Homicidal police “cats” running free, brutal torture, impunity and a lack of accountability: just another day for the Punjab Police. The Tribune India dated July 3, 2012 certainly did not bring any good news for Punjab’s “finest”.
Human rights groups including WSO have repeatedly pointed out that the crisis of impunity in the Punjab Police is as appalling as ever, despite claims of “peace in Punjab”. Although we’ve documented and written about illegal detentions, torture and custodial deaths in Punjab several times in the recent past, if there were any doubts about the severity of the problem, they were cleared by the most recent edition of the Tribune India.
The newspaper carried several shocking stories highlighting just how outrageous the state of affairs is in the Punjab Police today.
Let’s take a look at the stories in some detail:
1) Convicted cop Pinki claims ex-judge sought bribe: This is a story of a former Punjab Police “cat” Gurmeet Pinky who is infamous for his brutal behavior. During the late 80s and 90s, Pinky worked under the orders of the current Punjab Police DGP (Chief) Sumedh Saini (whose own human rights record is appaling-see here) and was posted to Ludhiana’s Punjab Agricultural University (PAU). During that time, he used to patrol the area around the university in an unmarked van and abducted those students who were suspected of having links to militancy. He was also renown for harassing the young women who were students at PAU. Pinky was an “encounter specialist” who used to regularly torture and then kill young Sikhs in fake encounters.
In 2001, Pinky and his fellow Punjab Police officers were drunk and had blocked a road in Ludhiana. When Avtar Singh and his companions asked them to move aside and let them pass, Pinky and his companions began to beat them and then shot Avtar Singh dead.
In 2006 Pinky was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Avtar Singh. The conviction was upheld by the Punjab & Haryana High Court just this year on January 31, 2012. The judgment can be seen here.
But according to the Tribune’s article, Pinky has been free on “parole” since December 10, 2011 and he organized a press conference today to accuse the High Court judge that upheld his conviction of corruption. He claims he paid a significant bribe to the judge in question but he was still not acquitted, though he admits he has absolutely no proof to support this claim. Pinky is currently living comfortably in his home in Chandigarh and also spending time at his hobby farm, known by locals as "Pinky Farm".
One is forced to wonder, why is a convicted murderer, sentenced to life in prison, out on “parole” after just six years? What was the significance of the Punjab & Haryana High Court decision of January 31, 2012 if he was already free at the time? What role does Pinky’s so-called “god father”, Punjab DGP Sumedh Saini, have in his release?
A lot of questions but certainly no good answers.
2) Explain police inaction, HC tells DGP : Continuing with the focus on Punjab DGP Sumedh Saini, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has ordered Saini (who for some reason is not mentioned by name in this article) to explain why the police has not yet arrested an alleged rapist and murderer who in November 2009 abducted, raped and burnt a grade 9 student in Jalandhar. This is despite the fact that a total of five “special investigation teams” have looked into the crime. The Court has asked Saini to appear in court on July 16th and file an affidavit explaining the delay.
3) Custodial death: SHO held, four other cops at large : 35 year old Pargat Singh was tortured to death in Punjab Police custody on Sunday and the four police officers responsible are currently on the run. The police had initially refused to register a case against the torturing officers but were forced to do so after a public protest and pressure from local politicians.
According to the reports, Pargat Singh was brutally beaten by the police and had his spine broken. He was brought dead to the local Civil Hospital. Although the Police claim that Pargat Singh died of alcohol poisoning (though that doesn’t explain the broken spine…) his wife has been offered a job by the Gurdaspur Deputy Commissioner.
All in a day’s work for the Punjab Police? What, if anything, is being done to end the cycle of impunity? More questions for which there seem to be no clear answers.