The Tribune – 1981 plane hijack: Captain orders legal aid for duo

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, 20 July 2017. Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh today directed the state’s legal aid team to extend help to the two Sikhs who were facing double jeopardy, prosecution or punishment of a person twice for the same offence, for hijacking a Srinagar-bound Indian Airlines plane and taking it to Lahore in 1981.

The Chief Minister said Satnam Singh and Tejinder Pal Singh, after completing their sentence in Pakistan, were now facing trial in India on sedition charges, which their counsel described as a “classic example of double jeopardy”.

He said the duo’s life would be spent facing one trial after the other for the “same set of facts”.

While the hijacking was condemnable, any attempt to prosecute the two who had already served life term in Pakistan for the crime would amount to a serious travesty of justice, the Chief Minister has said in a statement.

Damdami Taksal opposes fresh trial

Amritsar: Sikh seminary Damdami Taksal on Thursday slammed the Delhi Police for filing a supplementary challan in a court to initiate a fresh trial against Satnam Singh and Tejinder Pal Singh.

Damdami Taksal head Harnam Singh Khalsa asked the Chief Justice of India to intervene in the matter.

Khalsa cited the case of Bholanath Pandey and Devendar Nath Pandey, who had hijacked a plane in 1978 to seek the release of then opposition leader Indira Gandhi and the withdrawal of all cases against her son Sanjay Gandhi.

“The diametrically opposite approach in the two cases reveals double standards. The Congress gave the party ticket to the Pandeys, who went on to win the Assembly elections. In both incidents, the hijackers neither possessed weapons nor harmed passengers. They wanted to register a protest and seek the release of their respective leaders,” he added.

The Tribune – Thirty-six years after plane hijacking, two Sikh militants face trial

Granted two-day bail; have already served life sentence in Pakistan

Satya Prakash

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, 18 July 2017. Thirty-six years after a Srinagar-bound Indian Airlines plane with 111 passengers and six crew members was hijacked and taken to Lahore, two of the five Sikh hijackers appeared before a Delhi court to face sedition charges.

Accused Satnam Singh and Tejinder Pal Singh, who have already served life term in Pakistan for the 1981 crime, appeared before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Jyoti Kler, who granted them two-day interim bail.

After serving their sentence, Tejinder and Satnam had moved to Canada and the US, respectively, and were deported to India in 1998 and 1999. The other hijackers, Gajinder Singh, Jasbir Singh and Karan Singh, are not in India.

Belonging to the Dal Khalsa, the hijackers had demanded the release of then Damdami Taksal head Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who was arrested on September 20 that year in a murder case.

Asking the investigating officer to file a report, the ACMM posted the matter for further hearing on July 20.

On behalf of the two accused, senior advocate Mohit Mathur and advocate Manisha Bhandari contended that the duo had already served life sentence and spent 35 years of their life in litigation.

Terming it a “classic example of double jeopardy”, the lawyers said the duo’s entire life would be spent in facing one trial after the other for the “same set of facts”.

Mathur said they couldn’t be tried again for the same incident under a different name, adding that the accused must be discharged.

Dal Khalsa spokesperson Kanwar Pal Singh, who accompanied the accused, said there had been a travesty of justice in the case as the Indian Government had put them on trial after 36 years on “sedition” charges, ignoring their life imprisonment in Pakistan for the same offence.

However, the prosecution and the court maintained that the principle of double jeopardy did not apply as the offences for which they were tried and convicted in Pakistan were different from the ones mentioned in the present chargesheet.

The Delhi Police had filed a supplementary chargesheet in a court on September 29, 2011, under sedition charges. After taking cognisance of the chargesheet, the court had asked the accused to appear before it on July 18 for a fresh trial in connection with the crime that took place on September 29, 1981.

In May 2017, the Delhi High Court had refused to quash the supplementary chargesheet against the accused and asked them to appear before the trial court.

The Tribune – Finance Minister: No vendetta, but guilty won’t be let off

Tribune News Service

Bathinda, 16 July 2017. Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal said here today that the Congress government would not indulge in vendetta politics, even as he opined that the Badals had looted Punjab more than the Mughals and the British.

