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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

One killed in Ludhiana court blast, CM says ‘anti-national’ forces

6 injured, Channi links probe to Golden Temple sacrilege bid, FIR against Majithia

Written by Divya Goyal | Ludhiana |
Updated: December 24, 2021 8:18:17 am
Blast site at the Ludhiana District Court Complex.

ONE PERSON died and six others were injured in a blast inside the Ludhiana District Court Complex Thursday noon, with Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi blaming “anti-national forces” and saying the probe into the incident will be linked to investigations in the sacrilege bid at Golden Temple and the FIR registered against SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia.

Police said the blast occurred inside the public washroom on the second floor when the district court was functioning. The Centre has sought a report from state officials and sent teams from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the National Security Guard (NSG) to the spot.

The police said that one body, charred beyond recognition, was recovered from the spot. It is suspected that the deceased person was either carrying the explosive or planning to plant it, they said. The police also did not rule out the possibility of a “suicide bomb” attack.

“Prima facie, it seems the deceased was carrying the bomb. The body of the suspect has not been removed from the site so that the probe is not hampered,” Channi said. Deputy Chief Minister and Home Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said a high alert has been sounded across Punjab.

Following the incident, Chief Justice of India N V Ramana spoke to the Punjab and Haryana High Court Chief Justice Ravi Shankar Jha and “enquired about the development”, according to a statement from the apex court. The CJI “expressed deep shock” at the incident and “hoped that law enforcing agencies will pay necessary attention to ensure protection for court complexes”.

Ludhiana Court Blast: The explosion took place at a time when the district court was functioning.

Ludhiana Police Commissioner Gurpreet Singh Bhullar said: “Around 12.15 pm, a loud explosion was heard from the washroom on the second floor of the court complex. As per preliminary investigation, the source of the blast could not be ascertained but one person, whose body has been recovered from the spot, is the main suspect. We are trying to identify him. Forensic experts have started the probe.”

An FIR has been registered under sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder) and 124-A (sedition) of IPC, sections 3, 4 and 5 of Explosives Act, and sections 13, 15, 16 and 18 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Police personnel at the district court complex in Ludhiana on Thursday. (Express photo by Gurmeet Singh)

Those injured have been identified as Sandeep Kaur (31), a photostat machine operator; Kuldeep Singh Mand (50), an advocate; Manish Kumar (32), a policeman; and Sharanjit Kaur (25), Krishan Khanna (75) and Gurpreet Kaur (35), who were visitors to the court complex. They are undergoing treatment and are said to be “out of danger”.

Advocate Harjot Singh Harikay, an eyewitness, said the blast was so powerful that two women were thrown in the air. “A colleague was buried under the debris and we rescued him. There was smoke and darkness all around. There was a bad smell, too, like that of some chemical,” he said.

The court building is in a high-security zone where the Police Commissioner’s office is also located. Chief Minister Channi was scheduled to address a public rally at Mullanpur Dakha in Ludhiana, about 25 km from the blast site, at 2 pm Thursday.

Channi visited the blast site and said: “The Punjab elections are approaching. Some anti-national and anti-Punjab forces are trying to disturb peace in Punjab. First, there was a sacrilege attempt at Golden Temple in Amritsar where they failed. Now, this blast has happened. We are not going to spare the culprits.”

Speaking to reporters later, while visiting the injured in hospital, Channi said the probe in the blast case and the recent sacrilege bid are being linked to the FIR registered (on Monday) against Majithia under sections of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.

“It will be clarified in the probe if someone is doing all this to save himself. Why such a horrendous incident took place only after Majithia was booked. We are also probing this angle to the recent dastardly acts,” he said.

“Since the day we started taking action against drugs, such incidents have been happening. First in Amritsar, then in Kapurthala where no sacrilege happened and today when there was a court hearing in Mohali (in the Majithia case). Our agencies are hinting that it might be the handiwork of drug smugglers or those who want to create fear in Punjab,” he said.

Explained

Concern, reassurance

The disturbing blast, coming weeks before the assembly polls, underscores the need for the border state to remain vigilant and united in the face of inimical forces, looking to foment trouble

Sources in Delhi said Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla spoke to Punjab officials about the incident, and that the Ministry of Home Affairs has sought a report from the state.

Responding to questions about security, Deputy CM Randhawa said: “There was a shortage of PCR personnel… We will soon sanction an amount of Rs 17 crore to enhance security at court complexes.”

Gurkirpal Singh Gill, president, Ludhiana district bar association, said the toll would have been higher if the blast had happened at another location inside the building. “We have 3,500 registered lawyers. Of eight entry points, metal detectors have been deployed in only two. Had the explosion occurred in the chambers or a courtroom, the loss of life would have been huge,” he said.

Incidentally, minutes before the blast, the hearing of a rape case against Lok Insaf Party MLA Simarjeet Singh Bains had concluded in a court room on fifth floor. The MLA’s counsel had filed an application in response to non-bailable warrants issued. SAD leader and counsel for the complainant, Advocate Harish Rai Dhanda, claimed that he was the “target” of the blast.

In 2017, ahead of the previous state polls, six persons were killed in an explosion outside a Congress rally venue at Maur Mandi in Bathinda.

The last such incident in Ludhiana occurred on October 14, 2007, at the Shingar cinema theatre where six people were killed and 37 injured in a blast for which investigators named four persons as accused and claimed they were linked to Babbar Khalsa International.

In April 2011, one of the accused was found dead in Nabha prison. On December 16, 2014, a Ludhiana court acquitted the three others, citing lack of evidence. The government’s appeal against the acquittal is pending. —(ENS/Delhi)

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