Chandigarh: In a major relief to the Shiromani Akali Dal ahead of the assembly elections next year, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has absolved the Badal family of their involvement in the 2015 Kotkapura firing case.
In a scathing judgement running 89 pages, the high court quashed the ongoing investigation into two FIRs in the case of the police firing at Kotkapura on Sikh protesters following incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib.
The full copy of the judgment, announced by Justice Rajbir Sherawat on 9 April, was uploaded on the HC’s website Friday evening.
Finding no evidence of conspiracy, the high court absolved former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, his son and former deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal of having any role in the firing incident.
Justice Sherawat dismissed the evidence placed by the SIT of calls between the then CM, deputy CM and senior police officers on the day of the incident to establish conspiracy to fire at the protesting crowd.
“… mere factum of a CM talking to the District Administration or to the DGP of the State in the times of a situation where the law and order is disturbed, in itself, would not be sufficient to infer his conspiracy to kill or injure anybody through firing by the police upon the protestors, unless there is some other material collected by the investigating officer to establish prior meeting of minds for conspiracy and then directly linking the CM to such conspiracy,” stated the judgement.
“If mere talking of the CM with his DGP or the district administration is taken as a criminal conspiracy then any CM can be held criminally liable every day for any wrong-doing resulting from wrong functioning of district officials,” it said.
“The fact that the then CM was in contact with the district officials, rather, shows that he was alive to the situation and to his responsibility as a CM; even in the odd hours. Had the then CM not been in contact with the District Administration and his DGP in such a critical situation, then he would have run the risk of being branded as another Nero who played fiddle when Rome was burning,” wrote Justice Sherawat.
Indictment of SIT head
Quashing the investigation conducted by IGP Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh as head of the SIT set up by CM Amarinder Singh to probe the police firing cases, the high court pronounced a withering indictment of the “malice”, “absurdity” and “theatrics” of Singh in furtherance of the political agenda of the “current dispensation”.
“… this court finds that the investigation carried out by respondent No. 3 (Singh) is not free from blemish. His personal malice and malafide functioning by totally usurping the powers of SIT constituted in the first instance, has been duly demonstrated on record,” the judgment read.
“… the political interest of the current dispensation in the state qua the investigation; and the political theatrics of respondent No. 3… intended to create a narrative in favour of one political party and against the other party during the election process; has duly been established as per the record,” wrote Sherawat.
An IPS officer of the 1998 batch, Singh resigned last week seeking voluntary retirement after these adverse comments from the high court. He was originally set to retire in 2029.
Links with Dera, Akshay Kumar a ‘fantasy’
The court also found Singh’s investigation tracing the origin of incidents of desecration and resultant firing to the release of the film ‘Singh is Bling’ as a flight of “fantasy”.
“… (Singh) has gone to the height of his fantasy when he has brought in film actor Akshay Kumar into the picture to claim as part of a conspiracy because he produced a film called ‘Singh is Bling’ and tried to exhibit the same in the State of Punjab,” according to the judgment.
“Even a religious act of alleged pardon of Dera Sacha Sauda, Sirsa has been brought into picture by the respondent No. 3 only to strengthen his hypotheses of conspiracy against Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Singh Badal,” it said.
“Surprising thing is that even after making effort to find out and establish the allegation of conspiracy against Prakash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Singh Badal; and despite mentioning their names in the charge-sheet and recording therein that their conspiracy is established, the respondent No. 3 did not array them as accused by filing any charge sheet against them in these two FIRs.”
“The only possible fact which prevents filing charge-sheet against these two leaders can be that there is no evidence against both of them,” noted Sherawat.
Constitute new SIT without Singh
The court has asked the Punjab government to reinvestigate the incident of firing by constituting another SIT, which does not have Singh as a member.
The new SIT has been directed to remain completely independent “totally free from all kinds of internal or external extraneous pressures and interference”.
The new SIT will not report to any “state executive or police authority” except to the magistrate concerned and complete its investigation within six months.
The SIT has also been barred from interacting with the media regarding any aspect of the investigation.
“This court finds that what could have been a simple investigation of a crime committed either by the protestors or by the police or by both, have been made to fester and convert itself to a quagmire wherein every concerned person finds himself entrapped,” the court said.
“This has resulted from a dangerous mixing of religion, politics and the police administration; because of which the aggrieved persons; whether it be the police persons or the injured from the protestors; must be finding themselves to be cheated and endlessly waiting for real justice,” wrote Justice Sherawat.
(Edited by Debalina Dey)