‘Anti-gangster Act and witness protection bill on cards in Punjab’

Published on Jun 26, 2022 02:16 AM IST
Punjab anti-gangster task force (AGTF) head Pramod Ban speaks to Hindustan Times on Sidhu Moose Wala case, the criticism that the Punjab Police is facing for falling behind Delhi Police in arresting the two shooters who killed the singer
Punjab anti-gangster task force head ADGP Pramod Ban. (HT File)
Punjab anti-gangster task force head ADGP Pramod Ban. (HT File)

In the line of fire over delay in cracking the murder of Punjabi singer Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu, better known by his stage name Sidhu Moose Wala, the anti-gangster task force (AGTF) of Punjab Police handling the case is also being questioned for falling behind the Delhi Police in arresting the two shooters who killed the singer. Hindustan Times talked to the task force’s head, ADGP Pramod Ban on various issues related to the case. Excerpts:

Q: Why the delay in cracking the case?

A: Where is the delay? It is not an ordinary crime. It was a well-executed and minutely planned murder carried out by hardcore criminals. We made the first official arrest within 24-hours of the murder by nabbing an accused from Uttarakhand. The murder took place on May 29. Within three days, we managed to track the trail of the shooters who came to Mansa in a Bolero via Fatehabad. We have arrested 13 persons so far by defining their role.

Q: But Delhi Police arrested the two shooters in the case, giving an impression that the state police was left watching? Many experts think Delhi police has overshadowed Punjab Police in the case.

A: Delhi Police had brought Lawrence Bishnoi on a production warrant after the killing but in a different case. Our probe started from the scratch and took a couple of days to gain momentum. We identified all shooters after interrogating the accused in our custody, much before Delhi police arrested the shooters. Other state police, central agencies and even Delhi police are also helping us in the case. (laughs when asked if he thinks Delhi police was going overboard in projecting as if they have cracked the entire case).

Q: Is Lawrence the real mastermind behind Moose Wala’s killing? Was he using a mobile phone inside Tihar jail to hatch this conspiracy?

A: Yes, we have his admittance in the case. He was in touch with Goldy Brar, Sachin Thapan and Anmol Bishnoi over phone. Even after Moose Wala was killed, he got a call confirming that the task he gave them was completed. A US-based person also called Lawrence to confirm this when he was in Tihar.

Q: It appears that the gangs are active in the state like never before. The general public and even senior politicians are getting threat and ransom calls. What action are you taking?

A: Most of these calls are made by anti-social elements who are actually not gangsters. But we are going hard against these criminals. We have registered 16 FIRs against such people in the past two months. Ever since ADTF was formed, a special operation has been launched against gangsters and 163 of them – including small-time criminals-- have been arrested. Forty-seven weapons have also been recovered. Cracking down on these gangs is the bigger tasks as most of them are known to be mingling with Khalistani activists.

Q: But cases against gangsters have very low percentage of conviction. Will AGTF push for more strict measures?

A: We are already working on a few laws. Our team at government-level has prepared the draft for Punjab Anti-Gangster Act on the pattern of Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA). Government experts are working on it. We are also working on formulating Witness Protection Act in cases related to organised crime. The chief minister has given us the free hand and our legal experts are on it.

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