Cut and paste, cut and paste and you have a drugs FIR in Punjab

In most FIRs, the accused were caught hiding in bushes on the roadside or river banks and consuming drugs; smoking intoxicants while sitting next to a wall; or, carrying drugs inside right pocket of pants or pyjamas.

Written by Varinder Bhatia , Man Aman Singh Chhina | Ambala/chandigarh | Updated: June 9, 2016 12:07 pm
Punjab, punjab drugs, punjab drug arrests, udta punjab, punjab drug FIR, udta punjab film, udta punjab controversy, punjab drug problem, drugs in punjab, punjab news, drug cases punjab, punjab drug issue, punjab drug cases, india news Police leave after conducting a search for drugs at the house of Kartar Singh, a farmer, in Boot, Kapurthala. (Express Photo: Jaipal Singh)

IF the FIRs in Punjab’s war on drugs reveal a skew towards poor and vulnerable drug addicts rather than those who control the supply chain, reading between their lines reveals another startling story.

A close scrutiny of FIRs obtained by The Indian Express under the RTI Act from 14 police districts shows the mechanical manner in which the crackdown is implemented. As per a common script, literally.

In most FIRs, the accused were caught hiding in bushes on the roadside or river banks and consuming drugs; smoking intoxicants while sitting next to a wall; or, carrying drugs inside right pocket of pants or pyjamas.

There are distinct, separate cases in which the FIRs record an identical sequence: “A young man seen approaching the naka. On seeing the police, he turned and tried to escape.”

Also read: Doctors to lawyers: ‘Crackdown skewed, drug addicts being targeted’

While police officers insisted that the FIRs recorded the actual sequence of events, top lawyers questioned their veracity and demanded an independent probe.

Punjab, punjab drugs, punjab drug arrests, udta punjab, punjab drug FIR, udta punjab film, udta punjab controversy, punjab drug problem, drugs in punjab, punjab news, drug cases punjab, punjab drug issue, punjab drug cases, india newsConsider this selection of FIRs across 2014 that resemble a straight cut-and-paste job. The common phrases are highlighted in italics:

26/5/2014 C-Division, Amritsar
Police was patrolling. A youth walking on the road took a sudden turn after seeing police. Police followed him and found him and his accomplice sitting next to a wall and smoking. They were caught holding silver pipes in their left hands and matchsticks in their right hands.

6/8/2014 C-Division, Amritsar
Police was patrolling and found two youths sitting next to a wall on the roadside, smoking. They were holding rolled silver paper in their left hands and matchsticks in their right hands, and 50mg half-burnt heroin was recovered.

13/8/2014 Sultanwind, Amritsar
Police was patrolling, saw a light amid bushes on the river bank. Police found two boys holding silver pipes in their left hands, candles in their right hands and sniffing intoxicant.

16/8/2014 Sultanwind, Amritsar
Police was patrolling and smelled something burning. They followed the smell and saw five boys holding silver pipes in their left hands, and candles and matchboxes in their right hands.

1/1/2014 Bhikhi, Mansa
Police was patrolling and checking vehicles. A young man was seen approaching the naka (checkpost) with a polythene bag hanging around his neck. On seeing police, he turned and tried to escape. He was caught and 980g opium was recovered.

2/1/2014 Sadar, Pathankot
Police was patrolling and checking vehicles. A young man was seen approaching the naka. On seeing police, he turned and tried to escape. He was caught and 180g intoxicant powder recovered from a polythene bag in his right pant pocket.

3/1/2014 Kot Dharmo, Mansa
Police was patrolling and checking vehicles. A young man was seen approaching the naka. On seeing police, he turned and tried to escape. He was caught and nine bottles of cough syrup, and 4,900 tablets, were recovered from a polythene bag he was holding in his right hand.

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3/1/2014 Kalanaur, Gurdaspur
Police was patrolling and checking vehicles. A young man was seen approaching the naka. On seeing police, he turned and tried to escape. He was caught and 200g charas recovered.

5/1/2014 Joga, Mansa
Police was patrolling and checking vehicles. A young man was seen approaching the naka with a polythene sack on his head. On seeing police, he turned and tried to escape. He was caught and 30 kg poppy husk recovered.

6/1/2014 Tanda, Hoshiarpur
Police was patrolling. One woman walking down the road, wearing a shawl, turned after seeing police and tried to escape towards an empty plot. On being chased, she tried to throw away a polythene bag. She was caught and found in possession of intoxicant powder.

9/1/2014 Dhariwal, Gurdaspur
Police was patrolling and checking vehicles. Two youths on motorbike were seen approaching. On seeing police, they tried to escape. They were caught. One person threw a polythene bag and escaped. 380g of intoxicant powder recovered from the bag.

11/1/2014 Sadar, Faridkot
Police on patrol stopped a suspicious-looking person walking. The man took a sudden turn when he saw the cops. He was stopped, questioned and found in possession of drugs. The intoxicant powder was recovered from the right pocket of his pyjama.

Also Read: Punjab drugs: At Ground Zero, behind each door, a broken home

6/2/2014 Bullowal, Hoshiarpur
Police was patrolling and checking motorcyclists. A clean shaven person approached with a polythene bag in his hand. On seeing police, he turned around and tried to run in the opposite direction. He was caught, found in possession of 19.5kg poppy husk.

24/2/2014 Maloud, Khanna
Police was patrolling and checking vehicles. A young man was seen approaching the naka. On seeing police, he turned and tried to escape. He was caught and 53g intoxicant powder recovered from polythene bag in the right pocket of his pants.

27/2/2014 Sadar, Pathankot
Police was patrolling and checking vehicles. A young man was seen approaching the naka, holding a polythene bag. On seeing police, he turned and tried to escape. He was caught and 130g intoxicant powder recovered.

