Hours after he was booked in a case related to disappearance of a Mohali man after a terror attack in 1991, former Punjab DGP Sumedh Singh Saini was stopped from entering Himachal Pradesh by the hill state’s police due to lack of a curfew pass.
Saini, who was booked along with six others in an FIR filed at 6:23 pm on Wednesday, was heading for his “property in Karsog (Mandi district)” in Himachal when he was stopped at the border at 4 am Thursday, and told to go back.
On Wednesday, The former Punjab DGP was booked in connection with the disappearance of Balwant Singh Multani, who was a junior engineer with the Chandigarh Industrial and Tourism Corporation, according to the FIR. The son of a then serving IAS officer D S Multani, Balwant Singh Multani continues to be missing and his family suspects he was eliminated.
The case was registered at Mohali’s Matour police station on the complaint of Balwant’s brother, Palwinder Singh Multani. Apart from Saini, six other police officers, who served in the ranks of DSP and Sub-Inspector at that time, and an unknown person have also been booked in the case registered under Sections 364 (kidnapping or abducting in order to murder), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender), 344 (wrongful confinement for ten or more days), 330 (voluntarily causing hurt to extort confession, or to compel restoration of property), 219 (public servant in judicial proceeding corruptly making report, etc., contrary to law) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.
Saini was the Chandigarh SSP when Balwant was allegedly abducted from his Phase VII house in Mohali by a Chandigarh Police team allegedly at the behest of Saini in connection with a bomb blast in August 1991 which killed three cops. Saini was seriously injured in the blast.
Amid allegations that Balwant was falsely implicated and brutally tortured at the behest of Saini, a Punjab and Haryana High Court bench headed by Justice Mehtab Singh Gill (now retired) on October 5, 2007 directed CBI to conduct a probe.
On July 2, 2008, CBI booked Saini, then Chandigarh DSP Baldev Singh Saini, then SIs posted at Sector 17 central police station Harsahai Sharma and Jagir Singh and “other unknown police officials” under various sections including kidnapping with intention to murder.
In this FIR, the CBI noted that Balwant was picked up to know the whereabouts of Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar, who Saini blamed for bomb attack on him. It also noted that Bhullar’s father, Balwant Singh Bhullar, was also picked up in that connection. Balwant’s brother Palwinder, in his latest complaint to Punjab Police, has alleged that three others namely Kultar Singh, Bhullar’s father-in-law, and his two relatives — Manjit Singh and Jaspreet Inderjit Singh — were also picked and subjected to “torture”. Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar is currently serving life term in the 1993 Delhi bomb blast case after death penalty awarded to him was was commuted.
However, CBI’s 2008 FIR in the Balwant Multani case was quashed by the Supreme Court in 2011. Palwinder said that the CBI FIR was quashed on “technical grounds”, leaving it open that complainant “may take recourse to fresh proceedings, if permissible under the law”.
In the FIR at Matour police station on Wednesday, apart from trio of Saini, Harsahai and Jagir named in CBI FIR of 2008, other named include then SIs Satvir Singh and Anoop Singh, another cop Kuldeep Singh and an unknown person.
In his complaint to the police, Balwant’s brother Palwinder said, “After retirement of Sumedh Singh Saini, our family again got courage to resume our efforts to fight for justice.”
He added: “To cover up this ghastly act of having murdered Balwant Singh Multani after having illegally abducted and inhumanely tortured him, the accused persons, in pursuance of a criminal conspiracy, forged and manipulated document showing that SI Jagir had taken Balwant Singh to Qadian (Police Distt Punjab) for disclosing the whereabouts of some Navneet Singh and affecting his arrest.”
The complaint further said that Balwant was shown to have escaped from the custody and another case was registered against him at Qadian police station.
Movement to HP border raises eyebrows
Hours after the fresh case was registered, Saini was stopped at Himachal border on his way to Karsog.
According to Bilaspur SP Devakar Sharma, Saini was travelling in a Toyota Innova bearing a Chandigarh registration number and was accompanied by two persons in civil clothes who identied themselves as an Inspector and an ASI. SP said it was not clear whether the duo were serving officers.
SP said that Saini first talked to the “local DSP” after arriving at the HP police check post near Swarghat. “The DSP got in touch with me and I told him to follow the protocol and not allow anyone without a curfew pass,” said the SP, adding that subsequently Saini called him up (SP) and “insisted” to go to his “property in Karsog”. SP said that Saini returned after being categorically told that he would need to get a curfew pass made from the area of jurisdiction where he lives in order to enter Himachal Pradesh.
While Saini retraced his steps after being denied entry, the former DGP’s movements till Punjab’s border with Himachal have raised eyebrows.
Ropar Range IG Amit Prasad said, “We are not aware which route he took”. Prasad speculated that Saini may have gone from Panchkula side, but re-iterated “We are not sure of the route he took.” The Panchkula route would mean that Saini would have first entered Haryana and then Himachal Pradesh from another entry point bordering Haryana and Himachal. Saini was not available for comment.
Saini, who retired as DGP-cum-chairman of Punjab Police Housing Corportation on June 30, 2018, was considered a blue eyed boy of SAD president and then Punjab deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal before he had to be unceremoniously removed as state police chief in October 2015, following incidents of sacrilege and massive backlash against erstwhile SAD led government in Punjab.
Saini had challenged the closure report in Ludhiana City Centre scam where Punjab CM Amarinder Singh was discharged from the case, which was registered in 2007 on the orders of Saini.
No political interference: Capt
Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said there was no political motivation in the registration of an FIR against Saini in this case. “There was no question of political interference,” he said, asserting that the law will take its own course in the matter.
(With inputs from Gagandeep Singh Dhillon and PTI)