NEARLY 25 years after a Gurdaspur youth was allegedly killed in a fake encounter and now suspended former IG Paramraj Singh Umranangal had claimed that the body belonged to a “prominent terrorist”, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has constituted a fresh Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the allegations.
The SIT will be headed by DGP-rank officer Siddharth Chattopadhyaya.
“Even if the theft of a bicycle is reported, police has to register an FIR. It is rather bizarre that when a human being disappears, ne’, is abducted, not even a DDR is recorded, what to say of an FIR. Such extraordinarily peculiar and abnormal situation makes one curious and suspicious of the dubious conduct of concerned police officials,” Justice Arun Monga said in the order.
In August 1994, Umranangal — presently under suspension in connection with sacrilege and police firing cases — and his team claimed to have killed a “dreaded terrorist”, Gurnam Singh Bandala, in an encounter. However, Bandala was found to be alive in 1998, after which the family of one Sukhpal Singh, 26, of Kala Afghana village in Gurdaspur, claimed that Sukhpal was the one killed by Umranangal.
While Chattopadhyaya will be SIT chairman, ADGP Gurpreet Kaur Deo, who hails from Chandigarh and IGP B Chandra Sekhar, whose is from Andhra Pradesh, will be part of the SIT tasked with an investigation into the disappearance of Sukhpal Singh, for which an FIR was registered in March 2016, three years after the family approached high court. The SIT has been directed to complete the investigation as expeditiously as possible and submit a final report before the competent court.
“Taking into consideration the overall facts and circumstances of the case and for an effective and speedy investigation, and with a view to lending greater credibility and inspire higher confidence of all concerned…I am of the opinion that it would be appropriate to constitute a Special Investigation Team, comprising of sufficiently senior level officers of the Punjab State cadre, but hailing from three different states, for the investigation of the case,” the order read.
It also mentioned that when Dalbir Kaur initially approached police in 1994 regarding the disappearance of Sukhpal, she was told that “he would return soon” and no prompt action was taken despite the family narrating the abduction incident. Around 3-4 police personnel had allegedly abducted Sukhpal in August 1994 saying he was required in some investigation.
“The version later changed and the family was told that Sukhpal Singh has been sent for some work and once that is over he will return,” the order reads, adding, “days turned into weeks to months and years” but he never returned.
While the family was in search of Sukhpal, newspapers started reporting that Bandala, the militant, was killed in an encounter by the District Police Ropar where IGP Umranangal was then DSP. It was human rights activist Col G S Sandhu (retd) who first claimed that the person killed on July 29, 1994 was Sukhpal. All requests for a probe into the two “related” matters were ignored and allegedly no action was taken as Umaranagal “enjoyed political patronage,” claimed the family.
Punjab state and its police in court said that an FIR was registered in 2016 on recommendation of an SIT and another SIT headed by a DSP-rank officer is investigating the disappearance of Sukhpal at present. Umaranagal in his reply denied the allegation and said he is open to fair investigation but “expressed grave apprehensions at the hands of Punjab Police”.
Justice Monga in the order further said that the existing SIT till date has not been able to even ascertain the identity of the police personnel who had allegedly taken away Sukhpal, adding that the probe cannot be transferred to CBI as it is local in nature and does not have any inter-state or transnational ramifications.
“I am of the opinion that considering the rank of respondent no. 3 (IGP), the nature and gravity of the allegations, the level of the existing SIT conducting the investigation, its progress since the registration of FIR on 15.3.2016 and other over all circumstances of the case, it is fit case to constitute a sufficiently higher level SIT, for a speedy and effective investigation and to allay apprehensions and inspire the confidence of all concerned in its fairness,” the order said.