Landmark Verdict – Life Imprisonment for Punjab Police Officers in 31-Year-Old Fake Police Encounter Case
31 January 2022.
CBI Special Court Mohali – CBI Judge Harinder Sidhu convicted former Inspector Major Singh, then SHO of police station Sadar, Tarn Taran for the kidnapping, abduction, illegal detention and disappearance of Santokh Singh in 1991, during the height of militancy and human rights violations by the Punjab Police. Inspector Major Singh was convicted under sections 364 IPC kidnapping or abduction in order to murder and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment with Rs 50,000 fine and section 344 (wrongful confinement for 10 days or more) and sentenced to 3 years imprisonment and Rs 20,000 fine.
The victim Santokh Singh of Village Jaspal, Mehta district Amritsar was an employee of the Butari Sub Division of Punjab State Electricity Board. On the evening of 31 July 1991 he returned home from his duties at 8:30 pm, the accused Inspector Major Singh along with a police party from PS Sadar, Tarn Taran raided his house. The victim was taken in front of his mother Swaran Kaur, his wife Rajwinder Kaur who was carrying their newborn baby son at the time. Both women raised the alarm and a number of neighbours and witnesses from the village saw Inspector Major Singh tying the hands of Santokh Singh who was taken to police station Sadar.
He was kept in illegal custody where other inmates witnessed his severe torture, they described his condition as critical, he was unable to eat or drink due to his tortured condition. Swaran Kaur pleaded for the release of her son and had even approached then SP Operations Khubi Ram who did not deny that he was in their custody and had promised her that her son would be released. After his prolonged detention and torture, he was not seen of or heard from again. As was the prevailing practice of the Punjab Police at the time the victim was enforced disappeared, meaning that he was murdered in police custody and his body illegally and secretly disposed of. For the last 31 years, Mata Swaran Kaur has fought a relentless battle for the truth and justice. In 1996 she filed Habeas corpus before the Punjab and Haryana High Court for the Punjab police to produce her son or investigate his abduction and disappearance.
It was proved during the lengthy proceedings that Santokh Singh was a man of good character, with no previous convictions or connections to militancy or terrorism. A crucial piece of evidence was from the Punjab State Electricity Board employee records which showed that he had not attended work or collected his salary since the evening of his abduction.
On 21 January 1998 the CBI was directed by the High Court to conduct an investigation. The CBI inquiry concluded that Santokh Singh had been abducted and illegally detained by Inspector Major Singh. A case was registered by the CBI on 21 August 1998. The charge sheet was filed on 21 April 1999, it has taken 22 years for the trial to conclude due to the repeated and concerted efforts of the accused to derail the proceedings. The matter was stayed by the High Court in 2002 then the Supreme Court in 2003, which was eventually dismissed in 2006. The accused again further delayed the trial and in 2016 the Supreme Court again ordered the trial to proceed. Again in 2016, he sought a stay on proceedings which was dismissed by the High Court in 2017. When the trial resumed in November 2019 for final arguments the accused again stalled the proceedings by securing a further stay in the High Court, which was vacated in December 2021. The trial resumed in January 2022 and today some 31 years after Santokh Singh’s abduction and disappearance the accused was finally convicted.
The 10 years sentence was unduly lenient for such a grave and heinous crime, “ my legal team will review the Judgement and we will be asking the High Court to impose a life sentence for my son’s abduction and killing”
For more information
Advocate Jagjjit Singh Bajwa and Satnam Singh Bains 9988227597 email: [email protected]
We the undersigned are united in our condemnation of the Punjab Government reported decision to recommend to the central government the premature release of Punjab police officers whose names have not been disclosed but have been convicted of heinous crimes during the insurgency and counter-insurgency period, is unlawful, arbitrary and unconstitutional. The CBI Special Court has convicted a number of Punjab police personnel for offences including murder, abduction with intent to murder, kidnapping, extorting money, preparing fake records, fabricating evidence and secretly and illegally cremating dead bodies as “unclaimed and unidentified”.
With the CBI special Court in Mohali, having recently convicted 9 police officers in 4 separate trials, any attempt to release those already serving sentences make a mockery of the law and undermines efforts to secure justice in remaining 40 cases which are pending in the CBI Court Mohali or the Punjab and Haryana High Court. In all these cases the victims were found to be innocent and the police officers were found to have killed in cold blood or had abducted and enforced disappeared the victims.
We strongly oppose any external attempts by the Punjab or Central Government, or Punjab Police to interfere with the judicial process and prosecutions which were undertaken by the CBI over two decades ago and are now resulting in convictions of police officers who have evaded the law for the last two and half decades.
