Punjab Police on Friday registered a first-information report (FIR) on a complaint from Kahan Singh Pannu, IAS officer whom Sikh pilgrims had manhandled on June 23 during his rescue and relief mission in flood-hit Uttarakhand.
The FIR under non-bailable and bailable sections was lodged against unidentified people at the Punjab cyber crime police station in Mohali. Section 66-A (punishment for sending offensive messages via communication services, computer resources or communication devices) of the Information Technology (IT) Act and Sections 295-A (malicious acts to outrage religious feelings), 298 (uttering words to wound religious feelings), 500 (punishment for defamation), and 120-B (punishment for criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) were applied.
The offence under Section 295-A of the IPC is cognizable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable with maximum three-year imprisonment. The imprisonment for offence under Section 298 may extend up to a year.
Besides, the maximum sentence under Section 500 is two-year simple imprisonment with fine, while under Section 120-B, the jail term cannot exceed six months.
Section 66-A of the IT Act provides for up to three years of imprisonment plus a provision of fine. "The investigation is in progress," said a police spokesperson. On Thursday, Pannu had informed the state government in an official communication that the attack on him was "premeditated" and "without any provocation".
The June 23 incident sent shock waves in the political and administrative circles after a nine-minute video clip showing Pannu's thrashing by a group, including two baptised Sikhs, went viral on the Internet.
On Thursday, Pannu submitted a detailed report (HT has a copy) to Punjab chief secretary Rakesh Singh about the incident "for the information of the government and further necessary action". On Friday, the chief secretary sent the complaint to principal secretary (home) DS Bains with a direction: "Please, take necessary action as per law immediately."
Following this, Punjab Police began the exercise to first register an FIR. In his complaint, the IAS officer said that on June 23, it was on his way to Gobind Ghat that a group of nearly 30 people had confronted him around 1pm and without provocation, abused and hit him for about 10 minutes. "I was saved by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel, who had come there per chance," reads Pannu's letter.
It further states: "Since the incident happened without any provocation and I could not recognise the persons attacking me…the fact that someone was present to record the entire incident, it seems that there was a premeditated motive behind the attack."
Pannu, states his letter, had reached Gobind Dham on June 19 along with KS Sangha, managing director of Punjab State Cooperative Bank, to coordinate the relief and rescue operations with the army. On June 21, he left for Joshimath to oversee the arrangements for board, lodging, and transportation of the evacuated pilgrims.
The officer informed the government that he had gone to Gobind Ghat after reports that nearly 400 pilgrims were stranded there and the condition of taxi drivers from Punjab was miserable.