In a significant judgment of far-reaching consequences, Punjab and Haryana high court has ruled that no government sanction was required to prosecute police officials responsible for illegally abducting vulnerable persons, brutally torturing them, staging false encounters and cremating the bodies as unidentified without post mortems, during the black days of militancy in the state in the '80s and '90s.
The ruling came from a court headed by justice Mehinder Singh Sullar while dismissing a bunch of 35 petitions filed by more than 100 accused police officials ranging from constable to superintendent of police.
The court directed the parties to appear before the trial courts concerned on June 13 for further proceedings, with the directions to the lower court to take all effective steps, including day-to-day proceedings, for expeditious disposal of cases and to submit six monthly status reports to the high court.
"It cannot possibly be denied that in the instant cases, instead of following the established procedure and the rule of law, the accused police officers have taken the law into their own hands, in a very cruel manner, picked up the helpless persons, illegally detained, brutally tortured and subsequently eliminated them and committed the heinous offences in the manner depicted herein above. They have also registered the false cases and staged drama of false encounters by concocting coloured versions," remarked justice Sullar.
The accused cops had approached the high court submitting that since the CBI did not obtain sanction from the central government to prosecute them as required under Section 6 of Punjab Disturbed Areas (Amendment) Act, 1989, and Section 197 CrPC (prosecution of judges and public servants), the criminal prosecutions against them were liable to be set aside.
After deliberations, the bench said, "The main object of protection under Section 6 is intended to guard and to protect the responsible law abiding public servants, (not the offenders of heinous crime) against the institution of possibly vexatious and malicious criminal proceedings for offences alleged to have been committed by them while achieving the purpose and in exercise of powers contained in Sections 4 and 5 of the amended Act and not otherwise."
In a strongly worded judgment justice Sullar further added, "The primordial constitutional value is the responsibility of every person in general and public servant in particular, to function within the four corners of established law….The inhuman attitude and violations of rule of law cannot possibly be justified by any one and in any manner in this relevant connection."
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had registered a number of criminal cases on the directions of the Supreme Court, high court and human rights commissions in various cases and investigated them.
The CBI had submitted the charge sheets against the accused cops for committing offences punishable under Sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 342 (punishment for wrongful confinement), 364 (kidnapping or abducting in order to murder), 365 (kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine person), 302 (murder) and 201 (giving false information to screen offender) read with Section 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of Indian Penal Code.