The Tribune – Sukhbir asks Rajnath to release Sikh detainees

Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 8. Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal today targeted the BJP-led Central Government by questioning the release of terror convicts in the past, including those in Punjab and the North-East, and BJP’s relationship with a separatist leader of Jammu and Kashmir.

Sukhbir, along with senior party leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) chief Avtar Singh Makkar, met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh this morning to seek the release of Sikh detainees who have completed their mandated sentence in prison and are eligible for release under the premature release policy.

Rajnath is learnt to have assured the delegation of looking into the cases from the legal angle.

Sukhbir later told The Tribune that the Congress had in the past suggested names of terror convicts and got them released.

“I am referring to Wassan Singh Zaffarwal and Dr Sohan Singh. How were they released?” he said. Zaffarwal and Dr Sohan Singh, a former doctor with the Punjab Government, have been associated with the Khalistan movement.

“Look at the case of ULFA (a North-East insurgent group). Their men are free to roam about,” he said.

Sukhbir also cited the case of Jammu and Kashmir separatist leader Sajjad Lone, who is now a “partner of the BJP”. “There are more cases in J&K where prisoners have been released or allowed amnesty. Why this discrimination against the Sikhs?” he said.

The same yardstick has been used by the Centre to free some convicts earlier, he said. “We feel this stand (of seeking release of prisoners) is in consonance with the reformatory approach in the furtherance of the criminal justice system,” a statement of the Punjab Government said tonight.

Sukhbir Badal, who is president of the Shiromani Akali Dal, said: “My party is only endorsing the sentiments of the Punjabis and no one should try to label it as an anti-national party.” Sukhbir’s wife Harsimrat Kaur Badal is a minister in the Narendra Modi government.

Badal also took up the case of 13 terror convicts who are languishing in various state jails, including those in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Karnataka and Gujarat, besides Chandigarh.

The Punjab Government press note this evening, however, did not mention if Badal had requested for release of such detainees in Delhi. Two of Beant Singh’s assassins Jagtar Singh Hawara and Paramjit Singh Bheora are lodged in Delhi.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had earlier sent a request to the Centre seeking “premature release” for 13 prisoners, but it was rejected by the Ministry of Home Affairs two days ago. Since these 13 were not in Punjab jails, the state could not move their cases for premature release.

In the case of 182 life convicts in Punjab, who are eligible for release under the premature release policy, the government cannot exercise the power of remission following a restraining order passed by the Supreme Court in July 2014.

Sukhbir reiterated what Punjab Director General of Police Sumedh Singh Saini had said in Chandigarh yesterday: “We have decided to move an application before the Supreme Court to allow it to exercise the premature release policy.”

He urged Rajnath to give directions to various state governments to free these prisoners.


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