How did Harpreet Kaur die? That and several other baffling questions remain unanswered even as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has, it is learnt, decided to move the Punjab and Haryana high court against the acquittal of former Punjab minister Bibi Jagir Kaur and her three aides on murder charges.
A special CBI court on March 30 sentenced Bibi to five years jail for kidnapping her daughter and forcibly aborting her foetus — but let her off on the charge of murdering Harpreet.
The court of special CBI judge Balbir Singh also dropped charges of destroying evidence under section 201 of the IPC against Bibi , her confidante Dalwinder Kaur Dhesi, Akali leader Paramjit Singh Raipur and Nishan Singh, the then personal security officer of Bibi.
After an investigation that lasted more than a decade, the central investigating agency in its challan had sought to establish that Bibi, who was then the chief of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, and her three accomplices killed 19-year-old Harpreet on the intervening night of April, 20 and 21, 2000.
At the time of the abortion, Harpreet was four-and-a-half months pregnant.
The CBI in the challan presented in the special court also sought to establish the motive behind the murder, saying that Bibi Jagir Kaur was an influential political personality who felt socially threatened by her daughter’s love affair with Kamaljit Singh of Begowal village who did not have similar status in society.
The CBI said Bibi, in fact, wanted her daughter to marry Channi, son of co-convict Dhesi.
It claimed that though Bibi initially tried to dissuade her daughter from marrying Kamaljit, when Harpreet refused to budge and objected to terminating her pregnancy, Bibi along with her aides administered her phenobarbitone tablets that not only aborted the foetus but also was the cause of Harpreet’s death.
The special CBI court, however, did not agree to charges of murder and destroying of evidence made by the agency against Bibi and ruled that she and her accomplices were only guilty of terminating the foetus, abduction of Harpreet and her wrongful confinement.
“We are going to the higher court against the acquittal of Jagir Kaur and three others as the special CBI court has ruled that Harpreet’s death was natural. The court dismissed the evidence given by the CBI saying that it was neither a suicide nor a homicide. But we want to raise queries in the higher court that if not Bibi and her aides, then who killed Harpreet who was young, hale and hearty and full of life?” said a senior CBI officer.
The special CBI court ruled that the prosecution failed to show that Harpreet’s death was homicidal.
Sources said the CBI would also seek enhancement of the punishment to Bibi and others. Under IPC sections 313 (causing miscarriage without consent), 344 (wrongful confinement for ten or more days) and 365 (kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine person), they can still be hauled up for life behind bars. “We will have to examine in the higher court why the special CBI court has not awarded harsher sentences to the guilty,” said the CBI officer.
A perusal of the 235-page judgment shows that the special CBI court has admitted to most of the assertions made by the premier agency which include the love affair between Harpreet and Kamaljit, exchange of letters and cards between the two, physical intimacy and the subsequent pregnancy, and how all the four key players committed a crime to abort the foetus.
“It is up to the CBI in case it decides to go for the appeal against the acquittal of the Bibi and others in the higher court,” said special CBI public prosecutor RK Handa.
Docs in the dock
Dr Balwinder Singh Sohal, who was a medical officer in the dispensary at Dera Sant Baba Prem Singh in Begowal village (Bibi is the head of the dera), was part of the conspiracy to eliminate Harpreet.
Though the CBI initially made him an accused, he later turned approver. His statement was held true only in case of abduction, wrongful confinement and termination of pregnancy. The CBI court did not agree to his version of having been a witness to the ‘elimination’ of Harpreet. He also said he was the one who confirmed Harpreet’s death at 2 am on April 21 at Jasdil mansion (Dhesi’s home) in Phagwara.
The court ruled that Dr Sohal claimed to be a spectator at every moment but did not participate at any stage. The story as stated by him was also apparently unnatural, the court said.
In November 2008, Dr Sohal died mysteriously in a road accident between Amritsar and Jalandhar. However, no one has so far investigated the accident case.
The role of another doctor also raises questions. Dr Tarsem Singh, a confidant of Bibi, during the preliminary inquiry by the CBI and later by the then inspector general (crime) KK Attri, said that he had gone to Jasdil mansion on the fateful night after he received a call from Bibi to check upon Harpreet, who was not well. So he immediately advised all present there to take her to CMC hospital in Ludhiana, and she died on her way — or so the doctor claimed initially.
However, after the CBI established in its inquiry that Harpreet was administered a poisonous substance that killed her, Dr Tarsem changed his statement and said he only said so to save Bibi’s honour on the advice of Jaswant Singh, who is a prosecution witness.
Even while deposing before the Delhi chief metropolitan magistrate Gulshan Kumar under CrPC 164, Dr Tarsem stated that he had given a wrong statement to Punjab Police and the CBI during the preliminary probe. However, in the CBI court at Patiala he said that he made statements before the CBI and the Delhi magistrate under pressure from the agency.
Despite this, there has been no suggestion from the CBI court on taking legal action against Dr Tarsem for frequently changing his statements, including the one made before the magistrate.