In what seems to be a half-hearted attempt by the Punjab Police, the challan filed by them in the ETO Ranjit Singh suicide case without recording the statements of key witnesses has left many key questions unanswered.
A mere five-page challan filed by the police in a Mohali court last month exposes their failure to arrest the five accused against whom arrest warrants were issued by court on Monday.
"Premises of the accused were raided but their arrests could not take place," stated the challan submitted in the court on October 20 by investigation officer (IO) inspector Kanwaljeet Singh.
The challan does not specify who raided the premises and when the raids were conducted. The locations of the premises have not been mentioned either. There is also no mention of the persons cross-examined.
The prosecution team, which had advocated "maximum punishment to the accused", failed to answer these obvious questions.
The prosecution has a lot of explaining to do for not asking for the arrest warrants of the absconding accused even four months after the FIR was lodged. When court finally issued non-bailable warrants against the accused on a complaint by the ETO's wife, the prosecution, again, did not opt for proceedings to declare them proclaimed offenders.
In a more glaring lacuna that amounts to mala fide, the challan mentions that the statements of witnesses were recorded. The fact remains that the statement of none of the 16 witnesses mentioned in the challan was actually recorded by the special investigation team (SIT) that drafted the challan. The main witnesses, including IAS officer Mansavi Kumar, IPS officer Harpreet Singh Sidhu and the ETO's wife, Manjit Kaur, were not even contacted.
Kumar and Sidhu had investigated the entire matter and submitted their report to the chief secretary. The crucial probe report had indicted SP Amandeep Kaur, head constable Harminder Singh, traders Rajinder Gopi and Rajiv Sud and one Paramjit Singh for the fake vigilance trap and recommended their immediate arrest and action against them under various sections of the IPC, including 306 (abetment to suicide), and the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The IO, however, annexed portions from the statement of Manjit Kaur recorded during the probe last year (dated April 23, 2011) and the comments and recommendations of both the inquiry officers. The report of the two-member probe panel has not been attached with the challan.
Significantly, DSP Rajinder Singh Sohl, a member of the SIT along with a Mohali SP, had signed a document that contained a one-page unsigned statement of Manjit Kaur.
Dept going soft on indicted officer
Senior taxation officer Harinder Kaur Brar seems to be enjoying the patronage of her seniors in the excise and taxation department as no steps have been taken to suspend her and initiate departmental action against her, as recommended by the inquiry panel.
On the contrary, Brar was rewarded with a promotion. Despite the seriousness of the case, she was only served a show-cause notice instead of a chargesheet under Rule 8, which entails major penalty. The other provision for filing a chargesheet under Rule 10, which entails minor penalty, was also not adopted by excise and taxation commissioner (ETC) A Venuprasad, who served a show-cause notice to Brar under the Punjab Civil Services Rules.
The show-cause notice, which entails minor penalty, was served on her under Rule 5 of the services rules manual. Nine months after Brar's reply to the notice, action against her is still awaited.
It is alleged that Brar, in the capacity of assistant ETC, did not check the data and intervene in time to release the vehicle 72 hours after ETO Ranjit Singh had impounded it. "Had she responded in time, the VB would not have got a chance to lay the fake trap," the inquiry panel had stated.
Brar had explained that she could not check the computer log records as she was at Patiala to attend a two-day workshop.
Brar, who also allegedly concealed certain facts from the inquiry panel, was promoted as deputy ETC even after her indictment.
Principal secretary DP Reddy said he was yet to look into the file. "I will examine the file on Tuesday," he said, when asked why it had taken so long to take action against Brar.
Daughter's crucial statement omitted
A crucial statement by ETO Ranjit Singh's daughter Ramandeep Kaur, claiming that she had been asked by Brar "to look for a suicide note at home and destroy it if she finds it", has been omitted from the challan.