The trial in the infamous 2004 mass suicide case finally began on Wednesday with the two accused appearing in a local court here.
The accused --- Kultar Singh, a retired deputy inspector general of police, and Hardev Singh, who is currently posted as Zira deputy superintendent of police --- appeared in the court of additional district and sessions judge Monica Goel as directed by the Punjab and Haryana high court.
Accused had sought stay on arrest
The two had approached the HC separately seeking a stay on their arrests after a local court had issued non-bailable arrest warrants against them.
The HC not only granted a stay on their arrests but also okayed an interim bail to Kultar Singh, after his counsel moved a separate application. The HC, however, directed Kultar to appear before the additional sessions judge at Amritsar on June 9.
In Hardev Singh’s case, his counsel didn’t move an interim bail application but only sought a stay on his arrest.
After hearing the defence counsel, the additional sessions judge confirmed Kultar’s bail and told him to furnish a surety bond of Rs 50,000. Hardev, after making an appearance in the court, can now move the HC for interim bail.
The next hearing in the case is on March 21.
Kultar Singh was posted as the Amritsar SSP in 2004 when five members of a family in the Chowk Karori locality of the city allegedly committed suicide, blaming the police officer for forcing them to take the extreme step.
The suicides took place under the jurisdiction of Kotwali police station. Hardev Singh was the in-charge of the police station at that time
Had evaded arrest all these years
This was the first appearance of the two accused in a court in the case. In 2009, Punjab Human Rights Organisation (PHRO) activist Sarabjit Singh Verka first brought the matter before a local court, seeking justice for victims as “police was not probing the case seriously despite having instituted three inquiries.”
In September 2011, a local court acting on a application moved by PHRO issued nonbailable war rants against Kultar Singh and Hardev Singh under sections 306 (abetment of suicide), 420 (fraud), 467 & 468 (forgery of documents), 471 (using forged document as genuine) of the Indian Penal Code and 7/13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Since then, the court has issued arrest warrants against the two on as many as seven occasions. The alle g ation against Hardev Singh was that he tried to destroy the evidence in the case.
Suicide note written on walls of house
On October 31, 2004, Hardip Singh along with his wife, mother and two children allegedly committed suicide after consuming some poisonous substance. Before taking this extreme step, the family had written a suicide note on the walls of a room of their house and had even sent copies of suicide note to their friends and some acquaintances by post.
In the suicide note, the family squarely blamed Kultar Singh, holding him responsible for forcing the family to take the extreme step.
Though the local police in 2004 registered a case, no one was taken into custody immediately as the main accused was a police officer.
Subsequently, inquiries were held but nothing concrete happened.