Former terrorist Kulbir Singh Barapind, alias Bira, wanted in 27 cases of murder and robbery, continues to be a free man, courtesy Punjab Police’s failure to make a fresh request to the US authorities for his arrest.
Bira, 48, an erstwhile member of the Khalistan Commando Force (Panjwar), hails from Barapind village in Jalandhar district. As per police records, he is a proclaimed offender (PO), wanted for the killing of 52 persons, including 24 cops, during the days of terrorism in Punjab, before he fled to the US in 1993 on a fake passport (he was arrested there soon after arrival).
The Punjab Police extradited Bira in 2006 on the condition that he would be tried in India only in three cases of murder and robbery. However, due to shoddy police investigation and lack of concrete evidence against Bira, he was acquitted by the Jalandhar district courts in all three cases in 2008. Since his acquittal, he has been staying at his native village, Barapind, in Goraya sub-division.
The Punjab Police were supposed to make a fresh request to the US authorities through the ministry of external affairs (MEA) so that Bira could be arrested again and put on trial in the remaining 27 cases of murder and robbery. However, the state police never initiated the process.
Punjab DGP Paramdeep Singh Gill said he had no idea about the case as it had occurred much before he took over as the state police chief. “However, I will find out what has happened in this case,” he said.
Jalandhar SSP (rural) Ashish Chaudhary admitted that the extradition treaty did not permit the police to arrest Bira, but expressed ignorance about whether any fresh request was made by the Punjab Police to the US authorities for his trial in the remaining cases. “I think the intelligence wing must have taken up the case with the union government on its own,” the SSP said.
However, a senior officer of the intelligence wing said the matter did not come under its purview, adding that it was the job of the crime branch.
The last time the state police had taken up the issue was on September 18, 2008, when then Jalandhar SSP sought the opinion of the additional director general of police (crime).
On January 20, 2009, then ADGP (crime) responded by saying, “Section 21 of the Extradition Act, 1962, provides that whenever any accused or convicted person is returned by a foreign state, he or she shall not be tried in any other offences in India than those in relation to which the accused has been returned.”
Article 17 of the treaty says that a person can be tried for other offences only if he or she leaves India and then voluntarily returns. However, there is a provision in the treaty for putting the person on trial for other offences, subject to the approval of the country from which he or she was deported.
“We will have to seek US consent to try Bira for offences other than those for which he was extradited,” then ADGP had said in the communiqué.
The police also failed to make use of a clause of the treaty that empowers them to arrest a person in case he or she does not leave Indian territory within 15 days of being set free by a court of law.