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SSP Preetpal Singh Virk, 3 others get 10 yrs jail in a 1993 case for abduction and custodial torture

March 12, 2013 | By

Patiala, Punjab (March 12, 2103): It is learnt that the special court of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) here on March 11, 2013 sentenced Amritsar (rural) senior superintendent of police (SSP) Preetpal Singh Virk to 10-year rigorous imprisonment after finding him, along with other cops, guilty of illegal confinement and “kidnapping in order to murder” of a Punjab-level footballer in 1993.

SSP Amritsar (Rural) Preetpal Singh Virk coming out of CBI court after he was awarded 10 years jail on March 11, 2013

“The court of special judge Hemant Gupta held Punjab Police Service (PPS) officer Virk and three other cops namely Avtar Singh (then head constable, police lines, Sangrur; now sub-inspector, Mehlan Chowk police station), Balbir Singh (then constable, Sangrur police lines; now head constable, Badrukhan police station, Sangrur) and Shamsher Singh (then inspector at Bhawanigarh; retired as DSP) guilty under sections 120 (B), 342, 343, 346 and 364 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for hatching a criminal conspiracy, wrongful confinement and abduction in order to murder” Hindustan Times (HT) reports.

“SAS Nagar deputy superintendent of police (DSP, City-II) Rajinder Singh Sohal (then SHO Malerkotla) and Ganda Singh (retired constable) were sentenced to three years’ imprisonment under sections 34, 342, 343, 346 and 365 of the IPC for assisting Virk and others in the crime” HT report reads furhter.

All guilty cops (including the retired ones) have been arrested and sent to the Central Jail, Patiala.

Unending nightmare:

On the intervening night of May 12-13, 1993, a team led by Virk, who was then SP (detective), Sangrur, had picked up Tejinder Singh Billu (29) and his father Budh Singh from their house in Ram Nagar, Sunam (Sangrur district), for suspected links with militants.

As per senior public prosecutor, CBI, Sanjay Kumar, the cops subjected the father-son duo to third-degree torture in illegal confinement and then set them free four days later.

Tejinder’s family sent him to Kolkata, where they were involved in the catering business. However, a police party brought him back on June 6, 1993, and kept him for interrogation in the crime investigation agency (CIA) police station at Bahadursingh Wala, Sangrur, for a few days.

Tejinder later went missing, even as the police kept denying interrogating him and bringing him from Kolkata.

The CBI judge observed that the police did not even register an FIR despite Budh Singh’s meetings with senior police officials of the state, seeking their intervention.

On July 7, 1994, Budh Singh filed a petition in the Punjab and Haryana high court, seeking the registration of a case against police personnel. The court formed a one-man committee comprising RC Kathuria, then district and sessions judge, Vigilance Bureau, Haryana, to investigate the matter.

The committee submitted its report on January 30, 1995, observing that, “Either he (Tejinder Singh) has been killed or he is in illegal custody of police.”

Doubting the cops’ claims, the high court handed over the case to the CBI on July 21, 1995. The investigating agency registered an FIR against Virk and others at the CBI police station in New Delhi on August 23, 1995.

After an investigation lasting more than a decade, charges were framed against the cops on April 4, 2006.

It is notable that during 1980s-90s secret confinements, custodial torture, fake encounters and enforced disappearances were a common policing practise in Punjab.

Many Sikhs, including women, were subjected to enforced disappearances by Punjab police or other Indian security forces.

Human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra had traced documentary evidence regarding secret cremations of dead bodies of Sikhs who were extra-judicially killed by Punjab police.

Jaswant Singh Khalra was able to secure the records of three cremations grounds – Tarn Taran, Patti and Durgiana Mandir cremation grounds in Amritsar. This record was strong a evidence against the Punjab police that was indulged enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings and secret cremations.

On September 6, 1995 Jaswant Singh Khalra was also subjected to enforced disappearance and soon after that the record of all cremation grounds across the state was seized, and made inaccessible, by the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation).

Perpetrators of these crimes and systematic human rights abuses were rewarded with promotions and high ranks in Punjab police by the State.

Cops who practised these acts (amounting to “Crimes against humanity” under International law) are enjoying state patronage and impunity.

There were only few instances where the guilty were charged or tried and convictions were there in very rare cases.

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