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CBI finds chinks in Punjab police probe
Four booked for no crime

New Delhi, September 3
Four years in prison for committing no crime is the story of four persons, including a woman who may finally be set free, thanks to the CBI which has pointed out shoddy investigations by the Punjab Police.

Sucha Singh, Balkar Singh, Laxmi Bai and Amrik Singh arrested by the Punjab Police on September 23, 2002, for allegedly kidnapping a woman and compelling her into marriage — a crime they did not commit.

The four have been languishing in judicial custody and may walk free as the CBI probe found they never kidnapped any woman nor forced her into marriage.

The case dates to the night of August 31, 2002, when one Arshdeep Kaur disappeared from her house in Mansa district.

Her father immediately named the four who had been working at his house as labourers for some time during which she had starting having an affair with Amrik Singh.

Arshdeep had once fled and met Amrik Singh who sent her back home, the CBI said and added that she had allegedly been tortured by her parents upon her return.

As time went by, she again decided to flee and went to Sucha Singh, Balkar Singh and Laxmi Bai and requested them to accompany her to a bus stop from where she would take a bus to Amritsar to meet Amrik.

The trio helped her to go out of the village after which Arshdeep started walking down to the nearest bus stop, took a bus and reached Amritsar, a CBI spokesman said.

After reaching Amritsar bus stand, she took a rickshaw to a hotel and stayed for a day before she contacted Amrik Singh on phone to reach her.

While travelling in the rickshaw, she changed her mind and requested the rickshaw-puller to take her to his home.

Later, the entire village came to know about her presence in the rickshaw-puller’s house.

Finally, on the intervention of the village panchayat, she married the rickshaw-puller and had been staying there in Suyian Khurd village with him since then, the spokesman said.

For the CBI, it was a difficult case to crack as nobody knew when she actually left that village. But after inquiries with her close relatives, they came to know she once called

her aunt without giving away her whereabouts. The CBI team requested the aunt to install a caller

identity phone and was regularly monitoring incoming calls.

One day, the aunt received a call from Arshdeep which was traced, leading the team to Suyian Khurd village where she was located.

A senior CBI official looking after the case said she had not remained in touch with her parents and relatives. “She made only two calls in the last four years to her aunt and we

managed to trace her in the second call,” he said. She has been produced before the Patiala Special Judicial Magistrate who sent to a remand home after which her confessional statement would be recorded, the spokesman said.

The agency stepped into the case only after Arshdeep’s father filed a petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court asking for CBI inquiry because her whereabout were not known despite the arrest of the four. For the CBI, it was a wait of two years after registering a case on July 26, 2004. — PTI


Rift led to uncovering of scam in Punjab Police
Ramanjit Singh Sidhu
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 3
An apparent internal rivalry between the top brass of the Punjab Police led to the unearthing of a multi-crore scam pertaining to the purchase of wireless sets and the subsequent registration of a criminal case by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against seven senior IPS officers of the Punjab cadre.

It is for the first time in the history of the Punjab Police that seven senior officers, including a DGP, an ADGP, a retired ADGP and three IGs, have been booked for embezzlement.

The CBI has booked these high-rank officers at its Chandigarh branch. Sources in the CBI said it was one of the major cases among other high profile cases that were registered during the tenure of DIG, CBI, Chandigarh, P.L. Soni. They added that such cases were usually registered at the CBI headquarters. The present case was being investigated by DSP, CBI, Chandigarh, S.S. Sandhu.

The CBI has registered a case against DGP Home Guards K.K. Attri, ADGP Vigilance Bureau Mohd Izhar Alam, IGs G.D. Pandey (Crime) and R.P. Singh (Intelligence), and retired ADGP D.R. Bhatti.

One of the IGs, R.C. Prasad, though named in the FIR, is now dead.

These officials have been booked under the Prevention of Corruption Act and relevant Sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the CBI Special Judge, Chandigarh, was informed yesterday.

The IPS officers have been booked for their alleged role in the multi-crore scam pertaining to the purchase of wireless sets for the Punjab Police between 2000 and 2003.

An embezzlement of around Rs 5 crore was reported in the purchase of sets by the CBI during its investigations.

It may be mentioned that the CBI was investigating the case on the directions of the proceeding in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

During the course of hearing, rivalry between officers came to the fore and more officers were ultimately added to the loop of investigations of the CBI.

Initially, the High Court, acting on a public interest litigation, had asked the CBI to investigate the purchases made from the beginning of 2000 to the end of 2002.

The purchase during this period was made during the tenure of Mr Attri. Later on, D.R. Bhatti took over from Mr Attri and made purchases during the financial year 2002-2003.

Subsequently, an inquiry conducted by R.K. Gupta, an ADGP rank officer, cleared the purchases made during the tenure of Mr Attri but raised doubts over the subsequent purchases made during the tenure of Mr Bhatti.

