A local court here Monday granted anticipatory bail to former Punjab DGP Sumedh Singh Saini in a case related to the disappearance of Balwant Singh Multani, a Chandigarh Industrial and Tourism Corporation employee in 1991. The son of a then serving IAS officer D S Multani, Balwant continues to be missing and his family suspects he was eliminated.
Saini had moved the Mohali court on May 8, seeking anticipatory bail in the 29-year-old case, claiming he had been falsely implicated because of “vendetta”.
The court of additional district and sessions judge, Mohali, Monika Goyal, while granting the anticipatory bail directed Saini to furnish a bail bond of Rs 50,000, join the investigation and to remain at home till the lockdown was in place due to Covid-19 pandemic.
The court observed that the applicant had already retired from his post as DGP, so there are no chances of him “repeating” the offence. “He is well established in society and it is difficult for such a person to flee from justice and condition can be imposed by taking his passport so as to avoid him fleeing the country. Further, he is facing trial before CBI court New Delhi,” the court said.
“Nature and gravity of the accusation is very high in present case, but matter pertains to decades old case, thus only gravity of offence after almost 30 years can’t be a ground to deny anticipatory bail, when applicant was always available in public eye since that time,” the court observed.
The court said in its orders that as regards chances that applicant can tamper with evidence and influence the witnesses, appropriate conditions can be imposed to restrain him and prosecution can always seek cancellation of bail if any condition is violated.
The court further stated that Saini is not a previous convict and granting of bail will not in any way affect a large number of people. Moreover, an FIR on similar facts stands quashed, thus custodial interrogation of the applicant is not required.
On the counsel for the complainant pointing out the news reports where he submitted that Saini tried to flee from Chandigarh to evade arrest during the curfew, the court observed that the public prosecutor had given written arguments, but had not mentioned any such act in his submissions and “it is not believable that the applicant had travelled from Chandigarh up to the Himachal border without being intercepted anywhere by the Punjab Police”.
“Allegations made by the complainant are only in news reports. Nothing in this regard has been brought by the public prosecutor for the state. However, in order to restrain the applicant from leaving his place of residence, adequate conditions need to be imposed,” the court said.
“The court has allowed anticipatory bail after hearing our contentions,” said APS Deol, the counsel for Saini.
A case was registered against the former DGP and six other policemen last week in connection with the disappearance of Balwant Singh Multani, who was a junior engineer with the Chandigarh Industrial and Tourism Corporation. The son of a then serving IAS officer D S Multani, Balwant continues to be missing and his family suspects he was eliminated.
Deol said they contended that the FIR lodged against Saini, a distinguished officer, after 29 years was not maintainable.
Advocate HS Dhanoa, who also appeared for Saini, said registration of FIR after 29 years showed malafide on the part of the complainant. He argued that there was no need of custodial interrogation of Saini who will join the investigation.
Deol said the same case was dismissed by the Supreme Court in 2011 and there was no fresh evidence against Saini. Nothing was done by the complainant even after the Supreme Court verdict in 2011, Deol further argued.
Deol also argued that Balwant was arrested after a case against him was registered and was taken into custody by the police by following the due process.
The defense counsel, Pardeep Virk, said that they will first examine the orders and then decide further course of action.
Saini and others were booked under sections 364 (kidnapping or abducting in order to murder), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence), 344 (wrongful confinement), 330 (voluntarily causes hurt) and 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code at the Mataur police station after Balwant’s brother Palwinder Singh Multani lodged a complaint.
Balwant was allegedly picked up by police after a bomb attack on Saini, who was then the senior superintendent of police in Chandigarh, in 1991. 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 in 2007 had directed CBI to conduct a probe. A year later, CBI had 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.
However, CBI’s FIR 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”.