Supreme Court of India. [File image]
Supreme Court of India. [File image]

SC grants interim relief to ex-DGP Sumedh Singh Saini in 1991 Multani case, seeks Punjab govt's response

ANI | Updated: Sep 15, 2020 14:27 IST

New Delhi [India], September 15 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted interim relief to former Punjab Director General of Police (DGP) Sumedh Singh Saini in connection with a case related to the alleged abduction and murder of junior engineer Balwant Singh Multani in 1991 and issued a notice to the State government seeking its response on the matter.
A three-judge bench of Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice R Subhas Reddy and Justice MR Shah, which was hearing a plea filed by Sumedh Singh Saini seeking anticipatory bail in the matter, ordered that Saini will not be arrested till further orders.
The bench said Saini will cooperate with the police investigation and asked the State government to file it's reply within three weeks and also asked the petitioner to file a rejoinder thereafter in one week. The matter was posted for further hearing after four weeks.
Saini has challenged in the Supreme Court, the Punjab and Haryana High Court's September 7 order, which had dismissed his anticipatory bail plea in the case.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Saini, contented that this is a very serious matter. He said that Saini was a decorated officer and had risen from the ranks to become the DGP. Saini was in the thick of militancy in Punjab and had suffered five bullet injuries, Rohatgi said.
He further added that when Multani, the assailant, escaped from jail, his father filed a habeas corpus petition in the High Court, which was rejected as the State government said he escaped since he was a proclaimed offender.
The senior advocate further said that the court had entertained an application by Multani's father to ascertain what happened to his son. The judge started the matter in an already 'disposed of' matter. The State government had appealed this and the Supreme Court had held that the judge had no fresh material to order a CBI investigation and thus it was quashed.
The Supreme Court had, however, said that the father can still file a complaint to any appropriate authority.
Rohatgi asked how can the petition on the subject matter be entertained after its disposal, especially after a 10-year delay from the Supreme Court decision. He contended that it has been 29 years since Multani escaped and added that the FIR was registered against Saini in a mala fide manner and now he is a retired person.
He said that the Punjab Government is after Saini because he had filed two chargesheets which has current Chief Minister of Punjab Captain Amarinder Singh as the accused. This is why they are after him, Rohatgi said.
Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, appearing for the Punjab Government, argued that Multani was picked up from his residence.
Justice Ashok Bhushan told Luthra this case is of 1991 and asked after 30 years what is the hurry to arrest him?
Responding to the judge, Luthra said after that the registration of FIR, a statement of approval has been recorded and witnesses in the police station have for the first time stated that the picture of Multani released to have escaped from the prison was not Multani at all.
Luthra further said that a Punjab and Haryana High Court judge had earlier noted that Saini used to intimidate and that a person had succumbed to his injury after he was inhumanly treated by Saini.
"After his retirement, Saini still has the audacity and power to have some files in his control. How can this be allowed?" Luthra said.
Senior advocate KV Vishwanathan, appearing for the brother of Multani, contended that his brother died at the hand of Saini and "he was a notorious police officer."
Vishwanathan said that the murder offence was disclosed on August 18 this year and thereafter Section 302 was added in the case. There is an approver's statement on record now, the lawyer said.
Saini, a 1982-batch IPS officer, who was the youngest DGP in the country, was booked along with six others on May 6 this year at Mataur Police Station in Punjab's Mohali for the alleged kidnapping of Multani, wrongful confinement, among other charges in 1991.
Later in August, the murder charge was added to the FIR, after two co-accused turned approvers, and in their statement, claimed to be witnesses to the torture meted out to Balwant Singh Multani, under the custody of former DGP Saini, who was then the SSP of Chandigarh.
Multani worked with Chandigarh Industrial and Tourism Corporation (Citco) and was picked up by the police after a terrorist attack on Saini, who was then Chandigarh Senior Superintendent of Police. Saini was injured in the attack while three other policemen were killed.
Saini retired in 2018 after 36 years of service and, in his petition, has also sought quashing of the FIR filed against him in the matter.
The petition before the top court has alleged that the case against the former DGP was an example of "politically motivated conspiracy" by the present Punjab Government.
It was claimed that Multani "fled from the police custody on December 19, 1991".
"In 1991, Saini was posted as SSP in Chandigarh. On August 29, 1991, the blast took place. During the investigation, it was found that Devendar Singh Bhullar, who is on a life sentence, and Balwant Singh Multani were involved in the case," the plea claimed.
Balwant Singh Multani's father, Darshan Singh Multani, had filed a petition before the Punjab and Haryana High Court stating his son and Bhullar were eliminated by police officials.
"In 2008, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had also registered a case against Saini that was later quashed by the Supreme Court," the plea said.
The plea alleged that when COVID-19 was at a peak, under "a politically motivated conspiracy an FIR was registered against Saini on same facts by the State government". It said that the FIR was initially registered under Section 364 (kidnapping or abduction in order to murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 302 (murder) was added later.
"The FIR registered under kidnapping charges has now been converted into murder. The State machinery is haunting Saini. These are totally baseless allegations," it said.
Saini was part of then DGP KPS Gill's team that helped eliminate terrorism in the State. His bail petition said that he has an outstanding service record.
"When the State of Punjab was going through a difficult period, he took an active part in counter-terrorism and anti-insurgency operations. The applicant is a decorated officer and was awarded the President's Police Medal for gallantry and the Wound Medal (now called Prakarm medal). He has been a target of anti-national and terrorist elements," the plea said.
It said that the applicant did not accept any reward money for the arrest/ elimination of terrorists and declined compensation when his parental house was burnt by terrorists. The petition said that in 2015, as the State DGP, the applicant led the police operations at Dinanagar Police Station where three Pakistan 'fidayeens' were killed.
"The applicant is one of the prime targets of anti-national, secessionist and terrorist elements," it said. The petition also said that after abatement of terrorism in Punjab, the applicant has been involved in unearthing various scams and scandals.
It said that the applicant served as the Head of the State Vigilance Bureau from 2007 to 2012 and during his tenure "a number of criminal cases were registered against members of the political party, which is now in power in the State of Punjab".
It also said that the applicant during his tenure as Inspector General of Police, Intelligence, Punjab was instrumental in unearthing "a major corruption network" related to the then Chairman of the Punjab Public Service Commission. (ANI)