Sentenced to life for murder, a convict served seven years, seven months and 14 days before the Punjab government worked out a calculation to release him prematurely “for good behaviour”. Gurmeet Singh “Pinky”, a militant-turned-informer-turned-policeman, was freed on June 24 by an order by the governor following a government recommendation.
Legal experts say a life sentence can mean a lifetime or 20 years, depending on how the order is worded, but prisoners are often released after 14 years, with six years cut for behaviour. Authorities have explained how they added up to 20. “This convict has completed actual seven years, seven months and 14 days punishment and after remission of his punishment he has completed 15 years, seven months and 14 days in jail and four years, four months and 16 days punishment remains which he will spend with peace and harmony,” the Nabha Open Agriculture Jail wrote on July 18 to the father of the murder victim, who had filed an RTI application.
The man, the murder
In the 1990s, Pinky converted from being a member of Babbar Khalsa to the role of a police informer. His tip-offs, a senior officer said, led to “some successful encounters and the arrest of some terrorists, which earned him a permanent place in the police”.
Taken in as a special police officer, he got promoted to an inspector. He used to be guarded by men with AK-47 rifles. Nine such bodyguards were with him when the murder took place.
Avtar Singh, 21, also known as Gola, of Ludhiana was shot dead on January 7, 2001. Pinky and his men were sitting on the road and drinking, and Gola asked them to make way. Gola’s father Amrik Singh says he rushed to the scene when he heard the men were beating up Gola and his friends. “Before we could intervene, they shot my only son in front of my eyes. The bullet pierced his skull. They shot at me too,” said Amrik Singh.
On January 19, Pinky surrendered. “Pinky threatened us and the witnesses, some of whom turned hostile. He offered us bribes,” said Amrik Singh.
A Yamuna Nagar court sentenced Pinky on October 17, 2006, while acquitting his companions. Pinky then moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which rejected the appeal.
“In Pinky’s case, the application of remission could not be accepted before spending 10 years in jail,” advocate Rajwinder Bains said. A government spokesman, however, said the release was in accordance with a policy framed on April 4, 2013: “Male adults who were convicted for murder and have been given life imprisonment as punishment, and have completed 10 years of actual imprisonment can apply for premature release… If a convict has maintained good conduct during conviction period and works in open jail Nabha, that convict also gets benefits of one more year.”
Since January, the government has recommended 164 premature releases and 91 of continued…