Jaswant Singh Khalra trial developments

February 11, 2005 | Comments Off on Jaswant Singh Khalra trial developments

There have been several recent developments in the Jaswant Singh Khalra case, including the illegal detention of key witness Kulwant Singh.

Jaswant Singh Khalra was a human rights activist who was abducted from his home in Amritsar by armed commandos of the Punjab police on September 6, 1995. In January of that year, he and Jaspal Singh Dhillon had filed a writ petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court to impel it to investigate their discovery of mass illegal cremations in three crematoria in Amritsar. The High Court dismissed the petition, so they moved the Supreme Court, but Punjab police abducted Khalra before the Supreme Court could hear the matter.

Human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra was abducted on September 6, 1995, by policemen and and then killed. The accused in the case included the then SSP Ajit Singh Sandhu, who committed suicide about five years back, two DSPs, three SHOs and two low rank policemen. The case is presently being heard in the Patiala Sessions Court.

Throughout the trial, witnesses have complained of police harrassment and intimidation.

In November 2004, Kuldeep Singh, a key witness and former Special Police Officer, expressed no confidence in Punjab police security and requested that a CRPF vehicle replace the Punjab Police vehicle currently bringing him to court.

Mr Kuldeep Singh is the most important witness of the prosecution which finds itself with fewer and fewer witnesses ever since 1996 when the challan was first filed in the case. Only six out of the total of 40 witnesses in the case have been examined till now. A total of seven persons are facing trial in the case with former SSP Ajit Singh Sandhu and DSP Ashok Kumar, who were also accused in the case, having expired.

The witness, Mr Kuldeep Singh, earlier alleged in a statement recorded by the CBI under Section 161 CrPC that he saw DSP Jaspal Singh with a pistol in his hand and a dead Khalra when he returned to the cell in which Khalra was being kept captive. Mr Kuldeep Singh has also alleged that Khalra was taken for a meeting with former Punjab DGP K P S Gill at the residence of former Tarn Taran SSP Ajit Singh Sandhu.

Kuldeep Singh’s lawyer, Brijinder Singh Sodhi, said that his Punjab police driver deliberately wasted time and threatened him, and that no fuel was provided for the car. The Punjab police had also earlier issued him a condemned vehicle which he had to argue in court to change; he also had to fight to get CPRF security.

In January 2005, human rights organizations sent a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh demanding the removal of Patiala Inspector-General Rajinder Singh for harrassing and intimidating witnesses.

“No rule of law prevails as the state police is harassing the witnesses by not only lodging false cases against them, but also by verbally threatening them not to appear at the hearings of the case,” Justice Bains told reporters at a press conference here today.

He also pointed out that the accused police officers had not been removed from Amritsar and Tarn Taran districts despite a Supreme Court order in this regard. The CBI had accused the seven policemen of abducting and killing Jaswant Singh. One of the key accused police officers, DSP Jaspal Singh, was still posted in Amritsar city, he added.

The letter also said that the state police pressured another key witness, Kikkar Singh, to be neutral in court during the Khalra trial because he and his father were implicated in five false trials.

The letter also pointed out that the Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) had already asked the state government to pay a compensation of Rs 50,000 to one of the witnesses, Rajiv Randhawa, against whom a false case was lodged by the Amritsar police.

Khalra’s wife Paramjit Kaur, who was also present at the press conference, said it took the Patiala Sessions Court two and a half years to record her statements. ”The witnesses in the case are facing tremendous physical and mental pressure from the Punjab police for not appearing in the court.”

On January 24, Inspector-General Rajinder Singh responded to a statement by the Khalra Action Committee accusing him of intimidating witnesses. He said that he had no relation to the case and denied any intimidation of witnesses.

Speaking on the other issues raised by the Khalra Action Committee, he said the rape case against one of the victims, Kirpal Singh Randhawa, had been registered in July, 2003, whereas he joined his present post in Patiala in February, 2004. He said Randhawa had been arrested with regard to the case in July, 2003, and that the case had been submitted in the court in August the same year.

On February 2, key witness Rajiv Singh identified the police officers facing trial as those who had dragged Khalra out of his house in Amritsar and taken him away in a Maruti van accompanied by a PCR vehicle. He also listed several false cases that the police put on him in the past five years to prevent him from testifying in court. He has been discharged in all the cases, including a charges of bank robbery, murder, and bribing another witness. The State Human Rights Commission found this charge to be false.

Rajiv Singh, while deposing in the court of Additional Sessions Judge S.P. Bangarh, said he was waiting in the drawing room of the human rights activist on September 6, 1995, when the incident took place. “Khalra was out washing his car while I was waiting for an Indian Express journalist who was to visit the house”. He said he was forced to go out when he heard raised voices and came face to face with a police team.

Rajiv Singh said the police team was headed by DSP Jaspal Singh and included the now deceased, DSP Ashok Kumar, SHOs Surinderpal Singh, Satnam Singh and Jasbir Singh besides SI Amarjit Singh, ASI Rachhpal Singh and Head Constable Prithipal Singh. He said he heard Jaspal Singh telling Khalra to accompany the team as he had been called by the then Tarn Taran SSP, Ajit Singh Sandhu.

“I intercepted in the matter and requested the DSP that Khalra would present himself before the SSP in proper attire but I was pushed aside”. Following this, he said, the DSP pushed Khalra into the Maruti van and his last words before leaving the place were to a senior police officer on his walky talky saying “kaam ho gaya”.

On February 7, Khalra Mission Committee spokesman Satwinder Singh said that Punjab police took Kulwant Singh from Jamarai village around 1 pm without citing any reason. Satwinder Singh suspects that the police picked up Kulwant Singh to intimidate Special Police Officer Kuldip Singh, another important witness who was to record his statement soon.

“Following today’s arrest, we approached the Tarn Taran police, but failed to get any clue,” he said, adding that they apprehend threat to Kulwant Singh’s life.

SP (Headquarters) Harminder Singh said there was no truth in the KMC allegations, as the Tarn Taran police had not picked up Kulwant Singh.

Kulwant Singh was not released until several hours later.


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