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Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Once Captain’s man, Kejriwal’s new ‘officer bhai’ loves spotlight, ‘not free from blemish’

Ever since Vijay Pratap Singh, a former Punjab Police IG, took premature retirement, it was being speculated that he would take a political plunge before the 2022 Punjab Assembly elections.

Written by Navjeevan Gopal | Jalandhar |
Updated: June 22, 2021 7:34:33 am
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is greeted by former IPS officer Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh during a press conference in Amritsar, Monday, June 21, 2021. (PTI Photo)

As former IG of Punjab Police Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh, who was part of the SIT probing the 2015 Kotkapura police firing incident in Punjab, joined the Aam Aadmi Party on Monday, Delhi Chief Minister and party convenor welcomed him as “my officer bhai (My officer brother)”.

Kejriwal, party leaders said, visited Amritsar Monday with the main objective of inducting the former IPS officer. The Indian Express explains the career, background and the developments leading to Kunwar Vijay Pratap taking the plunge into political arena.

Who is Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh and in what capacity was he associated with cases pertaining to the sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib and subsequent police firing on protestors?

A former Inspector General of Punjab Police, Singh is 1998-batch IPS officer who opted for premature retirement from service, soon after the Punjab and Haryana High Court, on April 9, quashed the probe report filed by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) led by him into Kotkapura firing case.

Face of the five-member SIT – which had an ADGP level officer also – when it was constituted in 2018 by the Congress government led by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, Singh was subsequently made its chief formally. The SIT was constituted after Justice Ranjit Singh (retd) Commission of Inquiry submitted its report in sacrilege and police firing cases.

It was mandated to probe the incidents of firing in Kotkapura and in Behbal Kalan in Faridkot district on October 14, 2015 on anti-sacrilege protestors who were observing dharnas against desecration of Guru Granth Sahib, two days earlier in Bargari village in the same district.

After taking voluntary retirement, Singh minced no words while attacking the legal team of the Punjab government for allegedly not presenting a strong case in the HC, something he blamed for quashing of the SIT report at a time when the trial was on in a Faridkot court, where four chargesheets had been presented naming seven accused, including former Punjab Director General of Police Sumedh Singh Saini.

Singh had also put a question mark over the role of former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, among others, while detailing call detail records involving him before the Kotkapura incident. Ever since he took premature retirement, it was being speculated that Singh, who was otherwise due to retire on September 2029, would take a political plunge before the 2022 Punjab Assembly elections.

What did the Punjab and Haryana High Court observe while quashing the SIT investigation into Kotkapura firing case?

Absolving then CM Parkash Singh Badal of allegations of conspiracy, the court came down heavily on the SIT and while quashing the investigations and chargesheet filed in the trial court, termed the probe as “political theatrics”.

The court also noted that Singh was “not free from blemish” . Citing an interview he gave to a TV channel during 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the court observed that it “shows only one thing that the present investigation has been kept by the respondent no.3 (read Singh) as political horse to be flogged only at an opportune time, whenever the elections are around the corner or when it otherwise suits him.”

During the course of investigations, Singh had questioned senior Badal, SAD president Sukhbir Badal, Saini and actor Akshay Kumar among others. The court order while trashing the call detail records involving Badal mentioned in the chargesheet had observed that then CM was rather “alive to the situation and to his responsibility as a CM, even in the odd hours”.

Following the HC order, Punjab government constituted two new SITs, one headed by ADGP LK Yadav to probe Kotkapura case and another headed by IG Naunihal Singh to probe Behbal Kalan case, which was also being investigated by Singh-led SIT before he proceeded on voluntary retirement. Two protestors were killed in Behbal Kalan police firing.

While Kotkapura case investigations were quashed following a petition by former Kotkapura SHO Gurdeep Singh, who was both the complainant and investigating officer in the FIR registered in connection with the case in 2015, and was made an accused in another FIR registered in August 2018 for the same occurrence, the premature retirement by Singh necessitated forming another SIT.

Yet another SIT headed by border range IG Surinder Pal Singh Parmar is probing three incidents, including theft and sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib. While not questioning the integrity of the new SITs, Singh, however, insists that the justice could be delivered on the basis of investigations done by him only, which he had termed as of “international standards”.

The former IPS officer has been getting a lot of traction on social media over his style of functioning and his investigations into the emotive issue of desecration of the holy scripture considered as living guru by the Sikhs.

What is Kunwar Vijay’s background and which other high-profile cases he investigated?

As per a batchmate of Singh, he comes from “a very humble background from Gopalganj in Bihar”. The officer said Singh was from a family of a “marginal farmer”. The officer said that before joining the IPS, Singh among other positions served as a sub inspector and a Block Development Panchayat Officer.

The officer, who did IPS training with Singh, said, “He is very simple, upright and sincere officer.” After joining AAP, Singh, who has been invoking teachings of Sikh gurus to bring the cases of sacrilege and police firing to logical conclusion, made it a point to mention his journey from Patna to Amritsar – the two cities each home to a Takht (the highest temporal seats of Sikhisms) out of the total five Takhts.

In a long career where he served at various places in different positions, Singh has remained rooted in Amritsar. He has remained in the spotlight for probing a number of high profile cases. He first shot into limelight for unearthing the Amritsar kidney scam in 2002. He was Amritsar city Superintendent of Police at that time.

In October 2018, however, the high court acquitted five doctors who were awarded five-year-rigorous imprisonment by a trial court in the case in November 2013. Singh had also investigated Amritsar sex scandal case of 2003. Several local politicians and cable network operators were booked in the case. On the directions of HC, the case was later handed over to CBI.

In 2013, a special CBI court acquitted all the accused in the case with complainant woman resiling from her statement. During his stint, he has had run-ins with different politicians. Then BJP MLA Anil Joshi had gone on a hunger strike to seek Singh’s transfer as Amritsar SSP in 2009. However, a number of NGOs came forward in his support and moved HC challenging transfer order of Singh.

His tenure as Jalandhar police commissioner and later Ludhiana police commissioner were also marked by sections of local politicians expressing anguish over his style of working, and resulting in his transfer from those places. He has been also managing a website about him, which he would update with his latest public photos, blogs and write-ups.

Among his achievements mentioned on his website were having rescued 53 child labourers on July 24, 2002, who were being exploited by the goldsmiths, and unearthing a gang dealing with unlawful admissions to the medical colleges by leaking the PMT (Pre Medical Test) papers.

He is also recipient of President’s Police Medal for Meritorious Services (Independence Day 2014) and IVF Award 2006 by India Vision Foundation (A trust founded by Dr Kiran Bedi) for Prison Reforms, besides other awards. In 2017, his role to control gangsters and crime was recognised by the Punjab DGP who awarded him with commendation disc for “ensuring gangster-free Assembly elections 2017”. Singh is author of at least six books, has done MBA and PhD, is a law graduate and did his MA in Sanskrit from Patna university with specialization in philosophy.

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