REJECTING ALL the pleas raised by five Punjab Police officers against the Justice Ranjit Singh Commission report and the subsequent action taken against them by the state government, the Punjab and Haryana High Court Friday directed the Special Investigation Team, which is probing the 2015 sacrilege cases and the killing of two protesters by police, to conclude the investigation expeditiously, while also asking it to overlook the political overtones of the issue.
Justice Rajan Gupta in the judgment said that the grievance in the issue is not only of the complainant but of the general public and asked the SIT to conduct a fair, impartial and speedy investigation — “undaunted by pressure, if any, internal or external.” The Court said it has no doubt that the SIT shall employ all investigative skills and forensic methods to conclude the investigation.
The court also said that the proceedings of the Inquiry Commission are not adjudicatory in nature and have no binding force and asked the the SIT to not be swayed by the observations made in the report. Ruling the Commission’s report is only meant to make up the mind of the government perhaps to prevent such incidents in future, Justice Gupta further said that any laxity in such an issue of public importance would be against the rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
Following the submission of the report to state government by the Commission in June, the State had withdrawn the consent given to CBI in 2015 for probe in at least three FIRs and setup an SIT of Punjab Police. There are total six FIRs – the three are regarding the incidents of sacrilege which took place in Faridkot in 2015 and three are related to the violence including the killing of two protestors by the police during firing on people protesting against the sacrilege incidents. One of the six FIRs was also registered post Commission report and names of four police officers were also added to one FIR in 2018 which was otherwise registered in 2015.
Soon, the police officers, including SP Bikram Jit Singh, Inspector Pardeep Singh, former Moga SSP Charanjeet Singh, former SSP Mansa Raghbir Singh Sandhu and former SHO, Bajakhana, Amarjit Singh Kalar, approached the HC and launched challenge on multiple fronts — the report, proceedings initiated against them, Action Taken Report of the government, addition of their names to one FIR and resolution passed by Assembly for handing over the probe to the SIT.
They were also seeking CBI probe in all the cases. Senior advocate Akshay Bhan and advocate Sant Pal Sidhu appeared on their behalf.
The government also took the challenge head on after the court-ordered initial stay on the proceedings against the petitioner police officers. Initially, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal appeared on behalf of the government but later the Senior Advocate P. Chidambaram was roped in by the government. Advocate General Atul Nanda and Additional Advocate General Rameeza Hakim also defended the State in the cases seeking CBI probe and quashing of the Assembly resolution.