In an alleged false implication in a drugs case in Tarn Taran district dating back to 2017 where the prime accused had filed a petition seeking probe by an independent agency, the Punjab and Haryana High Court Tuesday transferred the case to Central Bureau of Investigation.
Six Punjab Police officials — an Inspector, four Assistant Sub-Inspectors and a head constable — were placed on suspension earlier this week on the basis of an enquiry report by Punjab Special DGP (Provisioning & Modernisation) Prabodh Kumar. The report said petitioner Balwinder Singh Kukku was falsely implicated in an NDPS Act case registered against him on August 4, 2017 at State Special Operation Cell, Amritsar.
A police party led by STF inspector Sukhwinder Singh had purportedly recovered one kg of heroin smuggled from Pakistan from Kukku’s possession while claiming that he was apprehended at a naka. Kukku approached court saying he was picked up by police in civvies from Patti Civil Hospital a day before and was falsely implicated in the drugs case.
The suspended police officials will face departmental probe also.
Justice Anil Kshetarpal in the order on Tuesday also directed CBI to register an FIR against the erring officials as per the report of Prabodh Kumar.
As per a January 5 order by Amritsar Police Commissioner, Inspector Sukhwinder Singh was placed on suspension. Sukhwinder was posted as Inspector in STF (Border Range) at the time of registration of the case and currently posted in Crime Investigation Agency (CIA) staff in Amritsar.
The order noted that he was placed on suspension in compliance of directions issued by ADGP Special Task Force. The directions by ADGP STF referred to enquiry by Prabodh Kumar.
Another Assistant SI Beant Singh, then posted with STF as head constable and currently posted with Tarn Taran police, was placed on suspension, Tarn Taran SSP Dhruman H Nimable said ASI was placed on suspension following a correspondence by STF headquarters. Nimbale added that he was not aware of the grounds on the basis of which STF had directed for ASI’s suspension.
A government functionary wishing not to be named said at least four other officials were placed on suspension. The official identified them as ASI Surjit Singh, ASI Kulvir Singh, ASI Kulwinder Singh and head constable Kulwant Singh, who were still posted with STF.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court in its order noted, “However, the competent authority has only ordered initiation of disciplinary proceedings against the erring police official, without giving any relief to the petitioner. It is further reported that erring police officials have been placed under suspension pending disciplinary proceedings.”
“First of all, the petitioner, who is facing criminal prosecution/trial under Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, which provides for a very severe punishment, needs to be granted an appropriate relief. Further, the erring police officials are required to be prosecuted, in accordance with the law,” read the order.
Kukku had approached court alleging that he was falsely implicated in the case due to political vendetta. He alleged that he was “illegally” picked up from Patti Civil Hospital on August 3, 2017 and was implicated in the drugs case registered the next day.
With police officers taking different stands in the case, Punjab and Haryana High Court on November 7, 2019 had asked Prabodh Kumar, then posted as Punjab Bureau of Investigation Director, to examine the police diaries, CCTV footage, call details and tower locations of the petitioner and police officials in the context of allegations he made in the two petitions — one seeking “entrusting the cases registered against him to an independent investigating agency” and other seeking grant of bail — and submit a status report.
On December 17 last year, the court noted that Kumar had submitted a detailed report in which it was reported that the petitioner had been falsely implicated.
In the detailed probe report dated December 7 running into 26 pages , Kumar examined 17 persons “acquainted with facts of the case”, including those who have been placed on suspension. The probe report also referred to 15 CCTV video clips from two cameras on August 3, 2017 of Patti Civil Hospital.
Referring to a CD, Kukku had contended that he was illegally picked up from Patti Civil hospital by police personnel in civil dress. “On a plain viewing of the CD relied upon by the petitioner, this court is substantially satisfied with the petitioner’s version relating to the manner in which he was allegedly picked up,” the court said in an order on December 22, 2017, the day Inspector Sukhwinder Singh filed an affidavit in the court saying the recording in the CD did not prove that he (Sukhwinder) picked up Kukku him from hospital, that he (Sukhwinder) did not visit Civil Hospital Patti on the said date and that the persons who are seen moving in the recording were unable to be identified.
Assistant Inspector General (STF) in his reply, by way of an affidavit, also termed Kukku’s contention as “wrong and incorrect” while maintaining that he was apprehended at a naka. Not satisfied with the reply, the court asked AIG to file a specific reply. In an affidavit on August 9, 2018, the court noted, AIG projected that a three-member SIT was constituted and as per its report, police party headed by ASI Tejinder Singh had gone to Civil Hospital after receiving information that a proclaimed offender in different cases had come there and was wearing a kurta pyjama of white colour. The SIT, as per AIG affidavit, noted that petitioner (Kukku) resembled with that PO and at that time had worn white kurta pyjama. He was intercepted by the police party, but was let off after he disclosed his identity.
In view of the different stands taken by the police, the court asked STF chief to examine the facts of entire case and file an affidavit. In its detailed order on November 7, 2019 where it requested Prabodh Kumar to look into the case, the court said that “the affidavit filed by Additional DGP, STF, Punjab leaves many questions unanswered.” It also said “the Additional DGP has also not examined call details as well as tower locations of the petitioner as also of the police officials.”