Kaur Vs. State of Punjab & Ors  INSC 680 (15 November 1995)
Singh (J) Kuldip Singh (J) Ahmad Saghir S. (J)
1996 SCC (7) 20 JT 1995 (8) 418 1995 SCALE (6)376
O R D
telegram was received at the residence office of one of us (Kuldip Singh, J.).
This Court on September
11, 1995 passed the
telegram in hand has been received at the residence office of one of us (Kuldip
Singh, J.). The sender of the telegram is Mr. Gurcharan Singh Tohra.
stated in the telegram that Sardar Jaswant Singh khalra, General Secretary
Human Rights Wing of Shiromani Akali Dal has been kidnapped by the police. We
treat this telegram as a Habeas Corpus Petition and issue notice to the Home
Secretary, Punjab, Director General of Police, Punjab, and the Senior
Superintendent of Police, Amritsar returnable within one week. Mr. Sodhi who is
present in Court states that he has also filed a petition in this Court in this
respect. He undertakes to serve the respondents by dasti process in addition. The
Registry to serve these respondents by Telex/Telephone or fax." Meanwhile
Mrs. Paramjit Kaur wife of Jaswant Singh Khalra also filed a petition under
Article 32 of the Constitution of India seeking direction in the nature of
alleged in the petition that on September 6, 1995 at about 9.20 A.M. while
Petitioner's husband J.S. Khalra was washing his car outside the gate of House
No. 8, Kabir Park, Amritsar, a Maruti Van, sky blue colour bearing
Registration No. BBN-5969, came and stopped close to the place where Mr. Khalra
was working. Four uniformed policeman, with black head dresses (Patkas), and
armed with automatic weapon, jumped out of Van. They had walky-talkey
instruments with them. They pointed the weapons at Khalra, mishandled him
despite his protests and pushed him into the Van from the rear. It is further
alleged that the policemen informed through walky-talkey to some one presumably
their superior that Khalra had been taken into custody and the job/mission was
a success. The Van was followed by an open police Gypsy wherein 4/5 policemen,
fully armed were standing and an officer was sitting in the front seat. The
Gypsy gave cover to the Maruti Van. It is, thus, alleged in the petition that Khalra
was kidnapped by some persons in police uniforms at 9.20 A.M. from a busy residential area of Amritsar.
stated in the petition that Rajeev Singh, Son of Shri Parkash Singh, who was
present close by witnessed the kidnapping. He even tried to intervene but was
managed to overhear the conversation on walky-talkey and also noted the number
of Maruti Van in which Khalra had been taken. It is further stated that the kidnaping
was witnessed by a large number of neighbours and other persons since it was
broad day light (9.20
A.M.) when people were
on way to their normal vocations. The petitioner states that while she was
going to the university, where she works, she also noticed the Gypsy with the
police personnel and she would be in a position to recognise some of the
persons standing in the Gypsy.
petition further states that the petitioner along with friends and relatives
went to Police Station Islamabad, sent telegrams to the Chief Justice of India,
Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court, Director General of Police,
Punjab and various other authorities. It is stated that they also met Mr. D.R. Bhatti,
Inspector General of Police. Para 19 of the
writ petition is as under:
petitioner firmly believes that her husband has been picked up at the instance
of Ajit Singh Sandhu, SSP, Tarn Taran Police District, who has on various
occasions being threatening the petitioner's husband with dire consequences if
he did not influence and/or play an active role in getting the writ petitions
withdrawn wherein police accesses, custodial deaths and police kidnapping were
pending enquiries before the High Court and which Mr.
felt, have been initiated at the instance of Mr. J.S. Khalra. This aspect of
the matter has been widely covered in various press conferences and newsitems."