Manpreet said the state government was doing an exhaustive audit of major sectors where large-scale corruption was suspected to have taken place during the 10-year rule of the SAD-BJP alliance.

“Whosoever is found guilty would face action as per the law. It is our duty to bring corrupt people to book. But at the same time, there will be no vendetta,” he said.

Asked if the Badals had committed irregularities during their rule, Manpreet said, “Yes, in my view, they have looted Punjab and Punjabis.”

He alleged that the then ruling alliance had sold government property worth over Rs 1,000 crore and spent the money on the Assembly constituencies of the Badals.

The Tribune – Government plans new taxes to wriggle out of crisis

Professional tax, levy on liquor & power

Ruchika M Khanna, Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, 14 July 2017. The cash-strapped Punjab Government will introduce new taxes, recover its dues from big industrial houses who have defaulted on paying loans, and renegotiate the Rs 31,000-crore settlement of the legacy food credit loan, as it takes first steps towards resource mobilisation.

Restructuring of various government departments by bringing their engineering wings under the Public Works Department and increasing the non-tax revenue are the other things being worked out by Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal.

A one-time settlement (OTS) scheme to recover dues from defaulters of the PSIDC, Food and Civil Supplies and the Transport departments will be introduced shortly.

Finance Department sources told The Tribune that they were mulling introduction of professional tax on lawyers and doctors, a levy on liquor and additional electricity duty, increasing the Motor Vehicle Tax (MVT), and entertainment tax to be imposed by the local bodies.

The issue has been discussed in various meetings and most top government functionaries agree that some taxes will have to be introduced.

However, this exercise will be done only after September (end of second quarter of this fiscal), as by then the impact of the GST on the state economy, taxes subsumed and the devolution from the Centre, will be clear.

In the first two months of this fiscal, Punjab is showing a revenue deficit of Rs 676.85 crore and a fiscal deficit of Rs 935.01 crore.

Manpreet Singh, while admitting that there have been discussions on introducing new taxes, however, said he would rather raise resources without putting additional tax burden on the people.

He said he had also started cutting down additional government expenditure and hoped to cut it by about 10 per cent this year.

Interestingly, after having closely examined Rs 31,000 crore legacy food credit settlement account, a team of officials of the Food and Supplies Department were today dispatched to Delhi to renegotiate the deal with the Centre.

Sources said the Union Government was being asked to take over at least Rs 6,000 crore of the debt, which would substantially bring down the state’s burden.

The Tribune – Eight devotees returning from Hemkund Sahib missing

P K Jaiswar, Tribune News Service

Amritsar, 12 July 2017. Eight devotees, including two USA-based NRIs, have gone missing from Hemkund Sahib in Uttarakhand. The devotees who belonged to the Meha township near Amritsar had gone to pay obeisance at the holy shrine on July 1.

Their family members said they had called from Gobind Ghat and told them that they were returning home after paying obeisance at the shrine.

Narinder Singh said his son Kulbir Singh, nephew Jasbir Singh and his brother Kirpal Singh had gone to Hemkund Sahib in a taxi on July 1. They were accompanied by their two USA-based relatives Kewal Singh and Paramjit Singh; besides Varinder Singh and Harpal Singh of Gurdaspur and one more person.

He said on July 6, they received a call from Kulbir who said they were returning home. Their mobile phones were found to be switched off thereafter.

The family members have urged the authorities to help them in tracing them. Shromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) president Kirpal Singh Badungar has written to Uttarakhand Chief Minister T S Rawat, seeking his intervention.

Deputy Commissioner Kamaldeep Singh Sangha said he had asked the local police to contact their counterparts at Uttarakhand.

Sewa Singh, manager of Gurudwara Gobind Ghat (Uttarakhand), while talking over phone said the administration and the police were already on alert and looking for the missing persons.

He said they had already searched the river track but to no avail. “From mobile phone locations, it was revealed they had started their return journey on July 6,” he added.

