Bittu was acquitted of sheltering criminals due to gaps in police probe
In his judgment on January 7 this year (HT has a copy), then Bathinda additional sessions judge Lalit Kumar Singla acquitted Bittu and others while giving them the benefit of doubt for lack of evidence.Updated: Dec 11, 2019 23:41 IST
Bathinda Even as alleged gangster Harjinder Singh Bittu was arrested in 2013 on the charge of giving shelter to three hardcore criminals at his house, gaps in the police investigation led to his acquittal in the case.
In his judgment on January 7 this year (HT has a copy), then Bathinda additional sessions judge Lalit Kumar Singla acquitted Bittu and others while giving them the benefit of doubt for lack of evidence.
Sources in the police department admitted that it was the most significant case to prove that Bittu had close links with criminals but the chance was embarrassingly lost in the court.
Sources said after chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh tagged Bittu as a gangster, police authorities are working hard to establish latter’s links with organised crimes in the cases pending against him.
Gurpreet Sekhon, the alleged mastermind of the Nabha jailbreak in November 2016, Jagsir Singh Seera and Ranjodh Singh Jodha (died during trial) and Bittu (then district vice-president of Youth Akali Dal) were arrested from Jaga Ram Tirath village near Talwandi Sabo sub-division of Bathinda on July 13, 2013.
A case was registered at Talwandi Sabo police station under various sections, including 420 (cheating), 465 (forgery), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating), 413 (habitually dealing in stolen property), 212 (harbouring offender), of the Indian Penal Code and the Arms Act.
Then Bathinda SSP Ravcharan Singh Brar had termed it as a big achievement as the police had also recovered two pistols, 25 live cartridges; a revolver with five live cartridges and two rifles from the spot.
According to the police theory, Sekhon, Seera and Jodha were engaged in various criminals activities, including vehicle snatching and their sale using fake documents. It was claimed by the police that the history-sheeters had gathered specifically to sell a vehicle by forging ownership papers.
However, in his judgment, the court had pointed out glaring gaps in the police probe, including absence of private witnesses and not prosecuting Bittu under the Arms Act.
The court rejected the police theory that Bittu had given shelter to three gangsters on the ground that the investigators did not place any evidence before the trial court that the house they were arrested from was owned by Bittu. “In the absence of records of ownership of the house, it cannot be taken that Bittu harboured the accused,” reads the order.
The magistrate expressed “utter astonishment” over the police’s failure in arranging a private witness before apprehending Bittu. “The police had secret information (about the presence of criminals). Two neighbours from the vicinity were required to be joined before apprehending Bittu. As per section 100 (4) of the criminal proceeding, it is also mandatory to have private witnesses in case of the recovery of arms. But none was joined which vitiated the alleged recovery,” reads the order.
It categorically stated that in the absence of corroboration of private witnesses, the testimony of police officials cannot be relied upon. The court further pointed out that there was no evidence on record that any forgery was committed by the accused.
It also observed that there was nothing on record to ascertain the workability of the said arms. “No report from the forensic science laboratory was obtained to prove the fact that arms were in working condition and cartridges were live (at the time recovery). So, in the absence of it, the said arms and cartridges cannot be termed as arms within the meaning Arms Act,” says the judgment.
BLURB: Police didn’t produce papers to prove that Bittu was the owner of the house and there was no forensic lab report certifying that the arms-ammunition were in working condition