Counter affidavit has been filed by Mr. Sukhdev Singh Chhina, Superintendent of
Police, City Amritsar. It is stated by Mr. Chhina that "a perusal of the
police records shows that Shri Jaswant Singh Khalra ..... is neither wanted nor
arrested by Amritsar Police in any criminal Case". It is further stated
that investigations are currently in progress and all out efforts are being
made to trace Jaswant Singh Khalra. The details of the efforts made by the
police are given in paras 5 and 6 of the counter. The counter further stated as
Ajit Singh Sandhu, PPS, Senior Superintendent of Police, Tarn Taran, was made
to join the investigation on 23.9.95 with the object of varifying the
allegations regarding his involvement in the abduction. According to Sh. Sandhu,
he was on leave w.e.f. 05.09.95. Sh. Sandhu has stated under oath that he did
not threaten the petitioner's husband at any time nor did he ever influence Shri
Khalra, directly or indirectly, for the withdrawal of writ petitions etc. Which
were pending before the High Court for the States of Punjab and Haryana,
concerning police excesses, custodial deaths and police kidnappings. Sh. Sandhu
also stated that Sh. Khalra is not a witness against him in any court
case." Mr. Ajit Singh Sandhu, Senior Superintendent of Police, Tarn Taran
has also filed affidavit. Para 2 of the affidavit is as under:
I have gone through the contents of the above mentioned writ petition and I
state that the facts mentioned in Para No.19 of the petition are not correct. I
never threatened the petitioner's husband at any time nor did I ever influenced
him directly or indirectly for the withdrawal of the writ petition etc. Which
were pending enquiries before the Hon'ble High Court for the States of Punjab
and Haryana concerning police excesses, custodial deaths and police kidnappings."
The petitioner filed further affidavit dated October 9, 1995 by way of
rejoinder. Paras 4 to 7 of the rejoinder are as under:
is incorrect to say that my husband, Mr. Khalra, had no apprehension of his
safety prior to his being taken into custody by mavericks of Punjab Police.
contrary, my husband had apprehensions that the SSP Tarn Taran, Ajit Singh Sandhu,
positively threatened my husband which is borne out from a horde of Press
clippings as also affidavits which are being filed herewith. Affidavits of Nav Kiran
Singh, advocate, Gurcharan Singh Tohra, President SGPC, Ranjan Lakhanpal,
advocate, as also Jaspal Singh Dhillon are being filed and annexed hereto and
marked as Annexure `P-1' (Colly).
`P-2' (Colly.) are various reports of the Human Rights Wing, Shiromani Akali Dal,
State how the Punjab Police and in particular the police of Tarn Taran District
has been indicted for their excesses in extra judicial murders.
`P-3' (Colly.) are the copies of Press Reports on the excesses of the Punjab
Police and in particular that of Tarn Taran police and Mr. Ajit Singh Sandhu,
that my husband was continuously exposing the black deeds of the Punjab Police
which was a great irritant to them and more particularly to the Tarn Taran
Police headed by Ajit Singh Sandhu, SSP and, therefore, it is wrong to say that
there was no occasion for Mr. Sandhu to feel annoyed." Mr. Navkiran Singh,
advocate in his affidavit supporting the petitioner has stated as under:
Ajit Singh Sandhu was transferred back to the area of Tarn Taran as the SSP as
it was in his time and the families of Militants were wiped out in Extra
Judicial killings. Mr. Khalra had informed me that Mr. Ajit Singh Sandhu was
sending threatening messages to him.
Tarn Taran police was specially annoyed for his reports of Unclaimed bodies
which had created a flutter in the police circles and which prompted the State
to post back Mr. Sandhu back to Tarn Taran so that he could influence the
witnesses for not to appear as a witness in the enquiries pending with the CBI
and before Session Judge at Amritsar.
