A Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing cases of police firing on anti-sacrilege protestors in Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan after sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib in Bargari in October 2015 recorded the statement of film actor Akshay Kumar at Punjab police headquarters in Chandigarh Wednesday morning.
Akshay was questioned by a five-member SIT headed by ADGP Prabodh Kumar for about an hour on the sixth floor of police headquarters. The questioning began at 10 am, half an hour after actor reached the police headquarters after landing at Chandigarh airport in the morning.
Akshay was scheduled to record his statement at 2:30 pm but on his request SIT preponed the questioning. Akshay left Punjab police headquarters at about 11:35 am from the police headquarters through a gate which is normally not used even as media persons waited at the routine exit gate.
A member of SIT said after the formal questioning for about an hour, Akshay had “informal conversation” with the SIT where he wanted to “know about the case being probed in finer details”.
Sources told that a number of senior police officers also lined up to get photos clicked with the actor, a few waiting for as long as half an hour outside as Akshay was being questioned inside. Lower rank policemen were not that lucky though as restrictions were in place for cops in the area where the actor was questioned. Some clicked selfies with Akshay sitting in a Mercedes car in the police headquarters basement parking as the car was being guided to another exit.
Sources told that Akshay was questioned about “a meeting involving a deal” where the actor is alleged to have played mediator. The “monetary deal which was to involve crores of rupees” allegedly between SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal and Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh or Dera representatives was to “get Dera head pardoned from Akal Takht” and “pave the way for release of Dera movie MSG-2 in Punjab in September 2015 in Punjab”.
Both Sukhbir Badal, who was questioned by SIT on November 16, and Akshay Kumar have already categorically denied that any such deal or meeting took place.
A witness, while recording his statement before Justice Ranjit Singh (retd) Commission which probed incidents of sacrilege and police firing, had stated that there was such a “deal”.
The SIT questioning of the actor primarily stems from the “circumstantial sequence of events” which first led to controversial pardon of Dera Sacha Sauda by Akal Takht on September 24, 2015 exonerating dera chief in for his alleged blasphemous act of imitating tenth Sikh master Guru Gobind Singh, the subsequent release of film in Punjab next day, a week after film release at other places on September 18, 2015 and the subsequent incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib at Bargari on October 12, 2015 and police firing at anti-sacrilege protestors in Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan on October 14, 2015. Two protestors were killed in the Behbal Kalan police firing.
Though SIT has been mandated to carry out investigations into a recent FIR of attempt to murder registered in connection with Kotkapura firing incident after Ranjit Singh panel report was submitted to the government, the SIT is learnt to be taking into account incidents of sacrilege and controversial pardon to dera chief which Akal Takht was forced to revoke following unrest in Sikh community, 23 days after it was granted.
The SIT is “not treating the Kotkapura case in isolation”, said an officer, adding that other developments leading to Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan incidents were closely linked.
Among other things, Akshay Kumar was also learnt to have been questioned by SIT about a tweet by his wife Twinkle Khanna about Dera chief moving to the locality where Akshay lived.
Inspector General Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh, who is one of the members of SIT, said “Akshay Kumar fully cooperated. His statement was recorded in a cordial atmosphere. We are satisfied with his responses.”
On November 9, issuing summons under section 160 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) to SAD supremo and former Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal and Akshay Kumar, the SIT had asked the trio to appear before the team at Amritsar on November 16, November 19 and November 21, respectively.
However, after realising that Badal, who is over 65 years of age, could not have been summoned under the law to an outstation place, the SIT eventually recorded Badal’s statement at his official residence in Chandigarh. Sukhbir’s statement, too, was recorded in Chandigarh, at the Punjab Police headquarters on November 19 after the SAD president made a request to the SIT chief, Prabodh Kumar, in this regard. Akshay Kumar had also made a request to record his statement at Chandigarh which was accepted by the SIT.