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Monday, April 12, 2021

Acquitted two decades ago, man framed in two terror cases yet to get compensation

Sarabjit Singh Verka, member of a human rights NGO, was also allegedly tortured in custody; district treasury officer to appear in court today to explain delay

Written by Kamaldeep Singh Brar | Amritsar |
March 15, 2021 4:21:30 am
Verka was picked up by the CIA staff, Amritsar, from his residence at Verka on January 30, 1992.

TWENTY-NINE YEARS have passed since he was fist picked up, but the Punjab government is yet to pay compensation to a member of a human rights NGO who was falsely implicated in two terror cases, illegally detained and subjected to torture.

The Amritsar court had attached the cars of the Punjab director general of police and deputy commissioner Amritsar to force authorities to pay compensation to Sarabjit Singh Verka, principal investigator with the Punjab Human Rights Organisation. Now, the court has asked the district treasury officer, Amritsar, to appear in person to explain why necessary action should not be taken against him as per provisions of Order 21 of the Code of Civil Procedure for not paying compensation to the victim even though it has been four years since the order was passed.

Verka was picked up by the CIA staff, Amritsar, from his residence at Verka on January 30, 1992.

After being illegally detained for around 11 days, during which he was tortured and interrogated using the third degree method, Amritsar police produced him in court on February 10, 1992, and registered a case against him at Sadar police station under sections 307, 148, 149 of IPC, and 25, 54, 59 of the Arms Act, u/s 3,4,5 of T.D. Act.

He was labeled a ‘terrorist’ and even ‘kingpin of Khalistan National Army’ by police in their press conferences.

According to police, on February 10, 1992, sub-inspector Ravinder Kumar alongwith other policemen was on duty at Bhai Manj Singh Road when at around 6 pm, a car approached. When they signalled at the car to stop, those sitting in the vehicle opened fire. The police also fired back in self-defence. According to police, the driver took the car on the kachha side of the road. Five Sikh youths emerged from the vehicle, opened fire and ran towards a cluster of trees. The police also returned fire. Three people identified as Sarabjeet Singh Verka, Gurbux Singh and Daljit Singh, surrendered and raised their arms, while two others escaped. Verka was found carrying a bag which contained half a kilo black powder, three chemical stick bombs, five detonators and a double barrel gun. Two spent cartridges were also recovered from the chamber of the gun, as per police.
Verka and other accused were acquitted by the court of Justice Varinder Kumar in Amritsar on May 23, 2000.

In 1998, when Verka was out on bail, police again picked him up from his residence at 11.30 pm on July 15, booked him in another FIR under sections 399/402/125/153A/ 120B /420/468/471 IPC and section 25 of the Arms Act, registered on May 16, 1998. However, he was produced in the court on May 24, 1998, after detention for around nine days. Then DGP Punjab P C Dogra had in a press conference claimed that police had unearthed a major plan to revive militancy and told media about the arrests of members of
‘Tigers of Sikhland’.

Police claimed that the motive of this outfit was to collect money by kidnapping rich prominent people, then demanding huge ransom for their release to purchase arms and ammunition, which was to be used to do destabilise the state and central governments through mass killing, to achieve the target of Khalistan with the help of foreign power.

Verka and other accused were again acquitted in by the court of Addl. Sessions Judge, Amritsar, Hardial Singh, vide judgment dated March 3, 2007.

Verka filed a case in Amritsar court for compensation in 2008 and the court asked state to pay him Rs 10,00,000 compensation for harrassment in an order passed in 2013.

In its judgment, court said, “It is highly unimaginable even to think in the wildest of dreams in a social and democratic set-up that an act of false implication would be at the instance of police and that too with the allegations against a person to be a terrorist, a dacoit, involved in anti-national activities. What to speak of being sensitive to the plight of common citizens of state, the local police acted in a most callous and pathetic way. It even did not care about the recommendations of Punjab State Human Right Commission, who ultimately had to itself move the Hon’ble High Court for enforcement of its recommendation. Now, such kind of situation prevailing in criminal justice system, where police is acting in a callous, indifferent, autocratic, unconstitutional, arbitrary way throwing fundamental rights to the winds, caring little about the directions of constitutional organs of the state, would be nothing short of anarchy and lawlessness.”

“Plaintiff should be compensated for all his sufferings which he had to suffer at the hands of the local police and to meet the ends of justice, Court thinks it proper, just and reasonable even that an amount of Rs 10,00,000 in totality for all the social, physical, mental, repute and economical loss is hereby awarded to the plaintiff,” reads the court order.

However, the state went into appeal against this order, which couldn’t stand in high court. In 2017, the court asked the state to pay compensation. However, orders were not complied with.

Finally, in September 2019, the Amritsar court attached vehicles of Punjab DGP and two vehicles of Municipal Corporation, buildings of Police House, The Mall, Amritsar and Corporation House, The Mall, Amritsar alongwith treasure accounts of Amritsar district.

The state told court that the account of the deputy commissioner, Amritsar, provided by the decree holder has sufficient funds for realisation of decree and the said account has already been attached and, as such, other articles mentioned in the list of properties may be excluded from the list.

On the request of state, court de-attached vehicles and properties but asked that Verka be paid the compensation immediately, at a hearing held last month.

Now the court has asked the district treasury officer to appear in person in court on Monday and explain why necessary action against him as per the provisions of Order 21 of the Code of Civil Procedure not be taken for not paying the compensation.

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