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SC stays CBI probe against Sumedh Saini
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 11
In a significant development for Punjab, the Supreme Court today stayed the investigation by the CBI against Sumedh Singh Saini, an inspector-general rank officer of the Punjab cadre. Saini is presently posted as director of the Vigilance Bureau. The Punjab and Haryana High Court, last week, had ordered the registration of a case against him.

An FIR was registered by the CBI for the alleged involvement of Saini and other police officials in the fake encounter of Balwant Singh Multani in December 1991, during the peak of terrorism in Punjab. A Bench comprising Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices P. Sathasivam and J.M. Panchal also issued notices to the Punjab government and the CBI, among others. As per records of the police, Multani escaped from the police custody.

The FIR had been registered on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which asked the CBI to complete investigations in the matter within four months.

Saini’s case assumed political significance after the CBI registered a case. The Congress party wanted the ruling SAD-BJP combine in Punjab to remove Saini from his present posting as it was a “sensitive” posting. As director of the Vigilance Bureau, Saini is probing various cases registered against former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and his family, besides a few other Congressmen.

Punjab government’s counsel Harish Salve pleaded that hardcore and experienced criminals, who have a well organised international support base, are likely to misuse such orders (of the High Court) to attempt victimisation of the police officers, which is a matter of concern.

The state also placed on record that it had in its possession material that would suggest that there is a reasonable apprehension that a senior officer (Saini) was being targeted due to the sensitive nature of investigation conducted by him. This also contained material that will show other reasons why this Bench should not have taken up this matter. The material was placed in sealed cover.

Salve pleaded in the SC today that the FIR has not been registered by the CBI on the basis of its independent evaluation, but in deference to the directions of the Court. The CBI had registered a case under Sections 120-b, 364, 343, 330, 167 and 193, IPC, on the order passed by the High Court without hearing the State of Punjab, who was a necessary party in the case.

The Punjab police has already in the High Court said, B.S. Multani, son of a retired IAS officer, Darshan Singh Multani, had escaped from the police custody from Qadian police station on December 19, 1991.

Following an enquiry, Multani, an accomplice of Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar, who is facing a death penalty, was declared a proclaimed offender by the court. Bhullar was sentenced to death for a terrorist attack on Maninderjit Singh Bitta, in which several people were killed.

Other police officials against whom the CBI had registered an FIR were the then DSP Baldev Singh Saini, Harshai Sharma and Jagir Singh, the then sub-inspectors posted at the police station central, Chandigarh.

In his petition today, it was claimed that the Punjab and Haryana High Court cast aspersions on the entire Punjab police force, as the High Court had in its order observed that the State of Punjab would not conduct free and fair investigation in the case.



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