Another inquiry was conducted by Mohd Izhar Alam and he reversed the opinion of Mr Gupta, while giving a clean chit to Mr Bhatti and raising objections over the purchases made during the tenure of Mr Attri.

Mr Alam submitted a report in this regard after he conducted an inquiry at the insistence of the then DGP.

Other members on the committee were G.D. Pandey, Sanjiv Gupta, Dinkar Gupta and R.C. Prasad. Among the non-IPS officials on the committee were M.S. Sidhu and Jeet Singh.

Mr Bhatti, during the hearings in court, had alleged that Mr Attri was being shielded as his wife was senior IAS officer. Mr Bhatti was charge-sheeted, while M.S. Sidhu remained suspended for a period of one year from July, 2004. Other than these officers, the CBI also booked Bangalore-based Motorola India, New Delhi-based Sanchar Antenna Ltd. and Communication System and Surya Telecom Private Ltd.

The CBI has booked manager of Surya Telecom Ajay Vir Sehgal, who was earlier booked by the Punjab Police in a case of cheating and criminal conspiracy in Mohali, when he was a senior officer in Punwire.


Police move to change its working style
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 3
The recent letter of the Director-General of Punjab Police, Mr S.S. Virk, asking his men not to allow any political interference in their working, is not a one-off incident. Sources in the police said this was a part of the ongoing exercise to introduce behavioral-reform in the functioning of the police and change the pre-determined mindsets. The DGP has been sending such stern instructions in the past also.

Also, the style of functioning of the police, which had developed in the past three decades and is now accepted as its “culture”, has to change, said a senior functionary.

Instructions issued by the DGP in the past include transparent and better policing is the top priority. Separately, the police at the district-level has been asked to ensure the safety of innocents and ensure adequate action against the guilty.

Officials found to have been committing wrong deeds were dismissed from service. Similarly, those found guilty of torturing citizens in custody were also dismissed from service in the past few months. Instructions were also given to uphold human rights and be sensitive to issues relating to Dalits, women and children.

Besides this, guidelines have been laid for the detection of serious crimes. The DGP has been communicating with the SSPs on a fortnightly basis and seeking reports of all details of occurrences of criminal nature in their districts and also pending cases. As part of the change in style of functioning, the idea of the top brass is that “the meritorious officers within the force have to be acknowledged and there should be scope for recommendations”.

Even in the recent letter to SSPs on “political interference”, the DGP talks about the police. “We should realise that the image of any force depends upon the behaviour of its members with the general public. While we must be firm with anti-social and criminal elements, our behaviour with the general public should be friendly, co-operative and sympathetic”.

Nearly six months ago, the DGP while reviewing the deployment of manpower withdrew the security men who were deployed in excess of the requirement with VIPs. Two months ago, he asked all IPS officers in the state to return the vehicles that were in excess of the allocation. Officials have started returning the vehicles after the DGP issued instructions to cut the fuel supply to all such vehicles that were being allegedly misused.

A senior functionary quoted another example saying the DGP recently ordered a head count of the entire force and the actual place of posting.


6 baratis killed, 16 injured in road accidents
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, September 3
Six members of two marriage parties were killed and 16 were injured, seven of them seriously, in two separate road accidents near Sulargharat village on the Patran-Sangrur road early this morning and near Phaguwala village on the Sunam-Bhawanigarh road last night.

As many as 12 baratis were going to Barnala from Rohtak in Haryana in a Bolero jeep when the vehicle and a truck collided head-on near Sulargharat village this morning. The truck was going towards Patran while the jeep was on its way towards Sangrur.

In this accident, three persons, Asha (21), Jassi (21) and Gullu (4), died on the spot and Munni Kaur (50) succumbed to her injuries at the Sangrur Civil Hospital.

Dr Rahul, an emergency medical officer on duty at the hospital here, told The Tribune that four seriously injured persons, Varkha (20), Devinder Singh (28), Prem Singh (52) and Raj Kaur (50), had been referred to Rajindra Hospital, Patiala, while the remaining four injured persons, Seema (23), Babli (27), Jaspreet Kaur (32) and Shannu Singh (40), were still under treatment at the Civil Hospital.

ASI Balpuri, in charge of the police post at Mehlan village, near Sulargharat, said the driver of the truck fled from the scene, while the truck had been taken in custody by the police. The police had registered a case under Sections 304-A, 338, 337, 427 and 279 of the IPC against the truck driver, he added.

Meanwhile, the district administration has made arrangements to transport the bodies of the four killed baratis to Rohtak, an official said here today.

In the second accident that took place on the Sunam-Bhawanigarh road, near Phaguwala village, last night, two baratis were killed while eight others were injured, three of them seriously.