We take serious issue, with the contention that a “sympathetic view” or leniency should be shown towards those convicted of these heinous criminal offences, which are aggravated by the perpetrators doing so in police uniform. Whilst the majority of the accused in these cases have never been dismissed from service and have enjoyed all the perks, salaries, in many cases pensions throughout their entire career and have been supported by a secret fund even as convicted criminals. Whereas, the victim families have suffered in abject poverty, with the main breadwinner of their family having been murdered in cold blood and have waited endlessly over 26 years for these trials to commence and conclude, which have been delayed by the manipulation of legal procedures by certain accused police officers and arbitrary stays imposed.
The names approved and/or recommended for release should be disclosed immediately so that the victim’s kin can challenge why this move is arbitrary, illegal and unlawful.
We remind the Chief Minister of Punjab, his public commitments to the victims of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances that his government would punish and prosecute offenders and that these killers in uniform do not remain above the law. We have every expectation that justice will be done and those serving life sentence, will remain behind bars.
Punjab Human Rights Organisation (PHRO): -Chairman Justice Ajit Singh Bains, Advocate Rajwinder Singh Bains, Advocate Sarbjit Singh Verka, Punjab Documentation & Advocacy Project (PDAP): Satnam Singh Bains, Barrister, Advocate Jagjit Singh Bajwa, Jaswant Kaur, Advocate Pushpinder Singh Natt, Baljinder Singh Khalra Mission Organisation (KMO):, Mrs Paramjit Kaur Khalra. Lawyers for Human Rights International (LFHI):– Advocate Navkiran Singh, Advocate, Amar Singh Chahal, Advocate Barjinder Singh Sodhi, Advocate Amar Singh Chahal. Advocate Jaspal Singh Manjpur. People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) – Arjun Sheoran Committee for Coordination on Disappearances in Punjab (CCDP):– Sardar Gurtej Singh IAS, Advocate Harshinder Singh. Human Rights Law Network (HRLN)– Senior Supreme Court Advocate Colin Gonsalves and Advocate Veena
Read how the press covered the screening of our documentary Punjab Disappeared as well as our recently filed PIL in the Supreme Court of India regarding 8257 cases of enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings and secret mass-cremations.
Punjab’s Ajit Newspaper, 8th July, 2019
Dainik Jagran newspaper, 8th July, 2019
Tribune News Service
Amritsar, July 7
The matter of extra-judicial killings during the militancy period in the state has reached the Supreme Court. Family members of victims of alleged fake encounters by the state police along with Punjab Documentation and Advocacy Project (PDAP) have filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the apex court seeking setting up of a commission to uncover the truth and provide justice to them.
The PDAP, a human rights group, has identified 8,257 victims who disappeared after being picked up by cops between 1984 and 1995. During the decade-long investigations, the organisation members visited 14 districts of the state.
Advocate Satnam Singh Bains of the PDAP said the organisation provided evidence with the petition to the Supreme Court. Their investigation covered people from other communities who were also killed in fake encounters.
“For the past three decades, the victim families were struggling for justice and accountability,” he said, adding that the PDAP uncovered compelling evidence of 6,140 illegal cremations by the Punjab police. It also provided evidence of 1,400 encounter FIRs claiming that the victims were unidentified militants.
The PDAP today screened a documentary “Punjab Disappeared” uncovering the decade of enforced disappearances that took place in Punjab.
Read the original article on Tribune’s website here.
Date: 7 July 2019, at 5:30 PM
Sub: Documentary Screening &Press Conference at 5:30 PM today at the Indian Academy of Fine Arts, Madan Mohan Malviya Road, Amritsar.
A PIL concerning disappearances & fake encounters of over 8,527 Punjabis has been filed in the Supreme Court by the Punjab Documentation & Advocacy Project (PDAP) following a 10-year investigation of cases of abduction, illegal detention & extra-judicial killings during the period of militancy in Punjab between 1984-95. The announcement coincides with the screening of Punjab Disappeared (Laapta Punjab) which details the investigation and the victims’ struggle for justice & accountability. The PDAP has uncovered new & compelling evidence of 6,140 illegal cremations of dead bodies by the Punjab police that took place between 1984-95 in 14 of Punjab’s 22 districts. The Supreme Court petition also provides evidence of 1,400 encounter FIRs which claim that the victims were unidentified militants. However, our investigation revealed that the identities were known to the police and the victims were murdered in police custody.
