Nearly 15 years after an FIR was lodged against five cops of Punjab in the infamous Kuljit Singh Dhatt elimination case, the trial began in a district court on Wednesday. Dhatt, who was the son-in-law of Shaheed Bhagat Singh's younger sister Parkash Kaur, was allegedly killed by the police on July 23, 1989.
The police had claimed that Dhatt had escaped from their custody when being taken for recovery near Beas river; a probe had confirmed that he was detained by the police from Garhi village and tortured to death.
Parkash Kaur and her daughter (Dhatt's wife) Gurmit Kaur had moved the apex court to get the guilty officials punished. On court's directions, a judicial commission was appointed to investigate the charges, which indicted then Hoshiarpur SP (operation) SPS Basra, Dasuya DSP Ajit Singh Sandhu, Tanda SHO Sardul Singh, Dasuya SHO Jaspal Singh and Garhdiwal chowki incharge Sita Ram
Although the enquiry report was submitted in 1993, it was in December 1996, that a case was registered against the accused and were arrested. The cops, however, moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court against the state of Punjab for granting permission for their prosecution.
They contended that since the state was under the Punjab Disturbed Area Act, only the Centre could have granted the permission. The proceedings remained stayed in the High Court for almost 14 years. Parkash Kaur, who had meanwhile shifted to Canada, had to once again move the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution for speedy justice.
The apex court, on January 3, 2011, had asked the High Court to deliver judgment by March-end but the same was delivered in August,2011. The court dismissed the petition of Jaspal Singh and others, and ordered the trial by a session court.
Since then, Ajit Singh Sandhu and Sardul Singh have died while Jaspal Singh is lodged in Barnala jail in Jaswant Singh Khalra murder case. SPS Basra is presently posted as DIG (security), while Sita Ram has retired from service. On Wednesday, Sita Ram appeared in the court of additional session judge JS Bhinder which has fixed March 12 for next hearing.
Dhatt's brother Harbhajan Singh is fighting the case on behalf of Parkash Kaur who is now 96. "It's more than 22 years that we have been struggling for justice but we would not give up", said Harbhajan Singh. He denied that his brother had any links with militants. "Now that the trial has begun, this lie of the cops would soon get exposed", he claimed. Kuljit Singh was the director of Bhogpur sugar mill and the sarpanch of Ambala Jattan village.