These 10 baratis were going to Samana from Longowal village via Sunam in a Tata Sumo vehicle to participate in a marriage there when their vehicle and a truck, going towards Sunam from Bhawanigarh side, collided head-on. The two deceased baratis were identified as Krishan Kumar (28) and Sukhwinder Pal (25), both residents of Longowal village.

All eight injured persons were admitted to the Primary Health Centre at Bhawanigarh. Of them three seriously injured, Gurmeet Singh (25), Raghbir Chand (32) and Manish Kumar (12), were referred to Rajindra Hospital, Patiala.

The five remaining injured persons are Raja (28), Shishan Pal (30), Mengal Ram (28), Kapil (13) and Amrish Goyal (30).

According to the Bhawanigarh police, the driver of the truck fled from the accident site while the truck had been taken in custody. It has registered a case against the truck driver under Sections 304-A, 279, 337, 338 and 427 of the IPC.


Faulty management plans result in depletion of forest cover
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, September 3
The Department of Forest has been violating management plans for felling forests, leading to large-scale depletion of forest cover in the state. The Supreme Court, in the case titled TN Godavarman Thirumulkpad v/s Union of India and others, had ordered that felling of trees in all forests would remain suspended except in accordance with the working/management plans of state governments as approved by the Central Government.

It had also ordered that the felling would be carried out strictly according to working plans and no felling could be carried out till the plans were prepared and got approved.

As per the copy of the working/management plans for felling forests available with The Tribune, the Department of Forest had to carry out afforestation simultaneously with felling to keep the forest cover intact. No felling was permitted after December and January. No felling could be permitted in the areas that were prone to soil erosion.

Only dead and trees fallen due to wind could be felled and dying trees could not be felled. However, while the department kept issuing permits for felling, afforestation was not carried out at the same pace. This led to rapid depletion of the forest cover that has been substantiated by the latest report of the Forest Survey of India. As per the report of the Forest Survey of India, 80,000 sq hectare of dense forest cover in Punjab had depleted in the period ranging from 2001 to 2003.

Punjab has the least forest cover in the country now. It is ranked 35th in this respect.

While the approved plans ban felling of any dying tree, the Department of Forest officials kept marking dying trees for felling in violation of the Supreme Court orders.

The department, in its management plan, has itself admitted that the Shivalik hills in Hoshiarpur district were prone to rapid soil erosion. However, still felling permits were issued in the Shivalik hills in the district that are most fragile and degrading ecosystems of the country.

The felling and management plans for the Pathankot area were approved in 2004. However, the felling in the area continued in violation of the Supreme Court orders right from 1996 to 2004.

As per the management and working plans of Pathankot, the felling of Khair trees can be carried out only in the months of December and January and that also strictly according to the felling rules. However, the Forest Department officials in Pathankot had been allowing felling even in other months. They have also been reportedly deviating from rules for felling trees in violation of the working/management plans.

Many other provisions in the management plans that were necessary to keep the forest cover intact have been violated, resulting in the lowest forest cover in the state.


Group clash at Ram Tirath Temple 
P.K. Jaiswar

Amritsar, September 3
Ram Tirath, the birth place of Luv and Kush, has once again become a battleground for mahants and Balmikis who are sharply divided over the issue of repair of the damaged bundh in the holy sarovar.

Trouble erupted today when the warring groups pelted stones at each other as a small possé of policemen remained mute spectators. However, when the situation went out of control, the cops mustered courage and tried to control the enraged crowd.

The injured included Balramjit, Balkishan, Charanjit Bittu and his mother, Veero, Balkar Singh and Raman. The injured were sent for medical check-up and the police recorded the statements of both the factions.

The temporary 'bundh' of the sarovar was reportedly damaged due to heavy downpour. The water spilled over leading to the death of fishes.

Mr Om Parkash Gabbar, Deputy Mayor, Municipal Corporation, leading the Balmiki faction alleged that the bundh was deliberately damaged by mahants.

It is pertinent to mention here that state government had sanctioned a grant of Rs 1 crore for the development of the historic temple and construction of a Balmiki temple. During ‘kar sewa’two years back, water of the sarovar was collected on one side by making a temporary bundh.

Mr Gabbar, talking to this correspondent, said they were repairing the damaged portion of the bundh to save fish when the other faction led by Mahant Baldev Giri, Mahant Bhan Das and Mahant Kans Das claimed that the court had ordered status quo on any type of construction at the temple site.

He alleged that he had informed the district administration about the damage done to the bundh. However, he added that no senior officer from the district administration and police reached the spot. He urged the authorities to take appropriate action against the miscreants who had damaged the bundh and ignited passions of the community.

Mahant Baldev Giri, however, denied the allegations and said that it was due to heavy rain that the bundh was damaged. He alleged that supporters of Mr Gabbar and the other faction unnecessarily attacked their supporters residing near the disputed site, which led to the incident. He said the local court had granted a stay on any type of construction at the disputed site.


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