August 19, 2008 | Comments Off on Mother testifies against police officer Sumedh Saini
After 14 years, a city court in New Dehli finally recorded 86-year old Amar Kaur’s testimony in the case about the disappearances of her son, son-in-law, and their driver. Charges in this case were framed on December 6th, 2006. Amar Kaur alleges that police officer Sumedh Singh Saini, then Senior Superintendent of police, and three other police officers (Sukh Mohinder Singh Sandhu, Paramjit Singh and Balbir Chand Tiwari) were responsible for the disappearances of her son, Vinod Kumar, his brother-in-law, and their driver.
The men were detained for a week between February and March 1994. Their confinement continued until March 3rd, after which they disappeared and were never heard from again. Kaur alleges that the arrests and subsequent disappearances were due to a personal matter rather than anything pertaining to the law. The officers were charged with criminal conspiracy and wrongful confinement.
Fourteen years later, Amar Kaur came by wheelchair to the city court to testify against Saini. She also accused Paramjit Singh of illegally detaining her and her other son-in-law.
This is not the only case in which Saini is accused of human rights abuses such as illegal detention and disappearances. He was accused of disappearing Balwant Singh Multani, Navneet Singh and Manjit Singh in 1991. In early July, the CBI registered a case of abduction, illegal detention, and other offenses against him and three other police officers.
“The FIR was registered in pursuance of a Punjab and Haryana High Court order directing the CBI to probe into the elimination of proclaimed offenders in the blast case….”
“After conducting a preliminary inquiry on the high court’s directions, the premier investigating agency has stated in the FIR that Multani was illegally detained before being tortured. He was later shown to have escaped from police custody. Balwant Singh Bhullar was also tortured, but to the extent that he lost his mental balance, the FIR asserted.”
The Punjab & Haryana High Court gave the CBI four months to complete its investigation. In mid-July, however, the Supreme Court stayed the CBI investigation. According to the Tribune, the CBI’s application contained two main points: (1) criminals would use the high court’s order for a CBI inquiry to help themselves, and (2) the police would not conduct a fair investigation against Saini. Regarding (1), the government has routinely used this rhetoric to protest orders. The Ensaaf/HRW joint report, Protecting the Killers: A Policy of Impunity in Punjab, India, states:
In requesting the Supreme Court to rule in their favor [in the Punjab mass cremations case], the Punjab police have attempted to gain sympathy by referencing “the barrage of writ petitions” they are facing:
“It is respectfully submitted that a large number of writ petitions are being filed on bogus charges. Human rights activists are coaxing people and even threatening them to file writ petitions by incorporating concocted facts. Thus the police is unable to rivet its attention against the terrorists in full measure.”
KPS Gill, director general of police in Punjab at the height of the abuses, has led the campaign against police accountability. His writings and speeches have consistently referred to human rights activists as terrorists or agents of Pakistan’s ISI. He has further equated terrorism with the filing of writ petitions.
…In 1997, after SSP Sandhu’s suicide, Gill wrote a letter to Prime Minister IK Gujral, in which he described the legal cases proceeding against SSP Sandhu and other policemen as “an unprecedented and unprincipled inquisition,” “a sustained and vicious campaign of calumny, of institutional hostility and State indifference,” and public interest litigation as “the most convenient strategy for vendetta.
Regarding (2), although Saini’s attorneys argued that the police are biased against Saini, the Punjab police have repeatedly demonstrated their pro-police bias in court cases against police officers.
Despite these accusations, Saini has been promoted many times and has risen from his position in 1994 (Senior Superintendent of Police) to his position now (Director [Vigilance] in Punjab). As for Amar Kaur, justice has to wait yet another day. Further testimony was scheduled to continue on August 14th.
To read more about the origins of this case, go to http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/jaskaran/2006/12/07/charges-framed-against-inspector-general-saini-and-three-officers-i/ .