Kotkapura, Behbal Kalan police firing: Six years on, investigations look inconclusive amid legal setbacks
Two Sikh protesters — Gurjeet Singh of Sarawan village and Krishan Bhagwan Singh of Niamiwala village in Faridkot district— were killed in the police firing
Even six years after police firing incidents at Faridkot district’s Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan, the investigations done by different special investigation teams (SIT) appear to be inconclusive. Setbacks on the legal front — quashing of charge sheets in Kotkapura case by high court and stay on investigation against former Punjab director general of police Sumedh Singh Saini — have left the probe teams at the crossroads.
On October 14, 2015, police had opened fire at people protesting at the above-mentioned locations against the sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib in Faridkot’s Bargari village. Two Sikh protesters — Gurjeet Singh of Sarawan village and Krishan Bhagwan Singh of Niamiwala village in Faridkot district— were killed in the firing at Behbal Kalan.
In April this year, the high court had quashed all the reports related to Kotkapura firing filed by the previous SIT headed by the inspector general of police (now retired) Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh. Acting on the HC orders, the state government constituted a new three-member SIT headed by ADGP LK Yadav, who is being assisted by IG Rakesh Agrawal and DIG Surjit Singh. The new SIT was directed to complete the investigation within six months.
SIT consulting legal experts on Kotkapura
More than five months after starting the probe into Kotkapura firing case, the SIT led by ADGP LK Yadav is yet to file a fresh charge sheet against the accused in the court. The probe team is in a fix over filing the charge sheet in the light of high court’s staying till February 2022 investigations in cases pending against former DGP Sumedh Singh Saini.
An officer privy to the investigation said the SIT was consulting legal experts whether they should file the first charge sheet against the accused, excluding Saini, or wait until February. “Another option before the state government is to challenge the high court order. Saini has a very significant role in this case, so without him, a key link will be missing,” the official added.
Even the newly appointed special public prosecutor senior advocate Rajwinder Singh Bains has also suggested that the state government should immediately challenge the high court order staying probe against Saini to ensure speedy justice in the cases.
Yadav-led SIT is also waiting for a date from Gandhinagar-based forensic science laboratory (FSL) for conducting a lie-detection test on suspended inspector general (IG) Paramraj Singh Umranangal even as the permission for the test was granted three months ago.
When contacted DIG Surjit Singh, who is a member of the SIT, refused to comment stating that the high court has barred them from talking to the media about the case.
Charges yet to be framed in Behbal Kalan case
A trial court in Faridkot is yet to start the hearing on arguments for framing of charges against the accused in Behbal Kalan firing case after which the trial will start. Further, the court has exempted Saini from personal appearance following the HC order. So, this may delay the proceedings of the trial court further. “SIT investigation says that Saini’s role was the centre point in the case. All the key links need to be there,” said a lawyer.
The Kunwar Vijay Pratap-led SIT had filed charge sheet against seven accused, including five cops, in the Behbal Kalan firing case. The SIT claimed that the cops opened fire at peaceful protesters at the direction of Umranangal, who got instructions from Saini, and later conspired to fabricate the evidence to cover up the incidents.
The first charge sheet was filed against former Moga SSP Charanjit Singh Sharma in April 2019. Later, the SIT filed charge sheet against four accused, including SP Bikramjit Singh in October 2020. The charge sheets against Umranangal and Saini were filed in January.
After Kunwar Vijay took voluntary retirement, the government formed a three-member SIT headed by IG Naunihal Singh to probe the Behbal Kalan firing case in May. However, the SIT head is yet to visit the Faridkot district.