peacefully”.
The case did get fast-tracked in 2015, with additional sessions judge A.K. Mendiratta ruling, “It has been earlier observed that the counsels are expected to cooperate and expedite the cross-examination, which has continued for several dates in view of the voluminous record and several supplementary statements of witnesses recorded during CBI investigations. The case shall be taken up on day-to-day basis from 7 January for further cross-examination till conclusion.”
But Kaur passed away in December 2017.