Among those lodged in Punjab jails are more than half a dozen senior citizens (above 70) who have many years to go before release. However, none of these finds a mention on chief minister Parkash Singh Badal’s list of prisoners whose release he has sought.
Most prominent among these prisoners is Assa Singh of Badala Mahi village, Hoshiarpur. He is 95 and is out on bail from Hoshiarpur district jail with another eight years to go to complete his sentence. He was convicted in the 1987 bank robbery case which took 25 years to be decided. On November 20, 2012, a TADA court convicted him of recovery of cash shown against him by the prosecution and sentenced him to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment.
On February 12, 1987, Khalistan Commando Force (KCF) militants dressed as cops robbed Punjab National Bank’s Ludhiana branch of Rs 5.7 crore. It was dubbed as the “biggest robbery in the country”. Assa Singh and 11 others were found guilty and given the same sentence. Assa Singh once owned 30 acres near Sham Chaurasi in Hoshiarpur district.
He has spent over 18 months in the Hoshiarpur jail. He was on parole from December 2012 to March 2014. In October 2014, he was released on bail by the Supreme Court. According to police, he can barely walk and has gone senile.
Among others, who were convicted for the bank robbery is Harbhajan Singh, 84, of Daffar Patti in Jalandhar. He has been in jail for over a year. He has asthma.
Mohan Singh, 76, is also at model jail, Kapurthala, with Harbhajan Singh in the same case. He is of Maqsudan (Jalandhar) and was awarded 10-year term in November 2012. He has been in jail for over two years. Avtar Singh is 74 and belongs to Lambra village, Jalandhar. He, too, has been convicted in the bank robbery case and has been in Kapurthala jail for over two years. Sewa Singh of Chakra Raju Singh in Hoshiarpur is 72 and in the same jail for the same case for two years. Accomplice Mann Singh, 70, of Mudian Kalan (Ludhiana), heart patient, is in the Ludhiana central jail. While these “senior” convicts are not on the CM’s list, Waryam Singh, 70, lodged in UP in a TADA case is.