KOTKAPURA INCIDENT: HC quashes probe report, directs Punjab to reconstitute SIT

KOTKAPURA


Court comes down heavily on SIT member Kunwar Vijay Pratap, says he acted with malafide intention DW BUREAU | Chandigarh The Punjab and Haryana High Court has quashed the investigation conducted by SIT member Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh in connection with the police firing in Kotkapura and the consequent chargesheet filed by him, observing that the petitioners have amply substantiated that he acted with “personal malice and malafide intention in furtherance of an extraneous agenda”. In a 89-page order, Justice Rajbir Sehrawat has also directed the Punjab Government to constitute an SIT of three senior IPS officers from Punjab which shall not include Kunwar Vijay Pratap. Coming down heavily on the probe conducted by the former IPS officer who took voluntary retirement a day after the HC order came on April 9, the Court said that having considered the material on record of these petitions and arguments of the counsels, the court finds that the Respondent No 3 (Kunwar Vijay Pratap) conducted the investigation in a “perfunctory manner”. The report under Section 173 CrPC filed by him is more in the nature of a “hypothesis proposed by the Respondent No 3 based on his assumptions and fantasies than being based on material or evidence”. Passing the orders in connection with two petitions filed by Gurdeep Singh and Rashpal Singh versus the State of Punjab and others, the Court observed that it also finds substance in the submission made by the petitioners that to make Kunwar Vijay Pratap as sole incharge of the investigation, so taht he could bulldoze the entire process of the investigation, the composition of the SIT was changed by making him as head of a sub-team investigating these FIRs. There is nothing on record to show that Prabodh Kumar, the earlier SIT chairman ever refused to continue to head the SIT or that the other senior IPS officer made any request to recuse himself from the SIT. Moreover, an adverse inference has to be drawn on the issue and it has to be taken as correct that the other SIT members were not agreeing with the functioning of Kunwar Vijay Pratap because of his autocratic style and bulldozing manner in functioning. There is nothing in the challan or otherwise on record to show that the other members of the SIT had ever approved the said challan before being filed or they had ever authorised the respondent No 3 to file the same on behalf of the SIT. The HC further said that the investigation carried out by Kunwar Vijay Pratap was not free from blemish. His personal malice and malafide functioning by totally usurping the powers of SIT constituted in the first instance has been duly demonstrated on record. The petitioners have also been successful in showing that the respondent No 3 has gone to the extent of “manufacturing the statements of witnesses to suit his designs, by recording differing statements of same witnesses in these two FIRs, with convenient omission in their statements”. The HC said that the political interest of the current dispensation in the State qua the investigation, and the political theatrics of the Respondent No 3 during the instant investigation by going to media and by repeatedly highlighting allegations against the outgoing politicians without filing challan against them, intended to create a narrative in favour of one political party and against the other party during the election process, has duly been established as per the record. “Public pressure to get the alleged erring police officials convicted also appears to have been adversely affected the fairness of the investigation. As a result, the fairness of investigation stands vitiated.” The HC, in its order has observed that the investigation conducted by the Respondent No 3 also suffers from malice, irrationality and absurdity. “Hence, this court is of the considered opinion that this one of the rare cases where the court is under duty to step in to prevent miscarriage of justice, instil confidence in the investigation and also to pre-empt the misuse of the process of the court, by quashing the investigation and the consequent report under section 173 CrPC filed in these two cases, while leaving the state to fairly investigate the two cases again.,” it added. In view of the above, the Court said that the investigation conducted by the respondent No 3 in FIR No 129 dated 7.8.2018 and FIR NO 192 dated 14.10.2015, both of Police Station City Kotkapura and the consequent chargesheet filed by him, are liable to be quashed. The Court further observed 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 entrapped. 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. To ensure fairness and impartiality, 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 and external extraneous pressures and interference. Accordingly, it ordered that “the investigation of the cases involved in the present petitions, is ordered to be conducted by an SIT of senior police officers, which is hereby conferred a status of senior most rank for the purpose of section 36 of CrPC and which is ordered to be constituted by the State with the following directions”. The Court ordered that the State Government shall constitute an SIT of three senior IPS officers from the state of Punjab, which shall not include the respondent No 3, and which shall include at lease one officer senior to the respondent No 3 in rank and designation to conduct the investigation in the FIR involved in the present petitions – FIR No 192 and FIR No 129. The HC Judge had directed that there shall be no interference from any quarter, internal or external, with this SIT qua the investigation. “The SIT shall not report to any State executive or police authority qua the investigation in question. It shall report only to the concerned magistrate, in accordance with law.” “The SIT so constituted shall work jointly. All the members of the SIT shall put their signatures on all the proceedings of the investigation as a mark of the fact that they have agreed to the said investigation. Once constituted, that SIT shall not be changed by the State Government except in case of retirement, incapacity or death of the officer concerned,” the court ordered. The Court further directed that the final report of the investigation shall be filed jointly as a team under signatures of all the members of the SIT, who shall also be cited as witness in the list as the investigating officers. “The investigation of these FIRs shall be concluded as expeditiously as possible preferably within a period of six months from the date of constitution of the new SIT,” the HC observed. / DAILY WORLD /




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