The petition also identifies hundreds of these victims across Punjab who were cremated as ‘unidentified & unclaimed’ & provides on evidential basis for the setting up of a ‘Truth Commission’ to uncover as many as 25,000 victims who disappeared in Punjab during the period of militancy. The documentation, investigation & data-analysis presented in the PIL is one of the largest exercises of human rights data collection and investigation into mass cremations undertaken in India.
We would like to cordially invite members of the Press for a press conference & screening of documentary ‘Punjab Disappeared’, a documentary that shines new light on the decade of disappearances, extra-judicial killings & secret mass cremations in Punjab, highlighting how mainly young men between the ages of 16 and 35 were abducted by the Punjab police.
It traces PDAP’s work in furthering the pioneering work of murdered Punjab human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra & gives fresh hope to survivors in their 25-year struggle for justice.
Link to the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rONhLvZXqII&t=34s
Link to video with audience reaction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7Xhy48Dkyw&t=4s
About the Organisers: PDAP is an independent human-rights group that is committed to advancing the cause of human rights, justice & accountability for victims of enforced disappearances in Punjab.
For further information please mail: [email protected] or call: Satnam Singh Bains, Barrister & Advocate: +91-8860268853; Jagjit Singh, Advocate: +91-9988227597
PUNJAB DISAPPEARED IS COMING TO THE HOLY CITY – AMRITSAR
We warmly welcome you to the screening of Punjab Disappeared a 70-minute documentary which uncovers the decade of enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings and mass secret cremations that took place in Punjab. Thousands of people, mainly young Sikh men disappeared after being abducted by the Punjab police, murdered in staged encounters and their bodies cremated as unclaimed and unidentified.
The film traces the work of the Punjab Documentation and Advocacy Project (PDAP) furthering the pioneering work of Punjab human-right activist Jaswant Singh Khalra in identifying thousands of previously unidentified bodies from new evidence, and gives fresh impetus to the survivors’ 25 year struggle for justice.
