Chairman of the Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission Satnam Singh Kler and his son Arshdeep Singh Kler sparked off a controversy by appearing as legal counsel for former Punjab Director General of Police Sumedh Saini in Mohali court on Friday.
Names of father-son duo were mentioned as legal counsel on anticipatory bail application of Saini, who was recently booked in a 29-year-old case of alleged kidnapping and forced disappearance of Balwant Singh Multani, son of IAS officer Darshan Singh Multani.
Satnam is associated with SGPC, which spends more than Rs 1 crore annually on the functioning of Gurdwara Judicial Commission. Satnam is in a position to settle the issues related to gurdwaras. Three members of the commission, including chairman Satnam, are also paid by SGPC for their every sitting, travel and other expenses.
Father-son duo’s name on Saini’s anticipatory bail sparked off controversy as Sikh bodies alleged that Balwant Singh Multani was among the Sikh youths, who were allegedly kidnapped from their homes by Punjab Police during militancy only to get disappeared.
Later in the day, Satnam tendered an apology for hurting Sikh sentiments by appearing for Saini. “I had accepted this case only due to professional reasons. But I have returned papers back to the party (Sumedh Saini) after knowing how it has hurt sentiments of Sikhs. I will not appear in this case anymore. I apologise for hurting Sikh sentiments,” Satnam said in a statement.
He also claimed that he never availed any kind of allowance for his job as Gurdwara Judicial Commision chairman.
“We are already out of that case. My father and I never appeared on behalf of Saini. It was an application by my office. I don’t appear in district courts. I am practising at Punjab and Haryana High Court,” Arshdeep told The Indian Express.
He is also spokesman for Shiromani Akali Dal Badal.
Recently SGPC memeber Bhagwant Singh Sialka had to tender an apology for ‘mistakenly’ honouring a Punjab Police suspended Inspector General of Police Parmraj Singh Umranagal, who was accused of human rights violations of Sikh youths during militancy. SGPC had to transfer two of its officials out of Punjab for involvement in the honouring ceremony of Umranagal in the community kitchen area of Golden Temple.
Satnam was legal advisor to Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and he was appointed chairman of Gurdwara Judicial Commision in 2016 by the then SAD-BJP government. SAD has political control of SGPC.
Arshdeep often appears on TV channels and newspapers as spokesman for the Shiromani Akali Dal Badal.
Pictures of the father and son with Badal family went viral on social media as soon as it turned out that both represented Saini, at least on papers.
The SAD-BJP government had appointed Saini as Punjab DGP in 2012 and he remained in the post till 2015. He was replaced after killing of two Sikh youths during police firing at Kotakpura and Behbal Kalan in Faridkot district.
“SGPC has time and again passed resolutions to seek justice in fake encounters and forced disappearance cases of human rights violations by Punjab Police. Akal Takht jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh should ask SGPC to write to state government to appoint new chairman of judicial commission. Satnam Singh draws salary from the SGPC. It is his moral misconduct to appear on behalf of Saini. SAD should ask his son to separate himself from the case. Party needs to introspect how our leaders have been making such mistakes, especially when justice in fake encounters is party’s agenda from day one,” said SAD SGPC member Karnail Singh Panjoli.
Commission hears cases related to gurdwaras
The Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission hears cases pertaining to Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee-run gurdwaras, institutes and employees, as per the recommendations of the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925.
The panel members have a five-year tenure. SGPC sends a panel of seven names to state government out of which three members, including chairman, are selected by government. SGPC pays 70 per cent salary to members and state government pays the remaining 30 per cent.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines