August 30, 2021 6:03:36 am
Former Punjab DGP Sumedh Singh Saini’s release from the custody of Punjab Vigilance Bureau Friday, on directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court —which termed his arrest as “patently illegal” — was not the first time when Saini had left the prosecution high and dry and exposing holes in the cases filed against him.
Saini was the blue-eyed boy of Shiromani Akali Dal president and former deputy Chief Minister of the state, Sukhbir Badal, before his removal as DGP in October 2015 after the incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib and police firing on protesters which killed two people.
Punjab Police has been often found wanting to prove much against Saini, resulting in the former DGP getting bails — including pre-arrest bail, and blanket bail — from the court on various grounds in as many as six cases now, five of which were registered by the Punjab Police and one which is under trial at a CBI court in Delhi.
The issue is turning into a hot potato in poll-bound Punjab. After Saini was ordered to be released from Vigilance Bureau’s custody last week, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s cabinet colleague and Punjab Jails minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa demanded the removal of top Punjab Home Department and Vigilance Bureau officials for the lapse. CM Amarinder, however, countered this demand by stating ministers and party leaders should first study facts before making such statements.
The Indian Express takes a quick look at the list of cases against Saini and how the 1982 batch IPS officer — who retired in June 2018 — has largely continued to keep the police at bay.
September 17, 2020 cheating, forgery case
Saini was arrested on September 17 when he had gone to join investigations on the High Court orders in another related case registered against him on August 2 that year. He was arrested by the Vigilance Bureau in connection with the case registered against him and others under charges of cheating, forgery, and conspiracy, besides other offences, for allegedly getting agricultural land, including an area lying in natural choe (stream), certified as a regular residential colony. It was alleged that the Chandigarh house where Saini resided as a tenant was purchased with the “proceeds of crime money” by its owners. Hearing a habeas corpus plea filed by Saini’s wife and terming the arrest as a violation of three earlier orders of the High Court, a single bench of Justice Arun Kumar Tyagi ordered his immediate release. The high court on October 11, 2018, had held that Saini would be served a seven-day notice if any action was to be contemplated against him. On September 23, 2020, the court had extended the protection of the October 2018 order to any incident during Saini’s entire service career.
August 2, 2021 case
An FIR was registered against Saini and others on August 2 at Phase-I Vigilance Bureau under corruption and other charges. The FIR also named PWD executive engineer, Nimrat Deep, and his father, Surinderjit Singh Jaspal, who owned the house Saini had rented. Among other things, it alleged that the trio “connived with each other to enter into an agreement dated October 2, 2019, in backdate in a fraudulent manner to justify the stay of Saini”. Stating that former Punjab DGP Sumedh Singh Saini is a Z-plus category protectee, “meaning there is no chance of his absconding,” the Punjab and Haryana High Court on August 12 granted him pre-arrest bail.
May 6, 2020 case
On May 6, Saini and others were booked in a 29-year-old case of abduction, torture and disappearance of Chandigarh Industrial and Tourism Development Corporation junior engineer, Balwant Singh Multani. An FIR registered by CBI in 2008 in the matter was quashed by the Supreme Court in 2011 after the Akali government defended Saini strongly in the case. On August 21, 2020, two of the co-accused turned approvers, and murder charges were added. Saini is out on bail in the case. He was granted bail by the Supreme Court in December last year which pointed out that the case was registered 29 years after the alleged incident. Earlier, in September 2020, Justice Fatehdeep Singh of Punjab and Haryana High Court had dismissed Saini’s anticipatory bail application, while noting that, “In the light of the seriousness of offences that have come about there being every likelihood of petitioner stifling fair investigations and for which custodial interrogation of the petitioner is very much essential to piece together this unfortunate incident”.
March 15, 1994 disappearance case
A similar case of alleged abduction of three Ludhiana men back in 1994 drags on against Saini at a special CBI court in Delhi. On March 15, 1994, Ludhiana-based businessmen Vinod Kumar, his brother-in-law, Ashok Kumar, and their driver, Mukhtiar Singh, were abducted and illegally detained, allegedly with the involvement of then Ludhiana SSP Saini. Their families believe that the trio were killed, though the bodies were never found. Saini is out on bail in that case as well.
October 14, 2015 Behbal Kalan police firing case
In September last year, Saini was booked in the 2015 Behbal Kalan case, in which two anti-sacrilege protesters were killed in police firing. Saini was the Punjab Director General of Police at that time. He was booked along with suspended Inspector General, Paramraj Singh Umranangal. Saini and Umranangal were granted anticipatory bail in March this year by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Observing that their custodial interrogation was not required, the court noted that the duo was named as accused in the case without them being asked to join investigations, the notices for which were served to them prior to naming in the case.
October 14, 2015 Kotkapura incident
After he was named in Behbal Kalan police case, Saini was also summoned in the Kotkapura police firing case in October 2020 which was registered under various sections of the Indian Penal Code. While ordering the continuation of the pre-arrest stay granted in March this in a modified order same month, the court had noted that the prosecution had the liberty to proceed in the case as per law. In April this year, Punjab and Haryana High Court had quashed the investigations done by former Ispector General, Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh, in the Kotkapura case, while ordering the constitution of a fresh SIT. The new SIT, headed by ADGP L K Yadav, questioned Saini on May 31. On August 3, the Punjab and Haryana High Court ordered that Saini be given one week’s notice in advance if he was to be arrested in any case relating to Kotkapura firing incident. The Punjab government on Thursday filed a special leave petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court against the Punjab and Haryana High Court order quashing the findings of Kunwar Vijay Pratap-led SIT.
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