Lack of professionalism and the failure to learn from mistakes have made Punjab Police sitting ducks, as prisoners escape one after the other or be killed while being taken to court.
The drills to train the escort parties are rare. Their weapons and vehicles are no good either, and senior officers never brief them about the criminals given into their custody. “The guards have no clue how to react to an escape attempt,” said a senior Punjab Police officer, adding that the dismissals and suspensions that followed were “cosmetic measures”.
In case the production of a prisoner poses a security risk, the state government can under Section 268 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) issue orders to avoid it on any of the three grounds, that the offence is serious, or there is likelihood that public order will be disturbed, or it is in larger public interest. However, it has used the provision rarely, even when many occasions are gone.
The superintendent of police (headquarters) in every district is required to brief the escort parties and conduct drills based on risk analysis and intelligence inputs. Asked if the two assistant sub-inspectors, two head constables, two constables, and a driver assigned to move Sukhbir Singh “Sukha Khalon” to court in Jalandhar from the Nabha jail on Wednesday had been given any special instructions, Patiala SP (HQ) Sharanjit Singh did not give a straight reply.
“We keep getting intelligence inputs from time to time and prepare the cops to react,” said the SP. However, the policemen who were escorting Sukha Kahlon when the rivals murdered him have told HT that they had no special drill or instructions from any senior police officer that would have prepared them for it.
Incidents the police can’t run away from
October 16, 2014: Mewa Singh (35), under trial for murder and lodged in Faridkot modern jail, escaped from Faridkot civil hospital by dodging two guards, while the jail manual recommends four guards with an inmate in hospital.
November 4, 2013: Krishan Kumar, undertrial from Chheharta, escaped from hospital.
April 25, 2013: Jaswinder Singh, Kulwinder Singh and Nahar Singh, all undertrials, escaped after killing one of the six police escorts on way back from Panchkula courts to Bathinda jail. They first blinded the cops with chilli powder and snatched an SLR from them.
March 4, 2013: 10 Gurwinder Bindu, murder accused lodged in the Bathinda jail, was able to get away from the Bathinda civil hospital after men from his gang threw chilli powder into the policemen’s eyes.
December 24, 2013: Four undertrials, including a murder accused, escaped from a temporary jail in the Moga judicial complex. They had been brought from Faridkot jail.
January 21, 2015: Devinder Singh, going under trial in Faridkot and Muktsar districts and lodged in the Ludhiana jail escaped on way back from Muktsar court. The escort party was waiting for a bus on the Moga-Kotkapura bypass when four youths came on motorcycles and took away a handcuffed Devinder Singh.
November 16, 2013: Jaspreet Singh Jassa, accused of killing former SAD legislator Malkiat Singh Keetu and put in Nabha jail, escaped on way back from a Moga court. At an eatery in Jagraon near Ludhiana, his handcuffs were opened to let him have food. He ran towards the GT Road and got away in a car.
May 6, 2011: Four undertrials escaped from the Dera Bassi court complex after throwing spices into the eyes of a head constable but were caught again within half an hour. They faced at least 20 cases of crime include robbery, carjacking, and attempt to murder.
Scared of none, said Sukha’s killer
The day Sukha Kahlon was attacked, the police were carrying another dangerous criminal, Ludhiana robber Rana Partap, with him to a court. The Trax was a condemned vehicle with an open rear. About 4.30pm on its way back to Nabha, it stopped near Divine Public School on the main Phagwara-Jalandhar road where work on a bridge was on. The gangsters came in a white Toyota Fortuner SUV, killed Sukha, and were gone in 3 minutes. They fired bullets into Sukha over the kneeling policemen, who had their heads between their knees. The attackers had 0.315-bore and 0.12-bore rifles, besides revolvers and pistols. “While fleeing, one of them asked ASI Nirmal Singh to drop the Trax window screen and told him he was Sewa Gunder from Malout; and was scared of none. “He killed our brother. We have come only to avenge him. We have nothing against you,” the man told him before getting away.