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Punjab » Courts

Posted at: Jan 11, 2017, 1:23 AM; last updated: Jan 11, 2017, 4:43 PM (IST)

1987 Ludhiana bank heist: SC acquits 9

Had been sentenced to 10-yr jail under TADA for looting Rs 5.7 cr from PNB branch
1987 Ludhiana bank heist: SC acquits 9
Prime accused Daljit Singh Bittu being taken to court. FILE

R Sedhuraman

Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, January 10

The Supreme Court today acquitted nine persons sentenced to 10 years in jail under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act for looting Rs 5.7 crore from a Punjab National Bank branch in Ludhiana in 1987. The crime was then described as the biggest bank heist in the country.

A Bench comprising Justices Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Rohinton Fali Nariman held that the CBI had failed to prove that Rs 60 lakh recovered from the convicts was part of the looted money, advocate RK Kapoor, who argued for one of the convicts, said.

Sikh Students Federation ex-president Daljit Singh Bittu and his associate Gursharan Singh Gama were held guilty by the TADA Special Judge, Ludhiana, on November 20, 2012. The two were allegedly working with ‘Gen’ Labh Singh of the Khalistan Commando Force. The TADA court said it had been clearly established that the robbery was committed “with the intention to either overawe the government or strike terror in a section of people”.

The prosecution told the court that Bittu and his accomplices, who were in police uniform, entered the Millarganj branch of the PNB at 9.45 am and left with the money without firing a shot. They took away old currency notes, not touching the new ones valued at Rs 10 crore, as claimed by the then bank chief manager, SN Malhotra, in his complaint to the police. 

The robbers, he said, overpowered the guard and threatened the bank employees and customers, who were made to squat on the floor. The special court, which now stands repealed, sentenced 13 of the accused. 

Bittu and Gama withdrew their appeal in the apex court on completing 10 years in jail without bail. Two others died. Balwinder Singh of Tahl village  and Harbhajan Singh of Sarin village in Jalandhar district and Harjinder Singh of Lalton village in Ludhiana moved the Supreme Court.

The nine accused

Were lodged in different jails in Punjab: 
Maan Singh Dholewal (central jail, ludhiana)
Gurjant Singh and Harjinder Singh Lalli (nabha jail)
Harbhajan Singh, Saroop Singh, Balwinder Singh, Sewa Singh, Avtar Singh and Mohan Singh (model jail, kapurthala)

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