For years, the voices of the families of those disappeared remained silenced. The documentary explores the complexities of mass state violence in India which is interwoven with their determined voices and the unacknowledged collective trauma shared with other genocide survivors.
The stories of the disappeared, and their families’ subsequent struggle to find answers to the question – ‘what happened to our loved ones?’
The documentary critiques the significance of the Punjab conflict and whether lessons from Punjab were learned in the context of contemporary mass state violence in India: Midnight knocks, people are taken, never to be heard from again. The multi layered cover up of these mass crimes is critically examined and the despite endemic failures of state institutions, the struggle for justice and accountability is enduring.
The viewer is taken through an often-emotional journey of grief, fear and despair but ultimately the film carries a message of hope and resistance. It expresses solidarity, support and a shared desire for justice with survivors from Manipur, Kashmir and Chhattisgarh. With difficult and searching questions of how security forces in India are still able to act with impunity, the film contextualises the relevance of the Punjab conflict to the victim families of other conflicts in India.
Punjab Disappeared is a clarion call for the State and civil society to take action now, for truth, justice, reparation, and non-repetition through the indomitable spirit, dignity and determination of its survivors.
The screening of the documentary will be followed by a panel discussion on the 7th of July at 5:00 pm at The Indian Academy of Fine Arts, Amritsar. Tel: +91-88602 68853/ 87288 82122/ 99148 47974. Please share widely with your friends and family.
Please note this is a private screening by invitation only.
Please register here: https://www.facebook.com/events/325446965069172/
ਆਪ ਜੀ ਨੂੰ ਮੋਹ ਭਰਿਆ ਸੱਦਾ ਹੈ ਡਾਕੂਮੈਂਟਰੀ ਫਿਲਮ ‘ਲਾਪਤਾ ਪੰਜਾਬ’ ਦੀ ਪ੍ਰਦਰਸ਼ਿਨੀ ਤੇ।
ਏਹ ਇੱਕ 70 ਮਿੰਟ ਦੀ ਫਿਲਮ ਹੈ ਜੋ ਦਰਸਾਉਂਦੀ ਹੈ ਪੰਜਾਬ ਅੰਦਰ ਦਹਾਕਿਆਂ ਦੌਰਾਨ ਜਬਰੀ ਲਾਪਤਾ ਕਰਕੇ, ਗੈਰ ਕਾਨੂੰਨੀ ਹਿਰਾਸਤ ਵਿੱਚ ਹੋਈਆਂ ਮੌਤਾਂ ਅਤੇ ਚੁੱਪ ਚਾਪ ਸਸਕਾਰ ਦਿੱਤੇ ਜਾਣ ਦਾ ਸੱਚ। ਪੰਜਾਬ ਦੇ ਹਜਾਰਾਂ ਲੋਕ, ਜਿਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਵਿੱਚ ਬਹੁਤਾਤ ਸਿੱਖ ਹਨ, ਅਗਵਾ ਕਰ ਲਏ ਜਾਣ ਬਾਅਦ ਪੁਲਿਸ ਵਲੋਂ ਝੂਠੇ ਪੁਲਿਸ ਮੁਕਾਬਲਿਆਂ ਵਿੱਚ ਮਾਰ ਦਿੱਤੇ ਗਏ ਤੇ ਫਿਰ ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਦੀਆਂ ਲਾਸ਼ਾਂ ਦਾ ਸਸਕਾਰ ਅਣਪਛਾਤੀਆਂ ਤੇ ਦਾਅਵਾ ਰਹਿਤ ਕਹਿ ਕੇ ਕਰ ਦਿੱਤਾ ਗਿਆ
