Updated: February 5, 2021 11:42:26 am
The Central Bureau of Investigation has returned documents and files related to the 2015 sacrilege incidents to Punjab Police, Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh said Thursday.
To let the state investigate the cases was a long-pending demand of the Congress government in Punjab after coming to power. The cases were handed over to the CBI by the previous SAD-BJP government. The state Assembly, under the leadership of Amarinder, had passed a legislation asking the CBI to return the cases to the state.
The CM, in a statement, said the documents and files relating to the cases were handed over to Punjab Police hours before the deadline set by the Punjab and Haryana High Court for CBI to do so, was to expire.
CM blames Akalis for delay
Amarinder blamed the Akalis for the delay in handing over the cases. “Within months of the Akalis walking out of the Union government, the CBI on Wednesday finally handed to the state police papers relating to the sacrilege cases. This clearly exposed that SAD had been scuttling the process to prevent their complicity in the cases from being exposed,” he claimed.
The Director Bureau of Investigation had written to Director CBI on January 18, 2021, to return all case records to state police without any further delay after the withdrawal of investigation of sacrilege cases from CBI, and consequent return of the entire record including evidence gathered in cases transferred to CBI on November 2, 2015.
The chief minister termed it a victory for the state government and an endorsement of its stand that the CBI had, all these months, been trying to “scuttle the investigation” by the Special Investigative Team (SIT) of Punjab Police at behest of SAD, which was part of the ruling NDA at the Centre till September 2020.
“It is clear now that Harsimrat Badal, as union minister, had been pressurising the central agency to obstruct the SIT probe by refusing to hand over the case files as she knew that her party’s role in the entire affair would be exposed once the police take the investigation to its logical conclusion,” said Capt Amarinder.
SAD’s complicity in the 2015 cases would be exposed with the completion of the SIT probe, he said, adding that all those found guilty would be identified and punished. “Nobody will be spared, irrespective of their political affiliation or position,” he declared.
SAD: Capt playing ‘friendly game with BJP’
Meanwhile, in a written statement here, SAD spokesperson and former minister Daljit Singh Cheema said, “The chief minister had exposed both his political compulsions as well as his nervousness through a motivated tweet. The chief minister has deliberately tried to twist a judicial intervention which is totally unwarranted and out of context. It is shocking that the chief minister is now playing a friendly game with the BJP.”
In a tweet with a video message, Amarinder on Thursday wrote: “CBI has finally handed over the Sacrilege case files to @PunjabPoliceInd, Hnading over papers within months of @Akali_Dal_@HarsimratBadal_scuttled the probe. Punjab police will track down the culprits & guilty won’t be spared.”
Akali leader Cheema however said, “Punjabis will not be fooled by such antics.former union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal does not need a certificate from someone who had always betrayed the interests of Punjab and was even now working against Punjab’s interests vis a vis the Kisan Andolan.”
Addressing the CM, he added, “Punjabis understand you (CM) are under intense pressure to toe the BJP-led government line on all issues to save your chair. This is why you have provided an opening to the BJP to divert attention from the ongoing Kisan Andolan.”
‘CBI persistently refused to hand over case files’
Pointing out that his government had withdrawn consent to CBI to probe the cases as far back as in 2018, after the Vidhan Sabha unanimously resolved to do so, the chief minister said the SIT was also constituted then to take over the investigation. The central agency had, for more than two years, been persistently refusing to hand the case files back to state, he said, adding that the agency, which had earlier filed a closure report in the matter, went on to constitute a new investigative team in September 2019 with the clear aim of preventing the state government from conducting its own impartial, fair and speedy probe.
The shocking part, according to the CM, was that the CBI adamantly refused to hand over the case diaries even after the High Court, in January 2019, upheld the state government’s decision, and in February 2020, the Supreme Court dismissed CBI’s appeal challenging the HC judgment.
“Why else would CBI have behaved in this manner had it not been under political pressure from the Akalis, who clearly did not want the probe to be completed?” he asked.
The incidents of sacrilege
The incidents of sacrilege occurred between June to October 2015 following theft of the sacred Guru Granth Sahib from a gurdwara in Burj Jawaharsinghwala, Faridkot, and discovery of torn pages from the Holy Book in Bargari, Faridkot. They caused widespread discontent and outrage among the Sikh community.
These incidents led to large-scale protests and agitations in October 2015. The retaliatory action taken by police led to injuries and death of two persons. In 2015, the Akali Dal-led state government had transferred investigation of the sacrilege incident to the CBI. Retd. Justice Zora Singh Commission was appointed to inquire into the incidents of sacrilege and police action in the protests, and a report was submitted to the government in 2016.
After the Congress came to power in the state in 2017, finding the report of Retd. Justice Zora Singh to be inconclusive, the state government appointed a fresh Commission of Inquiry, Retd. Justice Ranjit Singh Commission, who submitted a report in 2018.
The Bargari sacrilege has been a political issue in the state since 2015. The Congress, in a pre-poll promise, had assured action and bringing guilty to book. After the Congress came to power, many leaders of the party have been demanding action against Akalis for ordering firing at those agitating against the sacrilege in 2015.
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