After three days of drama, Punjab Congress leader Captain Amarinder Singh is learnt to have cancelled his scheduled seven-day trip to Canada due to the possibility of facing a case relating to torture in a court in Toronto.
The decision came on Saturday after Singh had postponed his arrival in Toronto since he wanted to wait for the court to issue an order before he decided on his course of action.
The case was filed by the activist group Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) on behalf of a Canadian resident who was allegedly tortured during Singh’s tenure as chief minister of Punjab.
An official statement released by Singh slammed SFJ’s lawfare, saying it was “playing into the hands of the anti-India forces like the ISI to embarrass India and project as if rights violations was the norm of the day in the country (India) like some dictatorships in different parts of the world”. He added, “The government of India, rising above political considerations, must take up the matter with the Canadian government at the highest level.”
“And will the SFJ raise similar objections when Arvind Kejriwal will visit Canada by invoking the Canadian policy that prevented me from addressing public functions?” Singh asked, referring to the Aam Aadmi Party leader’s proposed visit later this year.
In a statement, SFJ’s legal advisor Gurpatwant Pannun said, “Since Capt Amarinder’s presence in Canada is a condition precedent to charges going forward, the matter was delayed pending further information about Capt. Amarinder’s plans to visit Toronto. The victim and his counsel intend to return to court upon confirmation of Capt Amarinder’s presence in Toronto.”
Later, in a statement released on Sunday, Singh said he planned to return to Canada in about three weeks after the case was “sorted out”. He asserted: “This is absolutely a fake and frivolous complaint which will not stand the scrutiny of law. The moment it will be decided, I will attend all the functions that were scheduled earlier.”
This, of course, led to a stalemate without the matter unable to be settled until Singh actually arrived in Canada, where he was scheduled to hold some private meetings arranged by the local unit of Indian Overseas Congress.
Singh, who arrived in Chicago on April 19 to begin his North American tour reaching out to the Punjabi NRI community, was to visit Toronto and Vancouver in Canada.
Now, he is expected to remain in the US and return to India after a visit to the West Coast, according to sources close to the Punjab Congress leader.
Earlier, Canada’s foreign ministry, acting on a memorandum submitted by SFJ, had expressed its disapproval of Singh participating in “foreign political campaigning” in Canadian territory to the Indian High Commissioner in Ottawa, who had communicated that to the Ministry of External Affairs. Subsequently, India’s Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar had called Singh and explained the situation to him, which led to the cancellation of two large gatherings that had been on the agenda and his programme limited to private meetings.