Amritsar resident Sarabjit Singh (43), a victim of police torture who was branded a ‘terrorist’, won a decade-and-a-half-long legal battle in January when a district court slapped Rs 10-lakh damages on the Punjab government. Now, he is fighting to get the compensation money enhanced to Rs 50 lakh.
Amritsar district and sessions judge HS Madaan on Monday fixed July 24 for hearing final arguments on the plaintiff’s plea.
On January 15, Amritsar additional civil judge Parminder Singh Rai had awarded Rs 10-lakh compensation to Sarabjit and directed the state government to pay it within three months.
“The evidence on record proves irresistibly that a saviour organ (police) of the state, meant to protect rights of people, has transgressed its powers in a most lethal way to the detriment of the most enshrined fundamental right of the Constitution, that is, right to life and liberty,” Rai had observed.
The court had also directed that the compensation money be deducted from the accounts of the two police officers who had wrongly investigated the two cases in which the plaintiff and other accused were later acquitted.
The cases against Sarabjit and others were lodged in 1992 and 1998, when they were picked up by cops in Amritsar. In the FIRs, he was accused of being a terrorist. Both cases fell flat as all accused were acquitted in the Punjab and Haryana high court in April 2000 and March 2007, respectively.
The Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) had pronounced a preliminary compensation of Rs 50,000 after a commission inquiry found Sarabjit innocent.
“It is highly unimaginable even to think in the wildest of dreams in the social and democratic set-up that an act of false implications would be at the instance of the police and that too with the allegations against a person to be a terrorist, a dacoit, involved in anti-national activities.
What to speak of being sensitive to the plight of common citizens of the state, the local police is active in a most callous and pathetic way. It did not even care about the recommendations of the PSHRC, which ultimately had to move the high court for enforcement of its recommendations,” Rai had observed.
The PSHRC had moved the high court for implementation of its recommendations for Rs 50,000 interim relief and cancellation of the FIR lodged against Sarabjit and six others (including a journalist and a witness in the Jaswant Singh Khalra murder case) in July 1998, when they were kept in illegal custody before being produced as “terrorists” in a court a few days later.
Journalist died before acquittal
Among the seven accused in the 1998 police abduction case was a journalist, Rachhpal Singh, and Rajiv Randhawa, a key witness in the Jaswant Singh Khalra murder case that was disposed of following the conviction of guilty cops. Rachhpal did not live to see his acquittal — he died during the trial.
Khalra, a human rights activist who exposed illegal mass cremations of hundreds of missing youths at the hands of the police, went missing in the 1995 and was never found.