SAD Chief is facing charges of ordering “unprovoked firing” upon peaceful protestors at Kotkapura
Chandigarh, Sep 29, 2023- The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Friday granted anticipatory bail to Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief and former Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is facing charges of ordering “unprovoked firing” upon peaceful protestors at Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan in 2015.
The Special Investigating Team (SIT) charge sheet blamed Sukhbir Badal and his father and then Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who is now dead, for the firing case following sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib and subsequent violence in which the police force was accused of excesses that left two people dead.
Justice Anoop Chitkara also granted relief to former DGP Sumedh Saini, former IGP Paramraj Umranagal and three others.
The high court, which reserved the order on the bail plea on August 22, observed that though the magnitude of the crime was “undoubtedly massive”, the evidence was “based on presumptions” and prima facie, “lacks evidence qua motive”.
“It is not the case of the SIT that any accused was spearheading any campaign to hurt the religious feelings of the Sikh community and other people who have immense faith in Sikhism,” observed the bench.
It said based on the quality of evidence, it “cannot presume the existence of any conspiracy”, and it is for the prosecution to prove the same during the later stages of the matter, if such stage arrives.
The anticipatory bail pleas were moved after the SIT filed its charge sheet in a Faridkot court in February.
Then Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has been blamed for facilitating the execution of the conspiracy. Former MLA Mantar Singh Brar was also accused in the 7,000-page chargesheet, which was filed by the SIT led by Additional Director General of Police L.K. Yadav.
The others named as accused were then IG Umranangal, DIG Amar Singh Chahal, SSP Sukhmander Singh Mann, SSP Charanjit Singh, and SHO Gurdeep Singh. They have been blamed for hatching conspiracy and distortion and concealment of facts.
In Punjab, blasphemy has been an emotive issue in every election since the 2015 Kotkapura firing case. Sikh intellectuals, social reformers and even political parties prefer to maintain a stoical silence over lynching incidents after blasphemy or ‘beadbi’. They largely blame political parties at the helm for inaction in delivering speedy justice in sacrilege cases, saying the people of a particular religion was forced to take the law into their own hands.
Sukhbir Badal, who was then Home Minister, has been blaming the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government for raking up the Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan cases purely to divert people’s attention from its “scandals”. Questioned by the SIT, he had that all police actions in 2015 were part of a laid down procedure. (Agency)