The arrest of Jagtar Singh, alias Tara, one of the key accused in the 1995 assassination of the then Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, is unlikely to hinder the ongoing trial of the jailbreak in which he had escaped 11 years ago.
In the assassination case too, he faces separate trial after being declared proclaimed offender (PO), while two others have been convicted.
On the run since 2004 after escaping Burail Jail by digging a tunnel, Tara was arrested on Monday by police in Thailand on specific inputs provided by the Punjab police. Procedures to get him to India are underway.
He was first arrested in 1996 for the killing of Beant Singh and others by deploying a human bomb. A member of the militant group Babbar Khalsa at the time, he later became the leader of another militant group, the Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF), and had been hiding in Pakistan for several years before going to Thailand.
The re-arrest comes at a point when the trial of the jailbreak case is on the verge of completion for the 16 persons named as accused, including six police officials and two Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel.
“For Tara, police would have to file a separate challan in connection with the jailbreak. He would face a separate trial, and the arrest has no bearing on the ongoing trial which is nearing completion,” said advocate AS Chahal, defence lawyer for Tara’s accomplices Paramjit Singh Bheora and Jagtar Singh Hawara, who were both convicted in the assassination case in 2007 after they were re-arrested. Another man named Devi Singh had escaped in 2004 with them and remains at large.
“Tara is a proclaimed offender (PO) and would now be brought to Chandigarh to face trial for the jailbreak along with the Beant assassination case. In the assassination case, too, his challan was segregated and all other accused convicted in July 2007,” added Chahal.
Advocate RK Handa, special prosecutor for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the assassination case, said, “When Tara escaped from jail, the trial was already on in the assassination case. He was facing charges of murder and conspiracy, and about 60 witnesses had already been examined. Now, his trial will begin from that point.”
The two cases
Beant Singh assassination: Along with others, Jagtar Singh Tara was accused of the conspiracy behind the assassination of the then CM Beant Singh in 1995. Beant was killed by a human bomb — Dilawar Singh, a Punjab police constable — outside the Punjab secretariat.
The nine persons accused by the CBI were Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) chief Jagtar Singh Hawara and BKI India operations chief Paramjit Singh Bheora, besides Tara, Gurmeet Singh, Lakhwinder Singh, Shamsher Singh, Naseeb Singh and Navjot Singh.
A Chandigarh trial court in July 2007 convicted five persons, including Hawara and Bheora, who are currently lodged in Delhi’s Tihar Jail. Their appeal against the conviction is pending before the high court.
Burail jailbreak: Jagtar Singh Hawara and Paramjit Singh Bheora and two others— Jagtar Singh Tara and Devi Singh — had escaped Chandigarh’s Burail Jail in January 2004 by digging a tunnel.
While Hawara and Bheora were re-arrested within the next two years, Tara was arrested only on Monday from Thailand while Devi is still belived to be hiding in Pakistan. The case lists 16 accused, including six police officials and two CRPF personnel.