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After 19 years whistle blower condemned with fine by the Punjab high court; HC termed extra-judicial killings as ‘special efforts’

November 27, 2013 | By

Chandigarh/ Punjab (November 26, 2013): In a decision tending to strengthen the blind impunity zone in Punjab as regards mass level human rights abuses committed by Punjab police and other Indian security forces during 1980s-90s in Punjab, the Punjab and Haryana High Court dismissed a petition of former cop who maintains to have witnessed the extra-judicial killing 10 civilians (all Sikhs) by the Punjab police.

In the petition former Punjab police cop Satwant Singh Manak had stated that he was an eyewitness, but had a change of heart. The victims were killed from “time to time” by Punjab police; who prepared false documents of police encounters. The dead bodies of the victims were disposed of as unclaimed dead bodies by the police.

Satwant Singh Manak - a witness of Fake Encounters in Punjab

Satwant Singh Manak – a witness of Fake Encounters in Punjab

Satwant Singh Manak had quitted police force in 1994 after witnessing these abuses. At the same time he gave affidavit to the high court giving information about these abuses.

Taking up his petition in April 2008 Justice Ranjit Singh of the Punjab & Haryana High Court had directed to the CBI to register separate FIRs regarding 10 murders and “encounters” after “physical torture at CIA Staff, Moga”. High Court’s single judge bench had directed the CBI to look into the matter.

In the plea, Manak had stated that the victims had been killed from “time to time” by police officer, including Bachan Singh Randhawa, Gurmej Singh, Darshan Singh, Dalwinder Singh, Hardial Singh, Gurdev Singh and Om Parkash.

In a first, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has virtually indicted its own judge for coming out with “uncalled for” observations on fake encounters in Punjab and minced no words to say the Punjab Police played a salutary role in dealing with militancy.

An appeal in the case was filed by Bakhashi Ram, Darshan Singh, Bachan Singh Randhawa and other police officers.

Taking up the appeals, the division Bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Augustine George Masih asserted that the petition had not been filed by the family of the alleged victims, but a Punjab Police constable.

Building their reasoning while setting aside the order of single judge and the FIR registered against accused cops, the High Court division bench noted: “The petition has not been styled as a public interest litigation (PIL), but effectively is so. That is what it was urged before the Single Judge as also before us. As per the roster assigned by the Chief Justice, such public interest litigation matters are to be heard by the First Bench, in any case by a Division Bench. The Single Judge in the impugned order on April 1, 2008, proceeded on the basis that there was a larger public interest involved”.

“The Single Judge was, thus, quite conscious of the fact that he had given a colour of public interest litigation to the present petition…. Judicial disciple demanded that on having come to a conclusion that the petition must proceed being akin to a public interest litigation, the same should have been directed to be placed before the appropriate Bench as per roster and it was not for the Single Judge to give his opinion in the matter”.

The High Court judges also “praised” the “special efforts” of the Punjab police by saying that: “[t]he fact that Punjab state went through a period of difficult times requiring special efforts to maintain law and order is well known and that the police played a salutary role”.

On CBI inquiry the Bench observed: “The CBI itself stated the futility of the exercise to be carried out as the whole petition revolves around the personal grievance of the petitioner against the superior officers under whom he was working…”.

“There was lack of specific information with regard to the time, date and in what manner the offences were committed with no explanation as to why the original petitioner kept mum for such a long time after commission of the alleged offences”.

“The heavily overburdened CBI pleaded that it should not be burdened with the investigation of such a nature…. With the stand of the CBI coupled with the absence of any material with the petitioner or detailed facts being set out in the petition, there was hardly any occasion for directing investigation by the CBI. Merely because the original petitioner was unhappy with the department, could not be a ground to take cognisance of his petition and put the burden on the other officers to face CBI inquiry”.

Dubbing the petitions as “clearly an abuse of the process of court”, the Bench added it was accentuated by the petitioner’s desire for personal gains.

“We are also of the view that neither were general observations made by the Single Judge warranted nor was the Single Judge entitled to entertain and adjudicate the PIL… We are not satisfied that there is any material which would entitle the original petitioner to similar or other direction from us…. We, thus, allow all the appeals and set aside the impugned order issued on April 1, 2008, and dismiss the original writ petition. All appellants shall also be entitled to costs quantified at Rs 2,000 each to be paid by the original petitioner (Manak)”.

While talking the Sikh Siyasat News (SSN) Satwant Singh Manak’s counsel and senior lawyer Advocate Rajwinder Singh Bains said that they shall appeal to the Supreme Court of India (SCI) against the decision of Punjab and Haryana High Court.

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