Ten years ago, 20-year-old Canadian citizen Jaswinder Kaur was abducted and murdered near Malerkotla in Punjab’s Sangrur district by contract killers allegedly hired by her Vancouver-based mother and maternal uncle.
Apparently Jaswinder had sullied the family’s honour by deciding to marry a poor autorickshaw driver and therefore had to be killed.
The Punjab Police collected a wealth of evidence on how her mother Malkiat Kaur and uncle Surjit Singh had ordered the killing on the phone and paid Rs 10 lakh to the criminals.
News of the ‘honour killing’ made national and international headlines but despite an extradition treaty between Canada and India, the Punjab Police finds itself in all kinds of procedural wrangles in its bid to get the conspirators to India to stand trial.
“India has an extradition treaty with about 30 countries, including Canada, UK, USA and UAE, but the process is quite cumbersome,” Jalandhar police commissioner Gaurav Yadav said. “Despite having concrete evidence of NRIs’ involvement in murders committed in India, we have to give it in writing that the accused will not be tried for murder as there is a ban on capital punishment in some countries,” he added.
Since Jaswinder’s murder, “there have been at least 50 cases of murder and attempted murder involving Non-Resident Indians in Punjab but we are nowhere near bringing the conspirators to India for trial,” a senior Punjab Police officer told HT on Tuesday.
Though the police said there has been a rise in contract killings ordered by NRIs in the past few years, they were unable to provide exact figures.
Most of the contract killings take place in the dollar-rich Doaba region - comprising Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Nawanshahar and Kapurthala district - which is home to 1.2 million NRIs across the globe.
With real estate prices escalating in recent years, there has been a spurt in grabbing of NRIs’ ancestral properties, especially farmlands.
With land-grab cases mired in slow judicial processes, NRIs have taken recourse to hiring contract killers, who are paid anything between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 10 lakh, the police said.