The CBI court here on Friday convicted 47 policemen in the infamous Pilibhit fake encounter case of July 1991 in which the cops killed 10 Sikh pilgrims after labelling them as militants.
Pronouncing the judgment, CBI special judge Lallu Singh held the 47 cops guilty and fixed April 4 for announcing the quantum of the punishment.
Initially, the CBI had chargesheeted 57 cops involved in the fake encounter. However, 10 cops died during the course of the trial.
At a time when Sikh militancy was at its peak, the fake encounter emerged as a glaring example of police brutality. After media reports about the encounter being fake came to the fore, Supreme Court advocate RS Sodhi filed a PIL in the apex court seeking a CBI probe. The court ordered a CBI inquiry into the incident and during the course of the probe, the investigating agency concluded that police personnel from several police stations in Pilibhit and its adjoining districts were involved the fake encounter.
On June 12, 1995, the CBI filed a chargesheet indicting 57 cops under several sections of wthe IPC, including 302, for fake encounter. The CBI report also contradicted the findings of the KN Singh Commission set up by the then Kalyan Singh government, which had stated that the cops involved in the encounter ‘deserved commendation, not condemnation’.
The massacre took place in Mahof forest of Uttar Pradesh’s Pilibhit district on July 12, 1991, when Sikh pilgrims from Pilibhit were returning home after visiting holy Sikh shrines, including Patna Sahib in Bihar, Gurudwara Nanakmatta Sahib in Udham Singh Nagar, Uttarakhand (then in Uttar Pradesh), Hazur Sahib in Nanded, Maharashtra among other places, in a luxury bus.
Cops intercepted the bus carrying the pilgrims at Kachla Ghat area in Badaun district and asked 10 passengers to get down from the bus and board a mini-bus waiting for them.
After a few hours, the mini-bus and the luxury bus, in which Sikh pilgrims were travelling, reached Pilibhit with several police vehicles following them. The mini-bus headed to the forest area while the luxury bus was sent to the local gurudwara. Cops divided the passengers in the mini-bus into three groups before killing them.
In the first fake encounter, four Sikhs were shot dead at Phagunai Ghat. In two similar fake encounters that followed the same night, six more Sikhs were gunned down by the police in the Pattabhoji forest area.