Saurabh Malik, Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, April 4. She opened the book of love when she was still learning to figure out geometry theorems and understand Newton’s laws of motion. For the bubbly Harpreet Kaur, every action had an equal and opposite reaction when it came to affection. She was at that time studying in Sant Prem Singh Khalsa High School at Begowal with Kamaljit Singh’s younger brother Simarjit.
Her story is not very different from a Bollywood blockbuster script…. A teenager in love; an intimacy manifesting itself physically and a stature-conscious mother.
But not even a star scriptwriter could have spun such a gory tale of intrigue and cruelty. The Tribune culls out facts from the judgment to reproduce the events that led to Harpreet Kaur’s forcible abortion and Bibi Jagir Kaur’s five-year rigorous imprisonment sentence.
During the course of trial, Kamaljeet Singh and his sisters Manjit Kaur and Paramjit Kaur deposed that their younger brother was studying with Harpreet Kaur “and she started visiting their residence and came in contact with Kamaljeet Singh”.
School headmaster Mann Singh, too, deposed they were together in class.
“The testimony of Mann Singh together with the school record leaves no manner of doubt that the school was co-educational and Simranjit Singh and Harpreet Kaur had been class-fellows, studying in Class X during the academic session 1996-97,” the trial Judge Balbir Singh ruled.
Soon after Class X examination came the season of separation. Bibi shifted to Chandigarh in 1997 and Harpreet shifted to Shivalik Public School in Sector 41, Chandigarh.
But the space between the lovers did not increase with distance. Phone calls kept them together. “The oral and documentary evidence is sufficient to prove that there had been regular telephone contact between Harpreet Kaur from her landline number of Chandigarh with complainant Kamaljit Singh,” the Judge held.
And then there were love letters. They were addressed to Kamaljit by his nickname “Kamal” and “Tinku”. A teenager in love, she adopted Kamaljit’s surname.
“These writings of Harpreet Kaur clearly bring out the factum of love affair that continued between Kamaljit Singh and Harpreet Kaur, despite her shifting from Begowal to Chandigarh,” the Judge asserted.
Behind-the-curtain meetings too were going on. Kamaljit Singh told the court that he would stay at the Janta Tourist Bungalow and Motel Oasis during his visits to Chandigarh where Harpreet would meet him. He too would go to her residence in Sector 39, Chandigarh.
Referring to the statement of prosecution witnesses and check-in registers, the Judge ruled these “leave no manner of doubt that visits of Kamaljit Singh to Chandigarh and his short stays, after coming late evening and leaving by next day, could not possibly be in connection with any business activity and rather were with the sole object of meeting Harpreet Kaur…”.
The Judge went on to add: “I find that oral and documentary evidence is sufficient to hold that as a result of the love affair, physical intimacy developed between Kamaljit Singh and Harpreet Kaur, which then resulted in her pregnancy”.
Harpreet grew and so did her love for “Kamal”. In February 2000, gynaecologist Dr Jyoti Rana confirmed that Harpreet was four months pregnant. “Harpreet Kaur at that time had already completed her plus two and was preparing for medical entrance examination and was staying in the official accommodation of accused Bibi Jagir Kaur. Therefore, it was most natural that the accused, being the mother, was most likely to have noticed the pregnancy because of the normal body changes that take place at that stage as she was already aware of the continued love affair, which did not have her approval…,” the Judge said.
He said: “It was natural for the accused Bibi Jagir Kaur to have been greatly upset… because the exposure of Harpreet’s pregnancy would have ruined her political career…. The accused having attained such an important political and religious stature could not afford to lose her status ”. The Judge further added: “Bibi Jagir Kaur, who was against the marriage of Harpreet Kaur with Kamaljit Singh, who was a commoner, having no social and political reckoning, had the motive to terminate the Harpreet’s pregnancy in order to safeguard her political career and also her high social and religious status as the SGPC president”.
Judge Balbir Singh minced no words to say: “A conspiracy was hatched for terminating Harpreet’s pregnancy with accused Bibi Jagir Kaur. However, because the status, political and social, of Bibi was to be safeguarded at all costs, the latter distanced herself from the process of executing the conspiracy and accused Dalwinder Kaur Dheshi, Paramjit Singh Raipur and Nishan Singh, along with approver Dr Balwinder Singh Sohal, took upon themselves to accomplish the object of conspiracy by keeping Bibi Jagir Kaur informed of the developments from time to time”.
