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[3 Decade Old Multani Murder Case] 'P&H HC Dismisses Anticipatory Bail Plea of Punjab Ex DGP Sumedh Singh Saini [Read Order]

Sparsh Upadhyay
9 Sep 2020 11:20 AM GMT
[3 Decade Old Multani Murder Case] P&H HC Dismisses Anticipatory Bail Plea of Punjab Ex DGP Sumedh Singh Saini [Read Order]

The Punjab & Haryana High Court on Tuesday (08th September) dismissed the Anticipatory bail application (filed under S. 438 of CrPC) of Punjab's former Director General of Police (DGP) Sumedh Singh Saini in the three-decade-old Multani kidnapping and murder case.The Single Bench of Justice Fateh Deep Singh was hearing the Anticipatory Bail Application of the Petitioner Sumedh Singh...

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The Punjab & Haryana High Court on Tuesday (08th September) dismissed the Anticipatory bail application (filed under S. 438 of CrPC) of Punjab's former Director General of Police (DGP) Sumedh Singh Saini in the three-decade-old Multani kidnapping and murder case.

The Single Bench of Justice Fateh Deep Singh was hearing the Anticipatory Bail Application of the Petitioner Sumedh Singh Saini, wherein the allegations against him and others came from present complainant Palwinder Singh Multani son of Sh. Darshan Singh Multani, IAS (now deceased) and brother of Balwant Singh Multani.

The case against the Petitioner (Sumedh Singh Saini)

The case has been registered against Saini under sections 364 (kidnapping or abducting in order to murder), 201 (causing the disappearance of evidence of offence), 344 (wrongful confinement), 330 (voluntarily causes hurt), 219 and 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy) [Section 302 IPC added subsequently] of the Indian Penal Code at Mataur police station in Mohali.

It has been alleged that Balwant Singh Multani (hereinafter referred to as 'the deceased') was killed in State-managed elimination around the month of December 1991.

Allegedly, during the tenure of the petitioner (Sumedh Singh Saini) as SSP, Chandigarh on the early morning of 11.12.1991 the police of Chandigarh swooped upon the residence of the deceased and took him away forcibly and illegally without assigning any reason.

In fact, as alleged by the Complainant, Saini and other police officials wanted to know the whereabouts of one Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar who happened to be a relative of the deceased.

The accused in this case took the deceased (along with other persons who were taken into custody subsequently) to CIA Staff, Sector 11, Chandigarh and they were kept in illegal custody of SI Satbir Singh, who was being instructed from time to time by the petitioner herein.

Allegedly, it was during the course of their illegal detention, the deceased (Multani) was given third-degree treatment by the accused.

On account of police excesses, the deceased became unwell and on 13.12.1991 an FIR No.440 of 1991 under Sections 212, 216 IPC; Section 25 of the Arms Act, and Sections 3 and 5 of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987 was registered against him

He was shown to be an accused in the said case and hence arrested on false allegations by SI Har Sahai Sharma, In-charge of Police Station, Sector 17, Chandigarh.

It was during the police torture, Balwant Singh Multani succumbed to the ghastly third-degree treatment of the police. Later on, in a pre-planned manner, the deceased was shown to have been declared as a proclaimed offender.

Arguments put forth

The Arguments of the Petitioner - The counsel drew at length through the various events of the past to bring about the causes of this enmity of the present regime with the petitioner.

It was submitted that earlier Hon'ble the Supreme Court of India in Criminal Appeals No.753-755 of 2009 titled 'State of Punjab v. Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar & others etc.' decided on 07.12.2011, had passed orders declaring the proceedings to be a nullity and the FIR so registered by the CBI stood quashed.

It was sought to be impressed upon the Court that with the malicious addition of offence under Section 302 IPC, the petitioner was certainly entitled to grant of anticipatory bail and his custody in the additional offence is not solicited for.

[NOTE: On August 21, a Mohali court had allowed the Punjab police to add a murder charge against Saini in this case.]

It was with much force the Counsel stressed that it is after an inordinate delay of almost 29 years the State has woken up from its slumber to prosecute the petitioner for a stale case which does not sustain in the eyes of law.

It was also argued that at no point of time there has been misuse of concession of anticipatory bail so granted to the petitioner.

The Counsel contended that being a senior Ex-functionary of the Police, having participated in bringing the State of Punjab to normalcy, needs to be compassionately dealt with and sought a grant of bail.

The Arguments of the State - The Counsels for the respondent/State at the very onset argued that the petitioner happened to be a blue-eyed police official with political patronage and have sought to meander through various episodes during his tenure in the police force regarding innumerable police encounters/State-managed eliminations.

A Judgment of the P&H HC in 'Vinod Kumar vs. The State of Punjab and others' 1996 (1) PLR 325 was also cited to impress upon the Court that the petitioner had even gone to the extent of overawing the Courts.

Much stress was laid on the evidence that has come up subsequent to the bail order dated 11.05.2020 of learned Additional Sessions Judge, SAS Nagar Mohali, submitting that former police officials SI Jagir Singh, SI Kuldip Singh and SI Har Sahai Sharma have become the approvers.

Allegedly, they have admitted how, while in police custody Balwant Singh Multani was tortured and eliminated and the manner in which they had produced an accused impersonating as Balwant Singh Multani (the deceased) when it was apparent that he had already been put to death much prior thereto and had only secured the remand to escape being prosecuted in this elimination.

It was also argued that crimes do not die with the efflux of time and can be revived at any point of time as and when evidence surfaces.

Lastly, it was contended that custodial interrogation of the petitioner was very much essential to unearth the manner in which the deceased Balwant Singh Multani was interrogated, tortured and eliminated.

Court's Observation

While taking into consideration the Apex Court's order in State of Punjab v. Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar & others (supra), the High Court said that it was evident that this order does not debar the complainant to have fresh recourse to his aggrievement and therefore, this argument on behalf of the petitioner failed to impress the Court.

The Court further stated,

"A Perusal of the records is in itself illustrative how the deceased having been illegally apprehended within the jurisdiction of District Mohali, at no point of time over this long period, was ever produced before the Judicial Magistrate and it was only before an Executive Magistrate in another District in Gurdaspur he is alleged to have been produced on 14.12.1991 before the SDM from where he is stated to have escaped from huge posse of police and paramilitary forces; rather rightly strengthens the belief of the complainant and a rationale person that it was with a preconceived plan the entire gamut was played to facilitate easy elimination of Balwant Singh Multani." (emphasis supplied)

The court further observed,

"Prior thereto the police admits being in custody of the deceased and therefore a heavy onus lay on it to remove this needle of suspicion which it has not been prima-facie able to succeed."

The court acknowledged the fact that though initially, the petitioner (Sumedh Singh Saini) was allowed anticipatory bail vide orders dated 11.05.2020 when the investigations were at the nascent stage but subsequently, on account of the addition of offences, the Court of learned Additional Sessions Judge, SAS Nagar (Mohali) vide orders dated 10.07.2020 had dismissed the anticipatory bail of the petitioner "in view of the evidence collected and which has prompted the petitioner to come up and knock at the doors of this Court."

Most importantly, the court remarked,

"A million-dollar question arises whether under the garb of interim bail/anticipatory bail, the hands of the the investigating agency can be tied so as to frustrate its endeavours to unearth the truth and reach into the circumstances unfolding into the manner of the crime. If it would have been the intention of the legislature then no crime in this world could have been detected and the culprits would have gone scot-free."

The court was of the view that in such nature of crime the commission is in utmost secrecy and coming across witnesses is a herculean task in itself as it is more based on circumstances and common human experiences which were experienced in abundance by this State in those dark days.

The court further noted,

"Since it is at this juncture, the investigating agency has woken up and gathered the courage to investigate its own officer and therefore, the vital pieces of evidence which would come handy in leading to various leads would inch towards unravelling this puzzle which too has baffled the citizenry who are looking upon the justice system as a last resort to get justice."

Lastly, the Court while dismissing the instant bail application remarked,

"There being every likelihood of petitioner stifling fair investigations and trial and for which custodial interrogation of the petitioner is very much essential to piece together this unfortunate incident, necessitates dismissal of the instant bail application."

Case Details:

Case Title: Sumedh Singh Saini v. State of Punjab

Case No.: CRM-M No.26304 of 2020

Quorum: Justice Fateh Deep Singh

Appearance: Senior Advocate A.P.S. Deol, Advocate Himmat S. Deol (For the Petitioner); Senior Advocate Siddharth Luthra, with Senior Advocate Harin P. Raval, assisted by Advocates Karan Bharihoke, Sheezan Hashmi, Anmol Kheta; along with Special Public Prosecutor Sartej Singh Narula, Dy. Advocate General, Punjab Anusha Nagarajan, Assistant Advocate General, Punjab Diya Sodhi, Dy. Advocate General, Punjab Jagmohan Ghuman (for the respondent/State).

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