after his visit abroad had started giving press releases highlighting the
police excesses of Tarn Taran Police the present SSP Mr. Ajit Singh Sandhu also
joined the issue with him and held a press conference in retaliation. Mr. Khalra
came to me to Chandigarh and showed me the press release and also discussed
with me regarding filing of a petition in High Court for issuance of a
direction to the State to provide security to him, but he was double minded for
the reason that his asking for security might not demoralise the victims. It
was personally reported by him to me and his other colleagues and he apprehends
harm at the hands of Ajit Singh Sandhu." Mr. Gurcharan Singh Tohra,
President, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, Amritsar in his affidavit
supporting the petitioner has stated as under:
Sh. Jaswant Singh Khalra is a General Secretary of Human rights Wing of Shiromani
Akali Dal and he has played a major role in the investigation of the `Unclaimed
Deadbodies' as compiled by the Human Rights Wings in its reports.
the Police Officers were annoyed with the office bearers of the Human Rights
Wing for its Investigation of the Unclaimed deadbodies and issuance of the
reports in the cases of police excesses. Mr. Khalra used to encourage the
victims of State excesses to file petitions in the High Court and Supreme
Court. Several of such petitions, are pending in the High Court in which there
are serious allegations against the Tarn Taran Police and most of these
excesses were committed by the Tarn Taran police under the command or Mr. Ajit
Singh Sandhu, SSP.
Ajit Singh Sandhu, Senior Superintendent of Police, Tarn Taran, had extended
threats to Sh. Jaswant Singh Khalra, General Secretary Human Rights Wing to
stop his activities in playing a role in exposing the police irregularities....
Our party has full apprehension that Sh. Ajit Singh Sandhu, Senior
Superintendent of Police, Tarn Taran District has abducted Sh. Jaswant Singh Khalra,
General Secretary Human rights Wing." The affidavits filed by Mr. Ranjan Lakhanpal,
advocate and Shri Jaspal Singh Dhillon supporting the petitioner are in similar
terms. Rajeev Singh has also filed affidavit supporting the petition.
of the Press Note dated January
16, 1995 issued by the
Human Rights Wing of the Shiromani Akali Dal under the signatures of Khalra and
J.S. Dhillon under the Caption "DISAPPEARED." CREMATION
GROUNDS." has been annexed along with the rejoinder. The contents of the
Press note appeared in various newspapers. Photocopies of the newspaper reports
have also been annexed with the rejoinder. The Press Note dated January 16, 1995.,
inter alia, states as under:
investigation team decided to work in the Amritsar area and its neiginbouring police districts. It was learnt that the
police regularly bring bodies to the municipality cremation grounds for
cremation, declaring them as unclaimed. The team found that 400 unclaimed
bodies had been brought for cremation to the Patti municipality cremation
grounds. Bodies brought to the Patti municipality committees cremation grounds
came from as far as Khalra 40 Kms. Kairon 10 Kms, Harika 15 kms, Valtoha 30 kms,
Bhiki 25 kms. 700 unclaimed bodies to the Tarn Taran municipality creamation
grounds. The only record of these unclaimed bodies is available from the
receipt book through which firewood was issued for the disposal of the bodies.
The receipt book has the date and number of bodies brought recorded on it.
In Amritsar district the maximum unclaimed
bodies brought for cremation was to the cremation grounds near the Durgiana mandir.
From 1st June 1984 to the end of 1994 about 2000
bodies have been cremated as unclaimed. The officials of the Durgiana Mandir
cremation grounds expressed their inability to show any records, but suggested
that details will be available with the Amritsar Registrar of Births and
Deaths. The details which could be gathered at the Registrar's office are given
the 1st year of the govt. of Mr. Beant Singh 300 unclaimed bodies were brought
to the Durgiana Mandir cremation grounds by the police department. Out of these
300 bodies names of 112 have been given and the rest were declared as
unidentified. 41 persons have been recorded to have died of bullet injuries of
reason has been recorded for the cause of the death of 259 persons. Post
mortems were conducted only on 24 bodies by the Amritsar Medical College. No post mortem was conducted on 276 bodies. 5 bodies of
females, as per the record, out of which names of 3 have been recorded. The
details of the 3 female bodies are: Harpal Kaur Vill. Dhulka Dated 25.12.92. Achint
Kaur & companion Dated 30.9.92.
bodies are of those of Kashmiris of Sopore, cause of death,
"encounter". One unclaimed body is from, near Chamkaur Saheb, in Ropar
Singh alias Gurdarshan Singh of village Deriwal was nabbed by the Punjab police in Bihar. News of his "arrest" was reported in the Punjab press. Various organisations in Punjab apprehended him being eliminated in
a fake encounter. This was around the last week of Nov/first week of Dec./91.
On the 19.1.1992 the police knowing fully well the identity of Baghel Singh and
his village, brought his body to the Durgiana Mandir cremation grounds for
cremation as unidentified and unclaimed.
Singh S/o Shingara Singh, Director of Central Cooperative Bank in Amritsar, paternal uncle of Harminder Singh Sultanvind
(Militant), Mr. Piara Singh had gone to a relatives farm in Pilibhit in Uttar
Pradesh. One morning a jeep drove up to the farm house, a team of doctors
attired in white coasts, sporting stethoscopes approached the residents of the
farm requesting them that a VIP was coming to the neighbouring village to
inaugurate a govt. medical clinic and some respectable citizens should also
grace the occasion. They requested Mr. Piara Singh to come with them. Mr. Piara
Singh ended up at the Durgiana Mandir cremation ground on 16.12.92.
Singh `Bullet' was under going treatment at the Guru Nanak Hospital Amritsar he
was abducted by the Raja Sansi police and his "unidentified" body was
bought to the Durgiana Mandir cremation grounds on 5.11.92." It is stated
in the Press-note that the facts therein were investigated by Khalra and J.S. Dhillon.
On October 13, 1995 Mr. M.L. Sarin, learned Advocate-
General for the State of Punjab stated that he was personally
looking into the investigation in the case. He sought short adjournment. We
adjourned the hearing to November
Singh Chhinna, Superintendent of Police, City Amritsar has filed further
affidavit. The contents of the affidavit are as under:
in the matter of the above mentioned writ petition, I have made thorough
investigations regarding the police officials whose names were referred to by
Mr. R.S. Sodhi, Advocate counsel for the petitioner. I have checked the
Telephone Computer Records, Log Books of Vehicles, Wireless Log Books, Roznamchas
of Police Stations and other relevant records, pertaining to these officials. I
have also examined and recorded the statements of more than sixty five
witnesses to verify and account for the presence of these officials at the time
of occurrence i.e. on 6.9.1995.
on the basis of the record and the statements of the witnesses referred to
above no inference can be drawn against the said officials which could
implicate them anyway in the matter of the disappearance of Sh. Jaswant Singh Khalra.
the deponent contacted the petitioner on 7.9.95, 22.9.95, 17.10.95 &
27.10.95 but she refused to cooperate and stated that she would do so only after
consulting her counsel Mr. R.S. Sodhi.
investigations are going on and are being monitored by the State Police Head
all out efforts are being made to trace the whereabouts of Shri Jaswant Singh Khalra
and to work out this case." The petitioner has filed further affidavit
dated November 10. 1995. Paras 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 12 are as under:
say that in spite of giving names of the officers, who were involved in the
kidnapping of my husband, my husband still remains in illegal custody. Expect
for asking me whether I have got anything more to say, I have not been asked to
help the investigation in any manner.
that my husband had been a staunch crusader of human rights and had made
startling discoveries about thousands of persons who, it is believed, were
liquidated by the Punjab Police and their bodies disposed of as
unclaimed/unidentified between 1992-94.
were also able to obtain with difficulty records pertaining to cremation
grounds at Durgiana Mandir and Patti Municipal Cremation Grounds.
the Durgiana Mandir records show that the police has cremated
unclaimed/unidentified bodies whose names, addresses and identification was
very much know.
that during the course of his investigation, Mr. Jaswant Singh Khalra also met
a lot of people who complained about members of their family being missing for
varying lengths of time;
for several years. A rough estimate revealed that the number of such missing
persons in Amritsar District along was not less than 2,000.
