The Punjab and Haryana High Court dismissed the report made by the team headed by Kunwar Vijay Singh into the 2015 Kotkapura firing case where police opened fire on the gathering of Sikh demonstrators protesting the desecration of the religious text. This has also led to a clean chit to former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal who was alleged to have conspired to attack the protesters by ordering the police to fire.
The court was hearing the matter pertaining to firing by the Punjab Police upon people protesting the desecration of Guru Granth Sahib at Behbal Kalan and Kotkapura in Faridkot district on October 14, 2015. This allegedly led to the death of two people. At Kotkapura some police persons were seriously injured and one protester was also allegedly injured grievously when he sustained a gunshot wound to his thigh. Subsequently, seven FIRs were registered against police officers and protesters.
The Bench of Justice Rajbir Sehrawat observed that the investigation conducted by IPS officer Kunwar Vijay Partap Singh suffered from malice, irrationality and absurdity. He said, “This court finds that what could have been a simple investigation of a crime committed either by the protestors or by the police or by both, have been made to fester and convert itself to a quagmire wherein every concerned person finds himself trapped. This has resulted from a dangerous mixing of religion, politics and the police administration; because of which the aggrieved persons; whether it be the police persons or the injured from the protestors; must be finding themselves to be cheated and endlessly waiting for real justice.”
Justice Sehrawat held that the conversation between the then Chief Minister with the district administration or the State DGP amidst disturbed law and order situation was not sufficient to infer conspiracy to kill or injure anybody through police firing upon the protesters. He said, “None of the other witnesses is stated to have even remotely suggested that the then Chief Minister conspired to kill the protestors by police firing…. If mere talking of the Chief Minister, or for that matter by a minister with his DGP or the District Administration, is taken as a criminal conspiracy then any Chief Minister can be held criminally liable every day for any wrong-doing resulting from wrong functioning of district officials.”
The court refused to accept the allegation that the then Chief Minister Badal conspired to kill the protesters by police firing on ground that the IPS officer did not collect credible material to suggest the ex-CM’s linkage to any conspiracy, except the call records. IPS officer Kunwar claimed that the then CM talked through the phones of his principal secretary and gave the firing order. But the court said that the officer could not substantiate the nature of the conversation.
After hearing the petitioners/police officers, the court held, “The protestors are recorded to have chased and attacked the police, including with the swords. Therefore, the conclusion that the protestors were sitting peacefully when the police started firing; and also the conclusion that firing by the police was unprovoked; is against the record even on this count.”
Kunwar Vijay Partap Singh
The investigation conducted by him was found to be done in a “perfunctory manner”. Justice Rajbir said that the report filed by him is more in the nature of hypothesis based on his assumptions and fantasies than being based on material or evidence. Even before starting the investigation dated October 14, 2015, he declared that the police firing was totally ‘unprovoked’ and called the protestors ‘peaceful’.
The court said that the police were successful in showing that Singh went to the extent of manufacturing statements of witnesses to “suit his designs”. The conclusions drawn by him were found to be against the statement of witnesses and material collected. He was held to have misused his official position, where the court commented, “makes attempt to over-awe the processes and the authority and who indulges in theatrics and political manoeuvring to draw mileage out of it”.
Justice Sherawat also recorded in his judgment that Kunwar went to the height of fantasy when he brought film actor Akshay Kumar into the picture. Even the religious act of alleged pardon of Dera Sacha Sauda, Sirsa, was referred to, to strengthen his hypotheses of conspiracy against Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Singh Badal. But he could not establish the conspiracy.
The court also said, “Despite mentioning their names (Parkash Badal and Sukhbir Badal) in the charge sheet and recording therein that their conspiracy is established, the respondent No. 3 (Kunwar) did not array them as accused by filing any charge sheet against them in these two FIRs, so far. This is despite the fact that the charge sheet; in which the alleged role of Prakash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Singh Badal has been mentioned by the respondent No.3 was prepared way-back on 23.5.2019. Despite passage of about two more years, no charge sheet has been filed against the above mentioned two political entities.”
The court wondered how he was giving TV interviews during the high time of the election process but forgot to name them as accused in the chargesheet. The court said that this shows only one thing- “that the present investigation has been kept by the respondent No.3 as political horse to be flogged only at an opportune time, whenever the elections are around the corner or when it otherwise suits him. Except this there is no justification for not filing challan against them despite having recorded in the earlier charge sheet that the allegations of conspiracy against the above said two political entities stand established.”
Since the investigation in this matter was held to be not fair, impartial, rational and comprehensive, the court said that the investigation deserves to be conducted by an independent team of senior police officers by being totally free from all kinds of internal or external extraneous pressures and interference.
Accordingly, a Special Investigation Team which will comprise three senior IPS officers from the State of Punjab has been directed to investigate the matter in connection with the alleged violent protests in 2015.
The judgment may be read here: