R Sedhuraman, Legal Correspondent
New Delhi, November 4. The Supreme Court today upheld the life sentence awarded to six Punjab policemen for abducting and murdering human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra in September 1995 for exposing police misdeeds. The convicted policemen are DSP Jaspal Singh, ASI Amarjit Singh, Head Constable Prithipal Singh, Jhabal SHO Satnam Singh and SIs Surinderpal Singh and Jasbir Singh.
A Bench comprising Justices P Sathasivam and BS Chauhan provided as many as 24 reasons for confirming the life term despite the fact that the body of Khalra could not be recovered. In the 58-page verdict, the Bench pointed out that eyewitnesses had confirmed that Khalra had been abducted and detained.
“Tolerance of police atrocities, as in this case, would amount to acceptance of systematic subversion and erosion of the rule of the law ,” the SC ruled while accepting the contention of Additional Solicitor-General Mohan Jain that any relief to the accused would shake the faith of the common man in the law enforcing machinery.
Endorsing the October 16, 2007, verdict of the Punjab and Haryana High Court enhancing to life imprisonment the seven-year term awarded to Prithipal, Satnam, Surinderpal and Jasbir, the SC Bench said the HC could not have remained “a silent spectator where stinking facts warrant interference in order to serve the interest of justice.”
The SC noted that Khalra had informed a large number of people that he was facing a threat to his life. Further, Khalra was able to generate public pressure against the police authorities which angered the police.
The Punjab Police did not pursue the complaint filed by the victim’s wife Paramjit Kaur. It also did not cooperate with the CBI which subsequently investigated the case. “The police officials of Punjab united in an unholy alliance as their colleagues were involved and the case was sure to tarnish the image of Punjab Police,” the apex court noted.
The accused policemen attempted to prevent the testimony of the witnesses by threatening, harassing and implicating them in false criminal cases, it observed.
“We do not find any reason to interfere with the well-reasoned judgment and order of the HC. The facts of the case do not warrant review of the findings recorded by the courts below. The appeals lack merit and are accordingly dismissed.”