ਇਹ ਫਿਲਮ ‘ਪੰਜਾਬ ਡਾਕੂਮੈਂਟੇਸ਼ਨ ਐਂਡ ਐਡਵੋਕੇਸੀ ਪ੍ਰੋਜੈਕਟ’ ਦਾ ਯਤਨ ਹੈ ਜੋ ਮਨੁਖੀ ਅਧਿਕਾਰਾਂ ਦੀ ਵਕਾਲਤ ਕਰਨ ਵਾਲੇ ਜਸਵੰਤ ਸਿੰਘ ਖਾਲੜਾ ਵਲੋਂ ਕੀਤੇ ਅਣਪਛਾਤਿਆਂ ਲਾਸ਼ਾ ਦੀ ਪਹਿਚਾਣ ਦੇ ਕਾਰਜ ਨੂੰ ਅਤੇ ਇਨਸਾਫ ਦੇ 25 ਸਾਲਾ ਸਫਰ ਨੂੰ ਅੱਗੇ ਤੋਰਨ ਦੀ ਲੜੀ ਵਜੋਂ ਨਵੀਂਆਂ ਗਵਾਹੀਆਂ, ਤੱਥਾਂ ਅਤੇ ਜਾਣਕਾਰੀ ਸਹਿਤ ਨੇਪਰੇ ਚਾੜਦੀ ਹੈ।
ਕਈ ਸਾਲਾਂ ਤੀਕ ਲਾਪਤਾ ਕਰ ਦਿੱਤੇ ਗਏ ਵਿਅਕਤੀਆਂ ਦੇ ਵਾਰਸਾਂ ਦੀ ਅਵਾਜ ਖਾਮੋਸ਼ ਰਹੀ ਹੈ । ‘ਲਾਪਤਾ ਪੰਜਾਬ’ ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਉਲਝੀਆਂ ਤੰਦਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਖੋਹਲਦੀ ਹੈ ਜੋ ਸਮੂਹਿਕ ਸਰਕਾਰੀ ਕਤਲੇਆਮ ਨੂੰ ਅੰਜ਼ਾਮ ਦੇਣ ਲਈ ਸਾਂਝੇ ਤੌਰ ਤੇ ਸਰਕਾਰੀ ਸਹਿਮਤੀ ਨਾਲ ਬੁਣੀਆਂ ਗਈਆਂ। ਤਾਂ ਜੋ ਨਸਲਕੁਸ਼ੀ ਪੀੜਤਾਂ ਦਾ ਦਰਦ ਸਾਂਝਾ ਕੀਤਾ ਜਾ ਸਕੇ ।
ਲਾਪਤਾ ਕਰ ਦਿੱਤੇ ਨਿਰਦੋਸ਼ ਅਤੇ ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਦੇ ਵਾਰਸਾਂ ਦੇ ਨਿਰੰਤਰ ਸੰਘਰਸ਼ ਦੀਆਂ ਕਹਾਣੀਆਂ,ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਵਲੋਂ ਨਿਰੰਤਰ ਪੁਛੇ ਜਾ ਰਹੇ ਸਵਾਲ – ‘ਸਾਡੇ ਪਿਆਰਿਆਂ ਨਾਲ ਕੀ ਵਾਪਰਿਆ?’ ਨੂੰ ਏਹ ਡਾਕੂਮੈਂਟਰੀ ਸਾਮਣੇ ਲਿਆਓਦੀ ਹੈ। ‘ਲਾਪਤਾ ਪੰਜਾਬ’ ਇਹ ਵੀ ਸਵਾਲ ਕਰਦੀ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਕੀ ਪੰਜਾਬ ਮਸਲੇ ਅਤੇ ਭਾਰਤ ਵਿੱਚ ਰੋਹ ਸਮੂਹਿਕ ਸਰਕਾਰੀ ਕਤਲੇਆਮ ਤੋਂ ਕੋਈ ਸਬਕ ਲਿਆ ਗਿਆ? ਅੱਧੀ ਰਾਤ ਨੂੰ ਦਸਤਕ ਦੇਣੀ, ਲੋਕਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਅਗਵਾ ਕਰ ਲੈਣਾ ਤੇ ਫਿਰ ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਦਾ ਕੋਈ ਥਹੁ ਪਤਾ ਨਾ ਲੱਭਣਾ। ਇਸ ਸਮੂਹਿਕ ਸਰਕਾਰੀ ਕਤਲੇਆਮ ਦੇ ਬਹੁ-ਪਰਤੀ ਖੁਲਾਸੇ ਅਤੇ ਮੁਲਾਂਕਣ ਤੋਂ ਇਲਾਵਾ ਇਨਸਾਫ ਲਈ ਸੰਘਰਸ਼ ਅਤੇ ਜਵਾਬਦੇਹੀ ਦੇ ਮਾਮਲੇ ਵਿੱਚ ਸਰਕਾਰੀ ਤੰਤਰ ਦੀ ਅਸਫਲਤਾ ਵੀ ਦੁਖਦਾਈ ਹੈ ਲਾਪਤਾ ਪੰਜਾਬ।
ਦਰਸ਼ਕ ਇਕ ਵਾਰ ਤਾਂ ਦੁੱਖ ਤੇ ਭਾਵੂਕਤਾ ਦੇ ਵਹਿਣ ਵਿੱਚ ਵਹਿ ਜਾਂਦਾ ਹੈ ਲੇਕਿਨ ਅੰਤ ਵਿੱਚ ਉਮੀਦ ਤੇ ਡੱਟਣ ਦਾ ਸੁਨੇਹਾ ਵੀ ਹੈ। ਏਹ ਡਾਕੂਮੈਂਟਰੀ ਮਨੀਪੁਰ, ਕਸ਼ਮੀਰ ਤੇ ਛਤੀਸਗੜ੍ਹ ਦੇ ਪੀੜਤਾਂ ਦੀ ਇਨਸਾਫ ਲਈ ਜਦੋ ਜਹਿਦ ਨਾਲ ਹਮਦਰਦੀ ਪ੍ਰਗਟਾਈ ਗਈ ਹੈ। ਲੇਕਿਨ ਇਕ ਸਵਾਲ ਅੱਜ ਵੀ ਝੰਜੋੜ ਰਿਹਾ ਹੈ ਜਿਦਾ ਜਵਾਬ ਉਸਤੋਂ ਵੀ ਜਿਆਦਾ ਦੁਖਦਾਈ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਆਖਿਰ ਭਾਰਤੀ ਸੁਰਖਿਆ ਬਲ ਪੰਜਾਬ ਦੇ ਦੁਖਾਂਤ ਨਾਲ ਅਜਿਹੇ ਕਮ ਬਿਨਾ ਕਿਸੇ ਨਤੀਜਾ ਤੋਂ ਕਿਵੇਂ ਕਰ ਸਕੀ?
‘ਲਾਪਤਾ ਪੰਜਾਬ’ ਸਰਕਾਰ ਤੇ ਸਮਾਜ ਤੇਂ ਇਕ ਮੰਗ ਹੈ ਸੱਚ ਸਾਹਮਣੇ ਲਿਆਉਣ ਦੀ, ਤਾਂਕਿ ਪੀੜਤਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਇਨਸਾਫ ਤੇ ਮੁੜ ਵਸੇਵੇ ਖਾਤਿਰ ਪੂਰੀ ਲਗਨ ਤੇ ਅਹਿਦ ਨਾਲ ਯਤਨਸ਼ੀਲ ਹੋਵੋ।
ਡਾਕੂਮੈਂਟਰੀ ਫਿਲ਼ਮਾਂਕਣ ਉਪਰੰਤ ਪੈਨਲ ਵਿਚਾਰ ਵੀ ਹੋਵੇਗਾ।
ਸਮਾਂ: 7 ਜੁਲਾਈ ਸ਼ਾਮ 5.00 ਵਜੇ
ਇਨਦਿਅਨ ਅਕੇਡਸੀ ਆਫ ਫਾਇਨ ਆ੍ਟਸ, ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤਸਰ (Indian Academy of Fine Arts) ਦੀ ਆਰਟ ਗੈਲਰੀ ਵਿਚ ਸ਼ਾਮੀਂ 5:00 ਵਜੇ |
ਫੋਨ: +91- 87288 82122/ 99148 47974/ 88602 68853