Dhesi was Bibi’s “trusted friend” and related to Paramjit Singh Raipur, who was Bibi’s political confidant. A non-resident Indian, she was “keeping residence at Jasdil Mansion”. Nishan Singh, her personal security officer, was also related to her.
“For achieving the object of the conspiracy, that is terminating the pregnancy, assistance of a doctor was required.
Therefore, for entrusting the said task, Dr Balwinder Singh Sohal, who was under the obligation of Bibi because of his employment at the dispensary of Dera Sant Prem Singh and was in touch with the family of the accused, was the natural choice.”
He was asked to find a solution as Harpreet was still unmarried and unwilling to go in for an abortion. He then consulted staff nurse Dalbir Kaur, known to him since long.
Hard and ruthless… this was one side of her mother Harpeet had never seen. So when she was taken to Sector 22 for “wedding shopping” and offered chaat laced with sedatives, there was no way the teenager could have suspected that her mother was not sleeping over her pregnancy issue and she would wake up to find the foetus aborted.
The court held: “The testimony of the prosecution witnesses that Harpreet Kaur was brought from her residence, on the pretext of shopping for wedding, at Patiala by accused Dalwinder Kaur Dhesi is probable because otherwise she might have not accompanied Dhesi. Even Rajneet Kaur, her younger sister, was taken along with her because of which she possibly could not have suspected the intended motive of the accused for taking her away”.
The conspiracy was apparently well-planned. The sedative was mixed with chat to mask its smell. “Even the manner of administering six or seven tablets of Trika in powdered form after mixing the same with the chat (given) to Harpreet Kaur for inducing sedation is acceptable…”, the Judge observed.
The judgment goes on to say: “There is no difficulty in accepting the version given by the approver regarding the clandestine manner in which Harpreet Kaur on the very early morning of March 19, 2000, was taken under sedation from Jasdil Mansion (Phagwara) in a vehicle by accused Dalwinder Kaur Dhesi and Paramjit Singh Raipur, along with the approver, directly to Kapurthala at the clinic of Dalbir Kaur, staff nurse in the committee bazaar, where Dr Satpal, her husband was also present.
“According to the approver, he informed Dr Satpal that the pregnancy was to be terminated as the girl was unmarried…. Dr Satpal and his wife Dalbir Kaur took Harpreet Kaur to the delivery room while she was still unconscious and. Dalbir Kaur and Dr Satpal administered medicine to Harpeet. They told him that the process would be lengthy and they had injected medicine and abortion might take place within 24 hours and 72 hours….”
After the abortion, Harpreet was brought to Jasdil Mansion in a clandestine manner by Dhesi and Raipur. Their arrival was followed by a phone call on Dalbit Kaur’s landline number and this was a mistake on the part of the accused.
The judge asserted that a call was made from Raipur’s mobile to the landline “probably intimating that the accused and Harpreet Kaur had reached Phagwara safely…”
Almost a month later came the tragic end to the catastrophic love story. On the fateful evening of April 20, 2000, Harpreet started vomiting. Loose motions followed, resulting in acute dehydration. At about 9.45 pm, Bibi Jagir Kaur called up Dr Tarsem Singh asking him to immediately proceeding towards Phagwara to attend to her ailing daughter Harpreet Kaur”. No connection between the illness and the previous incident was established.
The doctor was known to the family because he was treating Harpreet’s sister for epilepsy. But during the trial, the CBI failed to tie the loose ends and the Judge ruled: “It cannot be said by any stretch of imagination that accused Bibi Jagir Kaur developed a strong motive for eliminating Harpreet Kaur…”
Appreciating the evidence, the Judge added: “The prosecution has been able to prove that accused Dalwinder Kaur Dhesi, Paramjit Singh Raipur and Nishan Singh abducted Harpreet Kaur, who was a major, by deceitful means…. The prosecution has further been able to prove that accused Dalwinder Kaur Dhesi and Paramjit Singh Raipur got Harpreet’s pregnancy terminated without her consent after keeping her under sedation and this was not done in good faith or for saving her life”.
The Judge acquitted Bibi and others of the murder charge, but sentencing them to five years for offences ranging from “causing miscarriage without the woman’s consent” and criminal conspiracy. Among the convicted are Bibi’s trusted friend Dhesi, her confidant Paramjit Singh Raipur and PSO Nishan Singh.