November 24, 2014 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
Ludhiana, Punjab: Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, generally called as TADA, was introduced by the Indian state in 1985 to suppress Sikh political struggle in Punjab. It’s a well recognized fact that TADA was widely mis-used by Indian administration and Indian security forces before it was allowed to lapse in 1995 due to widespread opposition. But the cases registered before the lapse of TADA were saved. One such case related to Ludhaina Bank robbery of 1986 stood on trial for 22 years. Decision in this case arrived on November 20, 2012. The designated TADA court convicted ten Sikhs to 10 years imprisonment each. Majority of these Sikhs were convicted under TADA after reading provisions of TADA with section 120B of the Indian penal code.
These aged Sikh convicts were accused of handling the robbed money but the judge invoked section 120B of Indian Penal Code pertaining to ‘criminal conspiracy’ to convict them for the primary act of robbery itself and granted them harsher punishments under TADA.
An appeal was moved before the Supreme Court of India against the decision of designated TADA court in 2012. But the appeal still lays pending in the apex Indian court while the aged Sikh prisoners are languishing in various jails.
Bapu Assa Singh, aged over 94 years, is the only person in this case who recently got bail from the Supreme Court of India on health grounds.
S. Maan Singh, aged 70, of Dholewal (Ludhaina) is a heart patient. He has under gone heart bypass surgery and is jailed in Central Jail in Ludhaina.
Avtar Singh, aged 76, of village Kurali near Jalandhar is undergoing the sentence at Kapurthala Jail. Mohan Singh, 72, of Pattar Kalan (Jalandhar); Harbhajan Singh, 84, of Sharihn; Saroop Singh, 66, of Bisrampur (Jalandhar); Balwinder Singh, 62, of Village Tahli (Jalandhar) and Sewa Singh, 73, of Chak Raju Singh (Hoshiarpur) are also confined in Kapurthala Jail.
Gurjant Singh, aged 72, is imprisoned at Maximum Security Jail, Nabha. He hails from Kothe Jang Road near Jagraon.
Harinder Singh, 55, is youngest among all persons convicted in this case. He is a resident of Lalton Kalan (Ludhiana) and is currently undergoing the sentence in Maximum Security Jail in Nabha.
These persons have a ‘Panthic’ background and many of them served jails during ‘Dharam Youth Morcha’ started by the Shiromani Akali Dal and Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. Some had relations with Taksali Akali leaders of their area, but the Punjab government led by Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) did not pay has attention to the plight of these prisoners.
S. Jaspal Singh, son of S. Maan Singh, said elderly Sikhs are confined behind the bars for more than two years but no one is paying attention to their case. At this stage of their life they are facing enormous health issues but neither the judiciary nor the government is ready to take notice of their plight.
“My father is a heart patient. He has undergone heart bypass surgery and needs extensive medical care and attention which could not be availed in Jail” he added.
S. Jaspal Singh told Sikh Siyasat News (SSN) that his father was temporarily bailed out of jail on parole earlier this month. “My father came out of jail on parole in the first week of November. When his medical examination was conducted we found that his HB level was 5. He was admitted to the hospital with immediate effect”, said Jaspal Singh while adding that the health condition of his father was stable now.
SSN also talked to S. Maan Singh over phone. S. Mann Singh said he is facing health issues.
“I am a heart patient and at the stage of life the health problems are multiplying, otherwise I am in high spirits” said S. Maan Singh.
While talking to the Sikh Siyasat News (SSN) over phone, Advocate Jaspal Singh Manjhpur said that the Ludhiana Bank Robbery case was tried by a designated TADA court. In this case the only appellate (judicial) authority was the Supreme Court of India (SCI) and an appeal was moved against the decision of TADA court in 2012 but the matter is yet to be heard by the Supreme Court.
Advocate Manjhpur said that the movement of 1980s-90s was a political movement. It is for the government to take notice of these facts especially when the judiciary as failed to catch it out. But, ironically, the Punjab government has not paid any attention to the case of these political prisoners.