2015 post-sacrilege violence: HC quashes SIT probe reports, asks Punjab to form new team
Court specifically asks to keep IPS officer, IGP Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh, out of the new probe team
The Punjab and Haryana high court on Friday quashed the probe reports submitted by Punjab Police in two FIRs registered in connection with 2015 Kotkapura violence. The high court bench of justice Rajbir Sehrawat also asked Punjab government to constitute a fresh special investigation team (SIT) excluding IPS officer of the rank of IGP, Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh.
Multiple lawyers associated with the case confirmed the development, including senior advocate RS Cheema. However, detailed order is yet to be released. Former DGP Sumedh Singh Saini, former IGP PS Umaranangal and former SSP Charanjit Sharma were among the seven accused against whom challan was filed by the SIT in a 2018 FIR. Lawyers said since the same SIT had probed FIRs in Behbal Kalan cases too, this order may have a bearing there as well.
Two people had lost their lives in the violence reported after incidents of sacrilege in 2015. Three FIRs on incidents of sacrilege were recommended for CBI probe in 2015 by the then SAD government in Punjab, out of which, the state passed a resolution to withdraw two FIRs in August 2018 during Congress government. In the same resolution, it also withdrew two more FIRs related to violence, entrusted to CBI barely four days before the move. There are a total of four FIRs registered to probe the incidents of violence.
The high court order came on the 2019 plea of Gurdeep Singh Pandher, a former sub-inspector with Punjab Police and then Kotkapura SHO, being probed in these FIRs, who had approached the high court levelling allegations against IGP Singh and sought his ouster from the SIT. The second petition was of head constable (retd) Rashpal Singh, who suffered injuries in the clashes. The petitions demanded transfer of probe to CBI or speed up the probe into the initial FIR of 2015 on Kotkapura violence registered on the complaint of policemen. The SIT had taken over probe in this FIR too and named some cops as accused. The probe report has been quashed in this case too, Cheema added.
The plea had argued that challan filed in the 2018 FIR revealed that it has been filed by IGP Singh alone without the assent of four other SIT members. The injured policemen have been left as mute spectators in the political fight between the two regimes and the SIT is hell-bent to implicate the senior police officials by conducting investigation in a biased manner and also by suppressing real facts from the court, the plea had alleged, further arguing that August 7, 2018, FIR was registered for the same incident where an FIR stood registered in October 2015.
The high court at one point had asked government whether it can reconsider its decision of replacing IGP Singh. However, the government, as well as the DGP, had categorically told the court that it may not be in the interest of the integrity of the investigation to change the constitution of the SIT at this stage or to remove the IGP from the SIT. The probe is being supervised by head of Bureau of Investigations (BoI), the government had contended.