Punjab Police’s war on drugs is losing thrust, so much so that the Punjab and Haryana high court now has threatened to issue orders to withhold the salaries of the officials not appearing before trial courts.
Claiming on the one hand to be going after the associates of synthetic-drug racket kingpin Jagdish Bhola, police officials are, on the other hand, ignoring even bailable warrants to turn up to depose against them. One of the constables pleaded court that he could not appear in the trial court because he was on VIP duty.
“The police officials are either colluding with the accused or making concerted effort to delay trial and create circumstances that the court releases the accused on bail. It demonstrates the lack of commitment for taking the pending cases to their logical conclusion…,” the high court bench of justice Surya Kant and justice PB Bajanthri observed recently, while hearing the bail matters of some accused.
The high court had to intervene in the matter and ask director general of police (DGP) to submit a list of official police witnesses along with an undertaking that they’d be assigned no duty on the dates they were required in the trial court. “If it was found that the official skipped the hearing deliberately, he or she is to be dismissed from service,” the court asked the DGP to submit in writing.
As almost every cop standing as witness in these drug cases is found to be skipping trial proceedings, “we will be constrained to restrain the police department from releasing the salary of all the official witnesses until they would depose before the court concerned”, the high court has said, asking the DGP to take necessary steps or it would intervene with additional punitive action against the erring officials.
It was highlighted during the hearing that in the case of drug racket accused Canadian citizen Sukhraj Singh Kang, a trial court was forced on March 25 to issue bailable warrants against cops who had not turned up for witness examination. Of the 29 prosecution witness cited against the accused, 22 are police officials, of which only one has been examined.
The three prosecution witnesses against accused Kulwant Singh, who were to be examined on March 25, also did not turn up even after bailable warrants. These cases under the NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances), money laundering and other Acts were registered in 2013. The trials, including the one against Bhola, are at various stages in the trial courts of Punjab.
Notice to DGP, ADGP (prisons)
The high court has also issued show-cause notice to the DGP and additional DGP (prisons) to seek explanation on the conduct of officers who, in the court’s eyes, are delaying the conclusion of trial against Bhola drug racket accused Tarsem Singh.
The court found “tacit collusion and connivance” between the jail authorities and the prosecution agency, as one or the other accused under trial remained absent on the trial date, compelling the court to adjourn the matter every time. “Police and the jail authorities have made the learned special court judge a mute spectator virtually, as no effective proceedings have been conducted since November 2015,” the high court recorded in its order.
The high court also observed that accused drug maker Jagjit Singh Chahal, who was on bail, was absent from the trial court proceedings. Terming his absence “prime facie case of misuse of concession of bail”, the court has asked him by a notice why his bail should not be cancelled now.