Saurabh Malik, Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, November 24. In an unusual and damning judgment by the Punjab and Haryana High Court on the functioning of the law enforcement agency in Punjab, the Bench has minced no words to say that the tendency to prepare multiple reports by Punjab Police officers for exonerating the accused or substituting them was “tremendously” increasing.
Indicting the police in severe terms, Justice Mehinder Singh Sullar also directed the Principal Secretary (Home) to intervene. “This illegal conduct of the Punjab Police is giving rise to multiplicity of variety of litigation,” Justice Sullar asserted.
The scathing observations, made in a five-page order, a copy of which is in possession of The Tribune, have far-reaching consequences not just for the much-criticised Punjab Police but also for those implicated by the police for giving clean chit to culprits.
During the preliminary hearing of a petition, Poonam Anand versus the State of Punjab, it transpired that initially a criminal case was registered, among others, against accused Inderjit Anand, his son Navil Anand, wife Poonam Anand, brother Harish Kumar Anand, Sudhir Syal, Upesh Kumar Gupta, Krishan Kumar Gupta and Dheeraj Walia on the complaint of Punjab National Bank’s senior manager.
The FIR was registered at a Ludhiana police station on March 2 for cheating, forgery, criminal conspiracy and other offences on the allegations of preparing and using “false and forged cheque as genuine and apportionment of fraudulently withdrawn huge amount” on the basis of the forged cheques. After the completion of investigation, the challan or the final report was submitted against all the accused.
Justice Sullar asserted: “Although legally speaking, the police almost becomes functus-officio (having discharged duty) after submission of the final police report as contemplated under Section 173 of the CrPC, except further investigation in case some fresh evidence is obtained, that too with the prior approval of the trial court”.
Referring to the case in hand, Justice Sullar added “strange enough” a police party, in garb of subsequent reinvestigation after the submission of challan, exonerated accused Harish Anand, Navil Anand and Poonam Anand on an application filed by an accused.
Again, the police exonerated the remaining accused Sudhir Syal, Krishan Kumar Gupta and Upesh Kumar Gupta by submitting a second report.
Justice Sullar ruled: “As strange as it may sound, strictly and truly speaking, the tendency and frequency of some of the officers of the Punjab Police to prepare subsequent report of reinvestigation, exonerating or substituting the accused after the submission of final report has been tremendously increasing day by day… To my mind, it’s a very serious lapse, which requires immediate attention of the appropriate state authorities in order to maintain the rule of law.
Therefore, the Principal Secretary, Home, is directed to conduct a detailed inquiry into the matter, fix responsibility, take appropriate action against the erring police officers, suggest remedial measures in order to avoid any reoccurrence of such illegal events in future and submit his report to the court within two months positively”.