In an unusual punishment,a former DSP and a constable of Punjab Police have been sentenced to 35 years each by the Supreme Court for abducting seven persons of a family in 1991 when terrorism was at its peak in the state.
Though the court set aside the conviction of the then Deputy Superintendent of Police Baldev Singh and constable Balwinder Singh for the offence of conspiracy and murder of the seven abducted persons,they were held guilty for trespass and abduction for which they were awarded five years jail term for each of the seven abductions.
The apex court said the five year sentence for abducting seven persons will run consequently,thus,making it a total of 35 years in jail for the two police personnel.
“But so far as the sentence and fine under Section 364 (kidnapping or abducting in order to murder) IPC is concerned,we find from illustration (h) under Section 220 of the CrPC that where an accused commits the same offence against three
persons,then he can be charged with three offences.
“As seven persons had been abducted by the appellants (Baldev and Balwinder),the appellants were guilty of seven offences under Section 364 IPC and they should be punished for each of these offences under Section 364 IPC,” a bench of justices A K Patnaik and Gyan Sudha Misra said.
The bench also said the period of rigorous imprisonment will be five years for each of the seven offences of abduction and they will run consecutively and not concurrently.
Generally,a convict is not punished separately for each of the offences arising out of the same incident.
The bench upheld the conviction of the two police officers for the offence of trespass and also imposed a fine of Rs 31,000 each on the two convicts. While acquitting them for murdering the seven persons,who have been missing since October 1991,the bench held that there was not enough evidence to nail the duo for the offence of murder.
“We,therefore find that the evidence adduced by (four) prosecution witnesses is that the seven persons abducted by the appellants were found in different police stations and also in residential quarters near the police station.
“On this evidence,the court cannot hold that the two appellants have killed the seven abducted persons only because the seven persons have not been traced or are found missing.
“…From the evidence of a prosecution witness,we find that terrorism was prevailing in the State of Punjab at the time when the seven persons were abducted and action was being taken by the police against the terrorists.
“When the seven persons abducted by the appellants did not go missing immediately after their abduction and were found in different police stations in the State of Punjab and one of them was also found going in a gypsy at Amritsar,the court cannot hold that the seven abducted persons were last in the custody of the appellants…,” the bench said.
Baldev and Balwinder had moved the apex court in appeal against conviction and life term by a sessions court which was upheld by the high court. They were held guilty of killing seven persons of a family in Amritsar after trespassing in their house and abducting them on October 29,1991.
Seven other persons were acquitted by the trial court in the case. The FIR was lodged in the case on the order of Inspector General of Punjab Police,Crime Branch.
The apex court also rejected the argument of the counsel for the two convicts that there was a delay of two months and 21 days in registration of FIR.
It said the complainant had addressed the complaint not to the police station but to the DGP,Punjab.
This in itself is enough evidence of the fact that he was afraid of lodging the complaint to the local police station which was under the control of the appellant Baldev Singh.
“In our view,considering the fact situation,the delay of two months and 21 days on the part of a prosecution witness to lodge the complaint to the DGP,Punjab,had been explained by him and this is not a case where the prosecution case could be disbelieved on the ground of delay in lodging the FIR,” the bench said.
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