Apex court stops CBI probe against Punjab police officer

July 11th, 2008 - 10:14 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 11 (IANS) The Supreme Court Friday halted the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) from probing top Punjab police officer Sumedh Singh Saini’s role in the staged killings of suspected militants, including a former bureaucrat’s son, during the heydays of militancy in the state in 1991. A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan also stalled the ongoing judicial proceedings against Director General of Police (Vigilance) Saini in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, undertaken on the plea of former state bureaucrat Darshan Singh Multani.

The bench, which also included Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice J.M. Panchal, halted the CBI probe and judicial proceedings against Saini on a plea by the Punjab government, which indicated that the high court judge might have had some ulterior motive behind ordering the probe against the much-decorated officer.

Appearing for the Punjab government, senior counsel Harish Salve said “the state has in its possession some material that would suggest that the senior officer is being targeted due to the sensitive nature of investigation conducted by him” against the judge. He, however, did not name the judge.

Salve also submitted three sealed envelopes to the court indicating that they contained the report of the investigation conducted by Saini when the concerned judge was still an advocate.

The CBI registered a criminal case against Saini and some other police officers, including Chandigarh’s former superintendent of police (operations) Baldev Singh Saini and sub-inspectors Harshay Sharma and Jagir Singh, on July 4 on the high court’s orders for the alleged staged killings of a few militants in 1991.

The alleged militants included former Indian Administrative Service Officer Darshan Singh Multani’s son Balwant Singh Multani, who was arrested by Chandigarh police on Dec 13, 1991, for his alleged involvement in terrorism.

But according to the police, he escaped from their custody within days of his arrest.

Multani was also an accomplice of condemned Tihar jail prisoner Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar, awaiting the gallows for his role in the attack on former Youth Congress president M.S. Bitta outside its office at Raisina Road in New Delhi in 1993.

The high court had ordered a probe into Saini’s role in Multani’s death on a plea by his father.

The others, who were allegedly kidnapped and killed by the police, included two relatives of Bhullar, who wrote to Punjab and Haryana High Court from Tihar Jail that his relatives were picked up by the Chandigarh police in 1991.

This letter by Bhullar prompted the high court to investigate Saini’s role in the deaths of Bhullar’s relatives as well. It also ordered a probe into the killings of alleged terrorists like Navneet Singh, who died in a police encounter in Jaipur in February 1995, and Gurjant Singh, who was shot dead in an anti-terrorism operation in Ludhiana in July 1992.

Some of these alleged militants were also accused of launching an attack at a police convoy led by Saini in December 1991, when he was senior superintendent of police in Chandigarh.

Three policemen were killed and many were injured in the attack, which also left Saini grievously wounded. Those accused of launching the attack on Saini’s convoy, including Bhullar, were later acquitted by the trial court.

The Chandigarh administration approached the high court in an appeal against their acquittal, but the appeal was dismissed.

Pointing out various irregularities in the high court’s order for probing Saini’s role in the staged killings, Salve said that the judge ordered the probe much after deciding the appeal.

Salve also said that ignoring the principles of natural justice, the high court did not even hear the Punjab government on the matter while ordering a CBI probe against its officers. He added that the high court forced the CBI to take up the probe despite their disinclination.

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