Doubts are being raised over the “mistaken identity” theory of the police over the killing of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Mukhjit Singh Mukha in an encounter on June 16 near Verka village in Amritsar.
Even on the day of encounter, Mukha’s family and friends had challenged the police claims that the cops mistook the Akali leader for a notorious criminal, Jaggu. The cops claimed that Mukha was travelling in a white Hyundi i-20 car without registration number plates and this led the police team to believe that the man in the car was Jaggu, who too was moving about in the Verka area in a car of the same colour and make without number plates.
However, the family members and relatives of the deceased Akali leader challenged the police claims on the registration plates during their meeting with deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal here on Friday. They told Sukhbir that the story of “no number plates” had been cooked up by the police to justify the encounter and also to save the cops involved in the encounter.
Mukha’s relatives and friends allege that the cops removed the number plates after realising that they had killed the wrong person. Local Akali leader Upkar Singh Sandhu claimed that a closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage available with the special investigation team (SIT) shows members of the police encounter team gathered at the rear of the car after Mukha's killing. He claimed that they were removing the registration plates at that time.
SIT head inspector general of police (IGP crime) Nageshwar Rao refused to comment saying: “We are still studying various aspects, including the CCTV footage taken from the cameras outside a rubber factory opposite the encounter site. A detailed study of the slain leader's car will be made to establish whether the number plates were removed after the encounter.” The three-member SIT is on the lookout for eyewitnesses to establish whether Mukha's car bore number plates.
INJURED COP KNEW MUKHA
The police version is also being questioned on the grounds that Mukha was a well-known figure in Verka. Constable Ramesh Kumar, who was injured after Mukha fired at the police party, knew the Akali leader. Relatives of the deceased leader claimed that the constable had met Mukha two days before the encounter. The family indicated that Kumar often visited the deceased leader's house.
AKALI LEADER FIRED FIRST?
Was Mukha first to fire at the police party thinking that those signalling him to halt were members of a rival gang? The police claim was that the police team, which was in civvies, retaliated leading to Mukha’s death.
The police claimed that Kumar was injured by a bullet fired by Mukha. The SIT is examining the police claim and is also looking at the possibility that the constable could have been injured by a police bullet. This could have happened as the cops had taken positions both at the rear and in front of Mukha's car. The injured constable was at the rear of the car.
The 12 bullet marks on Mukha's body clearly show that most of the shots were fired from the front. According to the post-mortem report, Mukha's heart, lungs, stomach and other parts were damaged. Most of the shots were fired from AK-47 rifles that some of the cops in the encounter party were carrying. However, police officials point out that when one is after a notorious criminal like Jaggu, it is not unusual to carry an assault rifle.
SIT TO QUESTION FAMILY
The SIT is yet to question the family members of the deceased Akali leader. This had become necessary following apprehensions by the relatives that Mukha was killed due to political rivalry. The SIT is likely to finalise its report after it gets the forensic report.