Gurdwara Judicial Commision chairman Satnam Singh Kler’s apology to Sikhs forx appearing as legal counsel of former Punjab Police chief Sumedh Singh Saini in a human rights violation case was supposed to end controversy but it started another.
Satnam Singh and his son Arshdeep Singh Kler, spokesman for SAD (Badal), had appeared in Mohali court to seek anticipatory bail for Saini in an FIR registered for alleged kidnapping and forced disappearance of a Sikh youth, Balwant Singh Multani, in a 29-year-old case. He has admitted that it was a mistake for the chairman of Gurdwara Judicial Commission to appear as a counsel of an accused of human rights violation of Sikhs. But his critics have raised questions over several other cases in which he has been defending such accused of human rights and the victims were Sikhs.
Paramjit Kaur Khalra, wife of human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra, said, “Satnam Kler appeared as a legal counsel for the accused in case of extra-judicial killing of my husband Jaswant Singh Khalra by Punjab Police. There were a total of nine accused and seven of them were alive. Five were sentenced by court. My husband was a member of Shiromani Akali Dal and same party appointed Sumedh Saini as DGP of Punjab and Kler as chairman of Gurdwara Judicial commision.”
“If Kler thinks that it was wrong to appear as legal counsel for Saini, then how come he is still defending accused of human rights violation of Sikhs in at least three cases? All three cases are pending in CBI court, Mohali. At least 10 cases are in my knowledge in which he appeared for accused like Saini, who were accused of violating human rights during Sikh militancy period. Will he quit such pending cases too? He should be immediately sacked from the post of chairman of Gurdwara Judicial commision,” said advocate and activist Jaspal Singh Manjpur, who provided a list of 13 such cases in his FB post.
Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee and Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) have not issued any formal statement over the developments related to FIR against Saini and apology by Satnam. Otherwise both bodies are known for giving reactions to even a small development related to Sikhs. SAD(Badal) has political control of SGPC.
“It was not first time that Satnam had appeared for an accused of human rights violation like Saini but it has been his habit over the period of time. SGPC will decide what can be done in his case. Satnam Singh Kler is not our employee but he is like a judge to us. He can hear case against any employee or SGPC member. We are not his appointing authority. We just send a panel of seven names out of which Punjab government appoints two members and chairman. SGPC will sit and decide what can be done regarding Kler,” Rajinder Singh Mehta, senior vice-president SGPC, told The Indian Express.
Satnam was appointed Gurdwara Judicial Commision chairman by SAD-BJP government in 2016 with SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal as state home minister. Saini was also made Punjab DGP by the same government in 2012. “It was a mistake for us to appoint Sumedh Singh Saini as DGP of Punjab during our government. It was due to Saini that SAD is out of power now. If I am saying that then you should assume that It is the general feeling in the party. I will not say more than this,” said former chief parliamentary secretary, Punjab, Virsa Singh Valtoha.
On Satnam, Valtoha said, “He has gracefully tendered an apology. Many Sikh activists turned into ‘Cats’ and there were many who were anti-Sikh and later came in support of Sikh cause. We should end the controversy with apology of Satnam.”