HC orders reinvestigation into 2014 Tarn Taran youth’s murder
Raps IG Rao, trial court judge; probe marked to IG Kunwar Vijay Pratap, asked to give report within 5 monthsUpdated: Dec 09, 2019 07:41 IST
The Punjab and Haryana high court has ordered reinvestigation into the 2014 murder of a youth in Tarn Taran in which eight persons, including a police officer, were booked.
The reinvestigation has been ordered even as three accused were acquitted by the trial court, including a station house officer, Gurcharan Singh. Reinvestigation is ordered by courts in exceptional circumstances.
The high court bench of justice Jitendra Chauhan also rapped the trial court judge and inspector general (IG) of police G Nageswara Rao, who was entrusted with the probe in 2016. The probe has now been given to Kunwar Vijay Pratap, another IG-rank official, who has been asked to complete the investigation within five months.
3 ACCUSED, INCLUDING SHO, ACQUITTED IN 2018
It was in October 2014 that Gurjant Singh, 22, the only son of petitioner Salwinder Singh, was shot dead in Sarhali village of the district. Police failed to arrest five accused — Salwinder named Balbir Singh, Uday Singh, Jarmanjit Singh, Sukhraj Singh and Chamkaur Singh — for four years even as they continued to roam freely in the area. Three accused, including SHO Gurcharan Singh, Gurdev Singh and Stalinjit Singh, faced trial and were acquitted on August 4, 2018. The reason for the murder was stated to be old enmity. Salwinder had alleged that accused enjoyed patronage of local MLA Harminder Singh Gill.
ACCUSED CONTINUED TO ROAM FREELY
The reinvestigation was ordered by the court observing that the role of police, including the special investigation team (SIT) headed by Rao, who in December 2017 told court that the accused were proclaimed offenders even as they were seen in public view sharing a dais with influential persons of the area, including the local MLA, is a strong pointer that the accused being very well-connected, have influenced the course of investigation leading to the acquittal of three.
Another factor which led to reinvestigation was that on July 10, 2018, the prosecution examined eight of the 15 witnesses, most of whom were declared hostile, but the other seven witnesses were never examined.
On July 31, 2018, the high court got to know that the victim’s family members, including his father, resiled from their statements following threats and implication in a criminal case, it stayed the trial court proceedings. But the order was not conveyed to the trial court even as it was passed in the presence of investigating officer and law officer.
WITNESSES NOT EXAMINED
On August 4, the lawyer of the accused did not examine any of the witnesses in the trial court. Only statements of the accused were recorded and the same day, the trial court judge acquitted the three accused, including the SHO.
The plea for going ahead with trial was that the HC order was uploaded on its website on August 7. “This fact also generates suspicion. The family members of the victim were attacked and an FIR was registered wherein no cognisance was taken. All these circumstances collectively convinced the court that the police failed to perform their duty to protect the life and liberty of the victim’s family, which resulted in the acquittal of the accused,” the court said ordering re-investigation.
The victim’s father had approached high court for probe by an independent agency in December 2014. In September 2016, the court disposed of the plea and asked Rao to probe the matter within 45 days. In September 2017, he again approached the court pleading non-compliance of the order. However, Rao stated that investigation has been completed.
5 ACCUSED WERE DECLARED POs
The victim’s family alleged that five of the accused were roaming freely in the area even as police had declared them proclaimed offenders. The family also showed photos of the accused attending political functions in the area. But Rao told the court that the photos were clicked before 2015 when they were declared POs. Later, the state admitted the Rao had made a false statement.
The saddest part of the case, said the high court, was that even as it was apparent before the trial court that the police and public prosecutor have colluded with accused, the judge chose to become a “mute spectator” and failed completely in his duty to ensure a fair trial. The court further observed that the trial court had powers to ascertain as to why the petitioner was resiling and unnecessary haste was being shown by the public prosecutor who was rather “acting as a defence counsel”.