September 8, 2023 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
Mohali, Punjab: A CBI Special Court in Mohali has convicted three Punjab Police officers for their involvement in the 1992 fake encounter murder of Sikh youth Harjit Singh. Former Inspector Dharam Singh, Assistant Sub-Inspector Gurdev Singh, and Sub-Inspector Surinder Singh were found guilty of their roles in the conspiracy and murder. Two of convicted officers, Dharam Singh and Gurdev Singh were present in the court and have been remanded to judicial custody. Third accused Surinder Singh was not present in the court and attended the proceedings through Video Conferencing from hospital and was directed by the court to be present in the court on next hearing of the case.
According to Punjab Documentation and Advocacy Project (PDAP)’s Barrister Satnam Singh Bains, this case had a complex history, with a large number of Punjab police officers involved and and spans over three decades. During the course of the trial, several accused police officers died during the proceedings; including Inspector Harbhajan Ram, Sub-Inspector Ram Lubhaya, Sub-Inspector Amrik Singh, and Head Constable Satbir Singh, as well as a police informer (CAT), Daljeet Singh.
Additionally, one accused police officer, Sub-Inspector Bhupinder Singh, absconded during the trial and remains at large.
It is worth noting that these convicted police officers were not only found guilty of their involvement in the murder but also for conspiracy and preparing false fabricated records under Sections 120-B (Conspiracy), 302 (Murder), and 218 (Preparing False Fabricated Records) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The victim’s father Bapu Kashmir Singh of Buttar Kalan village in Amritsar filed a writ petition in the High Court in 1992, that Harjit Singh, was abducted by a police party on April 29, 1992, from Dhotiyaan Bus Stand and subsequently detained in the Mall Mandi Torture Center at Amritsar. Kashmir Singh sadly passed away 2 years ago and was not able to witness the conviction of these police officers.
Sentencing will take place on the 14th September, 2023.
It is notable that Indian security forces, including Punjab police, were indulged in wide-spread and systematic human rights abuses in 1980s-90s. Enforced disappearances, custodial torture and death, fake encounters were common policing practice during that period.
Jaswant Singh Khalra, a human rights activist had unearthed a wide-spread practice of systematic extra-judicial killings and secret cremations of innocent Sikhs, including youth as well as aged men and women. Jaswant Singh Khalra had presented documentary evidence, cremation ground record, to establish the fact that the security forces were killing Sikhs in fake encounters and their dead bodies were being secretly cremated as ‘unidentified/ unclaimed dead bodies’. Jaswant Singh Khalra had to lay his life for unearthing these abuses as he was also subjected to enforced disappearance and was killed secretly by the Punjab cops.
The Supreme Court of India (SCI) and National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India have recognized the fact that at least 2097 extra-judicially killed Sikhs were cremated in three cremation grounds – Durgyana Mandir, Tarn Taran and Patti. Near kin of victims were granted some compensation in these cases but the guilty cops were not proceeded against.
Except some specific cases, the human rights abuses in Punjab largely remain uninvestigated and the culprits are enjoying powerful positions, which is evident from the fact that Punjab police chief himself is facing serious charges of human rights violations – including murder of innocent persons.
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