The Justice Katju commission of inquiry into police action at Behbal Kalan village and Kokaputra—in which two men were killed and several others injured following cane charge and firing by Punjab Police—has held the police action “excessive, uncalled for and illegal”.
The findings and recommendations of this ‘people’s commission’ formed on the request of human rights organisations were released by Justice Markendya Katju (retd) and former Punjab DGP (Jails), Shashikant, secretary of the commission, here on Saturday.
“This commission holds Punjab Police guilty of excessive and unprovoked action against a peaceful congregation and of using brutal force, including cane charge and firing without reason and without the statutory magisterial orders, which need to be passed on the spot itself,” states the report.
“Those injured in the police firing included some women and even children, who deposed (before the commission) vocally. It is shocking that apparently there was no magistrate present on the occasion and this formality was completed later. Police are reported to have fired hiding behind the pillars of a brick structure used as a bus shelter and also from behind a tractor trolley, which was overturned and used as a shield. It was like police were firing at an enemy crowd. From the testimony of witnesses it further appears that the police party which fired was led by Moga SSP Charanjit Sharma and the Bajakhana SHO,” states the report.
“Some uncorroborated statements given by witnesses claimed that the police action was ordered the moment a mobile phone call to the SSP concluded. The timing of the call should be a matter of record with the telecom company and taken cognizance thereof by the official commission,” said Shashikant, addressing mediapersons.
Katju, who was accompanied by Kanwar Pal Singh of Dal Khalsa, Harpal Singh Cheema of SAD (Panch Pardhani) and advocates Navkiran Singh and Amar Singh Chahal, said the purpose of the commission was to record its findings and put them in the public domain for the people to know the truth.
“As many as 37 witnesses presented their affidavits at Behbal Kalan, many of whom also deposed before the commission. The findings can be used by the official commission or the government to take appropriate action,” Kanwar Pal said.
Katju said the commission did not receive any cooperation from the government. “Notices were issued to authorities inviting them to appear before the commission but unfortunately, they neither responded nor did any of their officials appeared before the commission,” said Shashikant.
The report said in case of the Kotkapura incident, the place where people had assembled is under electronic surveillance from all sides. The control room is located in the nearby police station. “The CCTV footage can bring the truth out. The commission hopes that the police do not tamper with this important piece of evidence which may be called in an appropriate court of law or forum,” the report states.