Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, December 4
Dubbing as "probable and acceptable" the evidence that Harpreet Kaur died on way to hospital after suffering from dehydration, the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Tuesday set aside the order convicting her mother Bibi Jagir Kaur, former SGPC chief, asserting that the trial court’s fixation with Bibi's status had worked against her.
Acquitting Bibi of the charges of forcible abortion and abduction of her daughter, a Division Bench gave her a clean chit, questioning why a mother under the circumstances would even contemplate eliminating her daughter.
Acquitting all accused in Harpreet’s death case — including Dalwinder Kaur Dhesi, Paramjit Singh Raipur and Nishan Singh besides Bibi — Justice AB Chaudhari and Justice Kuldip Singh said the trial court’s obsession about Bibi’s status as the head of Dera Sant Prem Singh, her becoming an MLA and then a minister and her election as SGPC president, coupled with the alleged lower middle class status of complainant Kamaljit Singh, “clearly and unfortunately worked as an adverse circumstance against Bibi Jagir Kaur in the mind of the judge”. Noting that she was not at fault for holding these posts, the Bench said: “That was projected by the media vociferously and the judge accepted it” and there was "not even a remote piece of evidence anywhere" that Bibi had used her position to influence “one and all” or Kamaljit Singh, or that she had expressed unwillingness
before anyone against marrying her daughter into a lower middle class family.
The Bench said a hue and cry was raised about Harpreet’s death (April 24, 2000), three days after her body was kept for “darshan” for a few hours followed by cremation in the presence of “thousands of persons, including high-ranking police officers, the CM and number of other people belonging to the area”.
The projection in the media was that Bibi was a politically and socially influential person. The Bench went on to quote a 1958 High Court judgment, which said it was little realised that improper news items and comments regarding cases pending or about to be taken up before the courts very often hampered and hindered the proper functioning of the courts.
The Bench said the finding was that a “dead foetus” was removed to save Harpreet's life. As such, no offence was constituted. The “main” investigating officer, Anurag Garg, stated that the conduct of approver Dr Balwinder Singh Sohal in helping perform abortion on Harpreet was not an offence because “if a dead foetus was found and somebody was helping the girl in getting her abortion done from a competent doctor and nurse, no offence as such would be constituted as the act would be to save the life of the girl."
Referring to the prosecution case that Bibi wanted to terminate the pregnancy secretly to save her reputation, the Bench observed it was done on March 20, 2000, and no one knew about it. There was no evidence to suggest it had become absolutely necessary to eliminate Harpreet after almost a month on April 20, 2000. “Why a mother would even think of eliminating her beloved elder daughter when, as alleged, she had succeeded in secretly terminating the pregnancy”.
The judgment came on a bunch of appeals by Bibi Jagir Kaur and other appellants through a battery of senior advocates, including RS Cheema, Arshdeep Cheema, Vinod Ghai, JS Bedi, and APS Deol. Bibi had challenged the Patiala CBI special court order awarding her a five-year imprisonment and a fine of Rs 5,000.
PICKING HOLES IN CBI CASE
- The Bench did not agree with the trial court's reliance on complainant Kamaljit Singh, “a dishonest and liar witness”, as described by the CBI itself. It agreed with the finding recorded by the trial court that Harpreet Kaur was carrying Kamaljit's child. The CBI case itself suggested that Kamaljit had 'trapped' Harpreet to blackmail Bibi Jagir Kaur and that he took Rs 3 crore from her.
- It was a mystery why the CBI did not produce Harpreet’s sister Rajneet Kaur as a witness before the court. She was present with her elder sister on a number of occasions when the alleged incidents took place. The prosecution did not examine her and another witness, though they could have unfolded the truth.
- Approver Dr Balwinder Singh Sohal was a planted witness and his testimony was not worthy of credence. It was uninspiring and unacceptable.
March 18, 2000: Harpreet was sedated, abducted from Chandigarh and confined in Phagwara.
March 20, 2000: Her pregnancy was terminated in Kartarpur.
March 30, 2012: Jagir Kaur, then a minister, convicted by trial court.
May 7, 2012: She moves High Court.
This case was baseless and politically motivated. I was 45 then...Though I lost time and money to fight it out, I am glad that justice has finally prevailed.—Bibi Jagir Kaur, SAD Leader
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