The Tribune – Iraq action rekindles their hopes

Families of missing workers make efforts to get in touch with Punjabis in Gulf country

Rachna Khaira, Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, 11 Jul 2017. “He must be 44 by now and longing to return home. Though in the past three years, we had lost all hope, the liberation of Mosul by Iraqi forces has given us a new lease of life,” said Amarjit Kaur, wife of Gobinder Singh of Murar village in Kapurthala, who, along with 38 youths, was kidnapped from his factory situated in the heart of the city in June 2014.

Life seems to have taken an optimistic turn for Gurpinder Kaur also as she waits anxiously for the return of her only brother, Manjinder Singh of Amritsar. “All these years, we were assured by the Indian Government that our kin were safe and will return home as soon as the city gets liberated from the ISIS militants.

Now since it has been four days that the city has been freed, what is stopping the government to get them back home safely,” asked Gurpinder hoping to tie all rakhi threads on her brother’s wrist which she had kept with her for the past three years.

On Sunday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived in Mosul to congratulate Iraq’s armed forces on claiming the city from the ISIS. Soon after the declaration was made, family members of the abducted Punjabi youth started making frantic calls to the Ministry of External Affairs to know more.

However, all they were told was that Union Minister of State for External Affairs General V K Singh will travel to Iraq to coordinate with the government there.

While the last three years were hell-like for all these families, repeated assurances by Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj kept their hopes alive.

Meanwhile, families have begun making efforts to get in touch with Indians working there.

“I was told that even though the city has been freed of ISIS militants, things are still messy and it will take at least a week for the situation to improve. While communication lines were resumed in many areas, we have not received any call from any of our kin,” said Gurpinder.

“I am hopeful of seeing my husband again,” said Manjeet Kaur of Chak Des Raj village. Her husband Davinder Singh had gone missing in Iraq.

While these families are trying hard to stick to the belief of seeing their men alive, no news from the other side of the world is testing their patience and hope.

The Tribune – Captain: Badal behind Behbal Kalan firing

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, 8 July 2017. Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh today held former CM and SAD patron Parkash Singh Badal responsible for the Behbal Kalan police firing in the wake of the 2015 Bargari sacrilege incident saying that he was sure the Commission of Inquiry would reveal this truth.

“How can an SP order firing on his own; he was clearly instructed to do so,” Captain said, adding that he had all along maintained that Badal was behind the firing, which led to the death of two persons.

The CM was addressing a gathering at a felicitation function organised by the SAD (Delhi).

Pointing to the spate of sacrilege incidents during Badal’s rule, the CM said the Akali tenure had witnessed 183 such incidents, of which 121 remained unsolved.

“In contrast, of the 13 incidents reported since we took over, 12 have been already solved,” Captain said.

False cases registered under the Badal rule were a matter of concern and the commission set up by his government would identify the culprits and bring them to book, he added.

“More than 1 lakh fake cases had been registered against innocent people by the Akali government,” he said, adding that 28 had been registered against one boy in Ajnala alone.

The CM cited the success of war against drugs as an endorsement of his commitment in bringing the state back on the track of progress.

SAD Delhi chief Paramjit Singh Sarna presented a memento to the CM. Among those present were former Union Minister Preneet Kaur, former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit, Deputy Speaker Ajaib Singh Bhatti and former SGPC secretary and Akali leader Manjit Singh Calcutta.

The Tribune – Referendum hoardings: Five booked for sedition, one held

Jupinderjit Singh, Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, 6 July 2017. The police today booked five activists of Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) on the charge of sedition, as the outfit allegedly put up hoardings in the state announcing “Referendum 2020” for Punjab’s “independence”. One of the accused has been arrested.

The hoardings have either been removed or are in the process of being removed, the police said.

Three of the accused, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun (legal adviser to the SFJ), Jagdeep Singh alias Baba Jagg and Jagjeet Singh, are based in the US. The other accused are Harpunit Singh of Jammu and Gurpreet Singh of Mohali.