5/3/2014 Kalanaur, Gurdaspur
Police was patrolling and checking vehicles. A young man was seen approaching the naka, holding a polythene bag. On seeing police, he turned and tried to escape. He was caught and 2.5kg poppy husk was recovered.

10/4/2014 Dhariwal, Gurdaspur
Police was patrolling and checking vehicles. Two youths on motorbike were approaching. When asked to stop, one of them threw away a polythene bag. They were caught, the bag found and 5g heroin recovered.

21/5/2014 Garhdiwal, Hoshiarpur
Police was patrolling and checking vehicles. A man was seen approaching with a polythene bag in his hand. On seeing police, he tried to escape. He was caught, found in possession of 1.5 kg poppy husk.

21/5/2014 Jhunir, Mansa
Police was patrolling and checking vehicles. A young man was seen approaching the naka. On seeing police, he turned and tried to escape. He was caught and 2.8 kg poppy husk recovered from a polythene bag he was holding in his right hand.

Also Read: Punjab’s war on drugs is more a war on drug addicts

22/5/2014 Dhariwal, Gurdaspur
Police was patrolling and checking vehicles. A motorcyclist was approaching. On seeing police, he tried to escape. He was caught and 680g intoxicant powder was recovered from a polythene bag in his possession.

22/5/2014 Sadar, Khanna
Police was patrolling and checking vehicles. A young man was seen approaching the naka. On seeing police, he turned and tried to escape. He was caught and 100 capsules recovered from a polythene bag in the right pocket of his pants.

25/5/2014 Kahlwan, Pathankot
Police was patrolling and checking vehicles. A young man was seen approaching the naka. On seeing police, he turned and tried to escape. He was caught and 120 capsules recovered from a polythene bag in the right pocket of his pants.

7/6/2014 Sadar, Gurdaspur
Police was patrolling and checking vehicles. A young man seen approaching the naka, holding a polythene bag. On seeing police, he turned and tried to escape. He was caught and 1kg of poppy husk recovered.

Full Coverage: An Express investigative series on drug problem in Punjab

11/6/2014 Tanda, Hoshiarpur
Police was patrolling and checking motorcyclists. A woman was seen approaching with a polythene bag in her right hand. On seeing the police, she tried to escape. She was caught, found in possession of 90g intoxicant powder.

12/6/2014 Sadar, Gurdaspur
Police was patrolling and checking vehicles. A young man seen approaching the naka, holding a polythene bag. On seeing the police, he turned and tried to escape. He was caught and 1,625 capsules, 570 tablets recovered.

2/7/2014 Sadar, Mansa
Police was patrolling and checking motorcyclists. A person was seen walking on the banks of a canal with a polythene bag in his right hand. On seeing police, he tried to run away. He was caught, found in possession of 500g intoxicant powder.

11/9/2014 Mansa City, Mansa
Police was patrolling and checking vehicles. A young man was seen approaching with a polythene bag on top of his head. On seeing police, he tried to escape. He was caught, found in possession of 35.1kg poppy husk.

15/10/2014 Jaurkian, Mansa
Police was patrolling and checking vehicles. A young man was seen approaching with a polythene bag on his shoulder. On seeing police, tried to escape. He was caught, found in possession of 5.1kg poppy husk.

17/11/2014 Doraha, Khanna
Police was patrolling and checking vehicles. A young man was seen approaching with a polythene bag in his hand. On seeing police, he tried to run away. He was caught, found in possession of 9.5kg poppy husk.

5/12/2014 Doraha, Khanna
Police was patrolling and checking vehicles. A young man was seen approaching with a polythene bag in his hand. On seeing police, he turned, tried to escape. He was caught, found in possession of 4kg poppy husk.

Please save my daughter, she did no wrong: Jeet Kaur in Boot village, her daughter is in prison for possession. (Express Photo by Jaipal Singh) Please save my daughter, she did no wrong: Jeet Kaur in Boot village, her daughter is in prison for possession. Click on the image to read her story. (Express Photo by Jaipal Singh)

Asked about the pattern of identical FIRs, Ishwar Singh, director, Punjab Narcotics Control Bureau, told The Indian Express: “The FIRs are actual account of how drugs have been recovered.”

“Those indulging in such acts are caught in the same fashion. When they see police, they will try to throw away the drug, which is usually in their pockets. The reaction of the accused when they see a police party is similar and that is the reason there appears to be a similarity in the FIRs,” said Shivdarshan Singh, Ajnala Station House Officer (Amritsar Rural police).

“Police records the sequence in FIRs as it happens. The accused carry smaller quantities in their pockets and panic after seeing police,” said Sukhwinder Singh Randhawa, Civil Lines Station House Officer (Amritsar Police commissionerate).

However, senior lawyers who have handled such cases demanded an investigation by “a specialised agency”.

“Since a majority of FIRs have the same contents, same facts and same sequence, there is a need for an independent investigation by a specialised agency to check their veracity. The accused can challenge the police version in the FIRs if a large number of them have identical contents. In most criminal cases, there is a different sequence of events and it is very surprising how Punjab Police managed to make these arrests sound similar,” said Neeraj Chaudhary, who practices in the Supreme Court.

Gagan Pradeep Singh Bal, a lawyer at the Punjab and Haryana High Court, said: “Most of the FIRs state that contraband was recovered from a man travelling on a motorcycle, who was stopped and searched. Rather than catching the actual culprits, Punjab Police had started a race of increasing their number of arrests under the NDPS Act. Why doesn’t the government ask an SHO that while he caught 10 persons with drugs in their possession, why was he never able to catch those from whom the drugs were obtained. It is ironical that most of the investigations end with the motorcyclist.”

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