Behind petition that led to quashing of Punjab SIT probe, a former SHO

One of the counsel for Gurdeep Singh who attended the hearing on Friday, Advocate Karambir Singh Nalwa said that the the bench observed, “Petition allowed. Detailed judgment to follow."

In the petition moved by him in connection with Kotkapura police firing case, which was allowed by Punjab and Haryana High Court, the former Station House Officer (SHO) of Kotkapura police station Gurdeep Singh had made as many as five prayers, which included questioning the maintainability of FIR registered in 2018 after formation of five-member SIT which IPS officer Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh, who was initially named as a member, went on to head later.

The other four prayers made by Gurdeep Singh were seeking quashing of the challan filed against him on May 23, 2019 in Faridkot trial court; removal of Kunwar Vijay from SIT, thorough investigation into the earlier FIR registered in 2015 in connection with the same case; and stay on further investigation till the pendency of the appeal.

The petitioner prayed that an FIR (number 192 registered at Kotkapura in 2015) for the same occurrence remained to be investigated and despite that another FIR (number 129 of 2018) was registered, in which he was named as an accused. Gurdeep Singh was the complainant in the FIR registered in 2015.

One of the counsel for Gurdeep Singh who attended the hearing on Friday, Advocate Karambir Singh Nalwa said that the the bench observed, “Petition allowed. Detailed judgment to follow.”

While, the bench of Justice Rajbir Sherawat of Punjab and Haryana High Court allowed Gurdeep’s petition on Friday, the detailed judgment is awaited.

Nalwa added that the bench asked the counsel appearing on behalf of Punjab if they were ready to reconstitute the SIT without Kunwar Vijay to which court was told that the directions were being sought in that regard and after some time, the counsel appearing for Punjab said the government was ready to reconsitute the SIT by removing Kunwar Vijay as member.

Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Wednesday said that “a separate SIT, headed not by Kunwar Vijay Pratap but by IG [S P S] Parmar, is now probing the sacrilege cases.”

Gurdeep Singh, as per advocate Nalwa, in his prayer before the court said that the chargesheet which named him (Gurdeep) was “signed” by Kunwar Vijay when he was “not a part of the SIT” following directions by the Election Commission of India after a complaint against Kunwar Vijay when model code of conduct was in place.

The petitioner, Nalwa added, also said that the chargesheet did not have signatures of any of the other four members and it was filed in the court by Kunwar Vijay “single-handedly”.

Kunwar Vijay was one of the members of the five-member SIT constituted in September 2018 and headed by them Bureau of Investigation Director Prabodh Kumar. Nalwa, however, said that during the lockdown last year, Punjab government submitted in the Punjab and Haryana High Court that Kunwar Vijay was heading the SIT. In fact, ever since the formation of the SIT, Kunwar Vijay was the face of the SIT, be it questioning of Badals, actor Akshay Kumar or others.

Kunwar Vijay was not available for comment.

A number of protestors were injured in Kotkapura on October 14, 2015 after police allegedly opened fire on protestors staging a dharna against the sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib in Bargari village on October 12, 2015 when pages of holy scripture were found strewn in the village. In a related incident at Behbal Kalan, the police firing claimed lives of two protestors same day on October 14, 2015. Police also say that its personnel also sustained injuries. A head constable Rashpal Singh, who according to Nalwa, sustained serious injuries in Kotkapura incident and had to be relieved from duty, had also filed a petition, making similar prayers as made by Gurdeep who had filed the civil writ petition on July 1, 2019.

Justice Ranjit Singh comes out in support of Kunwar Vijay

Former judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Justice Ranjit Singh, who also headed one-man commission of state government to probe sacrilege incidents, Thursday come out in support of SIT head IG Kunwar Vijay Pratap and said “the courts have been over indulgent towards police officials without sparing any thought for those who were killed and injured in this firing suffering lifelong handicaps”.

He said, “No accused person will ever be satisfied with investigator and he has no right to object or to seek change of investigation officer. Interference in the investigation by the courts is never done especially when police has filed challans after completion of investigation.”

In a statement Justice Singh said, “So far justice has eluded those who suffered at the hands of trigger happy police official who had killed and injured various persons sitting on peaceful protest at Behbal Kalan and Kotkapura in the year 2015. They were protesting against serious incidents of sacrilege of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. First the then Government and administration did everything to save guilty officials who have committed serious offence of murder/attempt to murder. Lately the Courts have been over indulgent towards police officials without sparing any thought for those who were killed and injured in this firing suffering lifelong handicaps.”

Justice Singh added, “Primarily, it is public pressure that has kept the cases revived leading to filing of various charge sheets against those found blame worthy. It is rare for the Courts to interfere in the investigation of crime as that is the duty of police and police alone as per the criminal jurisprudence. The defect or infirmities in investigation, if any, are to be pleaded and proved before trial Court where challans are filed. Police has unhindered power to investigate crime.”

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