Chandigarh: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Punjab Police are engaged in an ugly battle over which agency should be probing the politically sensitive sacrilege cases involving former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his MP son Sukhbir Singh Badal.
Both the CBI and a special investigating team (SIT) of the police claim to be investigating the five-year-old cases that could put the Badals in the dock ahead of the 2022 assembly polls in the state.
Both are carrying out “parallel” probes on the ground, reporting widely varying findings, even as a protracted legal tussle plays out between them in the Supreme Court.
Earlier this month, the SIT named Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim as an accused in one of the three sacrilege cases. The SIT led by DIG Ranbir Singh Khatra also submitted a challan in the case against seven other accused in a trial court at Faridkot.
A few days later, the CBI moved the trial court to restrain Khatra’s team from conducting a parallel probe.
While the Congress government, led by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, alleges that the CBI is working at the behest of the central government and wants to “save” the Badals who are allies of the BJP, the Akali leaders are quick to point out that it was the Congress that had demanded a CBI inquiry into these cases in 2015 when the sacrilege incidents took place.
The sacrilege incidents
Considered to be a living Guru by the Sikhs, the Guru Granth Sahib was desecrated in a series of incidents in 2015 during the SAD-BJP rule. Though their investigation of the three major incidents of sacrilege was handed over to the CBI, the Badal government was assailed for drawing a naught in nabbing the culprits.
Within a month of coming to power, the Captain Amarinder Singh constituted a commission of inquiry in April 2017 under a retired high court judge Ranjit Singh to probe the incidents.
The commission’s report submitted in August 2018 concluded that followers of the Dera Sacha Sauda were responsible for the desecration and that the Punjab Police then under the Badals did not pursue that line of investigation. This could be because, states the report, the Akali government wanted the dera’s support for the elections.
Armed with the commission’s report, the chief minister initiated the process to withdraw the investigation into the sacrilege cases from the CBI and hand it over to the Punjab Police, which works directly under him as he also holds the Home Affairs & Justice portfolio.
The CBI, which had been probing the sacrilege cases since November 2015, contested the move to return the cases.
‘CBI overlooked vital evidence’
“The CBI wants to just sit on the cases. In June 2018 a Punjab Police team under Khatra working on some other sacrilege cases stumbled upon pertinent evidence of the cases CBI was investigating,” says Punjab cabinet minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa. “This evidence was shared by Khatra with the CBI and yet they did not do anything because the evidence led to the dera and that would then lead to the Badals.”
Rejecting the evidence shared with them, the CBI in July 2019 filed a closure report in the sacrilege cases in the court.
“A month later, however, the CBI asked the court permission to re-open the cases wanting to continue with the probe. CBI’s flip flop is most revealing,” Randhawa adds.
A protracted legal battle between the CBI and the Punjab government to investigate the cases went up to the Supreme Court which in February this year dismissed CBI’s plea.
The CBI filed a review petition in the Supreme Court which is pending a hearing. In the meantime, the Punjab government quickly handed over investigation of all the sacrilege cases to Khatra’s SIT, which hit the ground running, nominating the dera chief in the case.
The Akalis now allege that the Congress is running a political vendetta campaign.
“The Congress is clearly indulging in political vendetta. When the Akalis were in power, the Congress demanded a CBI inquiry into the incidents,” says Parambans Singh Romana, President of the Youth Akali Dal. “Rahul Gandhi went with his entourage to the then President Pranab Mukherjee submitting a memorandum seeking a CBI probe. Now they are saying that the CBI should not investigate the case.”
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