Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh postponed his visit to Canada on Saturday, as he awaited the outcome of the hearing of a case filed against him in a Toronto court.
The case was filed by hardline activist group, Sikhs for Justice, alleging that a resident of Canada had been subjected to torture while Amarinder was Punjab’s chief minister.
Amarinder — who was in Chicago — decided to delay his visit till an order was issued in the case and said he considered this to be a “straight case of harassment”.
He also said he would catch a flight to Toronto “subject to the court’s decision.” The hearing in the case filed in the Ontario Court of Justice commenced on Saturday morning with an examination of documents submitted to ascertain whether those were adequate and if they fell within the Canadian law.
After that process, a pre-enquete or evidentiary hearing started before another justice to see if there was enough evidence of torture charges to issue a summons or an arrest warrant against the former Punjab CM.
Amarinder refuted the charges, saying his tenure as chief minister was the “most peaceful time in the state, it was considered a golden period.” He said he had ensured the remission of sentences to many who were jailed in cases relating to the Khalistan movement.
Whether he can actually be subject to prosecution in Canada is unclear since he holds a diplomatic passport as a Lok Sabha MP and it would be extraordinary for the Canadian Attorney-General’s office to allow the prosecution of a senior political figure from a friendly nation.
In a statement, SFJ’s legal adviser Gurpatwant Singh Pannu said, “With information in hand, there are reasonable and probable grounds to believe that during Amarinder’s tenure as chief minister, there was systematic torture of Sikh nationalists campaigning peacefully for Khalistan.”
‘1984 Punjab’s darkest chapter’
Addressing a gathering of Punjabi diaspora in Chicago on Friday night, Amarinder asserted that Punjab desperately needed good governance.
“This is not the time for experimentation. Just because some people are telling you that you have tried so and so, now give us a chance does not qualify and entitle them to take over the reins of Punjab at a critical juncture”, Amarinder said.
Later, replying to a question, Captain said: “1984 was the darkest chapter in the Sikh history. I resigned from Parliament and the party over what happened in 1984. However, Punjab needs to move forward.” He said the Akalis rake up this issue only during elections and conveniently put it on the back-burner once the polls are over.