Singh Sandhu, the SSP, Tarn Taran Police District, came to know these
activities of Mr. Jaswant Presumably fearing that his illegal actions would be
brought to light, he threatened Mr. Khalra on several occasions. On one
particular occasion, Mr. Sandhu even told Mr. Khalra that if he did not desist
from his activities he would wind up on the list of unclaimed/unidentified
bodies cremated by the Punjab Police.
that Mr. Khalra met Mr. Gurcharan Singh Tohra, President, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak
Committee (in short SGPC) shortly before his disappearance. He also met Justice
Ajit Singh Bains, a retired Judge of the High Court of Punjab & Haryana at
the same time. To both these persons, Mr. Khalra revealed the threats held out
to him by Mr. Ajit Singh Sandhu, the SSP of Tarn Taran. A petition seeking
protection from the said Shri Ajit Singh was under consideration/preparation on
the date that Mr. Khalra disappeared, i.e. on 6th September, 1995. Affidavits affirming these facts have been filed by
both Mr. Gurcharan Singh Tohra and Justice Ajit Singh Bains in the Criminal
Writ Petition No. 447 of 1995. These affidavits as well as others filed in the
said writ petition make it clear that Mr. Ajit Singh Sandhu has held out
similar threats to the other members of the team who investigated the cremation
photo copy of the list of those cremated as unclaimed/unidentified is annexed
hereto and marked as Annexure `p.1'".
with the affidavit an alleged list of persons/bodies which were allegedly
unclaimed and unidentified and stated to be cremated is given.
M.L. Sareen, learned Advocate-General, Punjab has very fairly stated that
keeping in view the serious allegations levelled by the petitioner against the
officers/officials of the Punjab Police, it would be in the interest of justice
that the investigation in this matter be handed over to an independent
authority. Even otherwise, in order to instil confidence in the public-mind and
to do justice to the petitioner and his family it would be proper to withdraw
the investigation from Punjab Police in this case. We, therefore, direct the
Director, Central Bureau of Investigation to appoint an investigation team
headed by a responsible officer to hold investigation in the kidnapping and
whereabouts of Khalra. We further direct the Director General of Police, Punjab, all concerned Punjab Police
Officers, Home Secretary and Chief Secretary Punjab to render all assistance
and help to the CBI in the investigation.
second issue highlighted in this petition is equally important. This Court
cannot close its eyes to the contents of the Press Note dated January 16, 1995 stated to be investigated by Khalra
and Dhillon. In case it is found that the facts stated in the Press Note are
correct - even partially - it would be a gorytale of Human-rights violations.
It is horrifying to visualize that dead-bodies of large number of persons -
allegedly thousands - could be cremated by the police unceremoniously with a
label " unidentified". Our faith in democracy and rule of law assures
us that nothing of the type can ever happen in this country but the allegations
in the Press-Note - horrendous as they are - need thorough investigation. We,
therefore, direct the Director, Central Bureau of Investigation to appoint a
high powered team to investigate into the facts contained in the Press Note
dated January 16, 1995. We direct all the concerned
authorities of the State of Punjab
including the Director General of Police, Punjab to render all assistance to the CBI in the investigation. All
authorities of the Punjab Government shall render all help and assistance to
the CBI team as and when asked by any member of the said team. We give liberty
to the CBI to seek any further directions from this Court from time to time as
may be necessary during the investigations.
CBI shall complete the investigation regarding kidnapping of KHalra within
three months of the receipt of this order. So far as the second investigation
in concerned we do not fix any time limit but direct the CBI to file interim
reports regarding the investigation in this Court after every three months.
further direct the State of Punjab through
Home Secretary and the Director General of Police to transfer Mr. Ajit Singh Sandhu,
S.S.P., Tarn Taran out of the Districts of Tarn Taran and Amritsar. He shall not be posted in any
of the order be sent to CBI, Director General, Punjab. Home Secretary, Punjab and Chief Secretary, Punjab.
listed after three months.