Gurpreet has been arrested

Baba Jagg had recently staged a demonstration outside the White House, Washington, when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met US President Donald Trump.

The SFJ and Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh have had run-ins in the recent past. The Chief Minister has accused the outfit of conspiring with Pakistan-based Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to cause trouble in Punjab. The SFJ slapped a defamation case on the CM in Canada, seeking $1 million in compensation.

After filing the defamation suit, Gurpatwant announced a $10,000 reward for serving summons on the Chief Minister.

A police spokesperson said Captain Amarinder ordered strict action against those putting up provocative hoardings that could vitiate the peace of the state.

The police said several provocative posters and hoardings came up at more than 40 sites across the state. The investigation showed that the SFJ’s campaign to put up hoardings, titled “Punjab Independence Referendum 2020”, had been managed by the Baba Hanuman Singh Enterprise Agency hired by New-York-based SFJ through Gurpatwant.

The police further said the investigation was in progress to uncover financial and operational linkages between persons based in India and abroad. The SJF, backed by Khalistani forces, had been trying to destabilise Punjab for the past several months, they said.

The Chief Minister has ruled out any local support for the SJF’s campaign, saying external forces were out to whip up passion to further their vested interests.

SFJ website blocked

The Department of Telecommunications has blocked the website of the US-based Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), accused of trying to wage a war against India by calling for a separate Sikh state.

Probe on

The police probe is on to uncover financial and operational linkages between persons based in India and abroad.

The Tribune – Flashy lights off at Golden Temple (Harmandr Sahib)

SGPC decides to suspend hi-tech LED system after objections from devotees

G S Paul, Tribune News Service

Amritsar, 3 July 2017. The SGPC has suspended the operation of the hi-tech LED system in the Golden Temple (Harmandr Sahib) complex after devotees objected to the flashy lighting.

An SGPC official, preferring anonymity, said pilgrims had pointed out that the optical effects were not in keeping with the sanctity of the shrine.

“The lights were being operated on a trial basis. We will try out other colour patterns. The project is nearing completion. We aim to launch it by July 20,” he said.

Under the Rs 13-crore project, at least 1,700 LED lights have been installed at various locations, including the shrine, Akal Takht, Darshni Deori, bungas and the main entry point through the plaza. It is learnt that the total power load would be less than 10 kilowatt.

The colour effects, frequency and intensity can be varied at the click of a button. The technology has been imported from Germany and Italy.

Chandigarh-based Sikh scholar Ashok Singh Bagrian said the bright colour scheme did not gel with the spiritual ambience of the Golden Temple (Harmandr Sahib). “I saw it during live telecast of Gurbani. The effects should be sober,” he added.

Former SGPC secretary Kulwant Singh said, “This is wasteful expenditure. The religious place is being converted into a tourist destination, which is against Sikh tenets.”

The Tribune – Abohar woman refuses to abort girl child, thrashed

Our Correspondent

Abohar, 2 July 2017. A 25-year-old woman delivered a stillborn on Saturday night at the Abohar Civil Hospital where she had been admitted following the alleged assault by her in-laws. They had been allegedly persuading her to get the foetus aborted.

Brahmadev, a farmer belonging to Jandwala Hanvanta village, told the Khuyiansarwer police today that his daughter Suman was married to Davinder of Banwala village in the neighbouring Sriganganagar district in the year 2013.

Based on an illegal gender determination test, she was allegedly told to go for abortion as she was expecting a girl child. She had given birth to a girl earlier in 2015.

Brahmadev alleged that upset over the harassment, Suman left her in-laws’ home on June 27 but her inlaws chased her and thrashed her at a bus stop in Achadiki village on the Sriganganagar-Abohar highway.

Some villagers rescued her and took her to the Civil Hospital in Abohar on June 28. Suman complained to the police that her in-laws had kicked at her stomach to harm her unborn child.

On Saturday, she delivered a still baby girl. A case has been registered against her husband Davinder, his mother Bimla and father Ranjeet under Sections 316, 323 and 341 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).