Video footage from Patiala, Kapurthala prisons shows she is getting VIP treatment

Hardly a few hours after her conviction and arrest on Friday evening, the former Punjab Cabinet Minister, Jagir Kaur, continued to wield political influence even as a prisoner of law.

Video footage from the Patiala and Kapurthala jails clearly shows that Ms. Kaur — who was convicted of criminal conspiracy and other charges in the case of the mysterious death of her 19-year-old daughter, Harpreet Kaur, in April 2000 and sent to jail — was availing herself of VIP treatment. A CBI special court in Patiala had sentenced her to five years' rigorous imprisonment on counts of forcible abortion, wrongful confinement, abduction and criminal conspiracy. But she was absolved of the charge of murder. Three others were also convicted. Forced to quit as Minister for Rural Water Supply and Sanitation and Defence Services after her arrest, Ms. Kaur was accompanied out of the packed courtroom by police officials.

“It appeared that the police officials were escorting and guarding her from the crowd and media rather than taking her away as a convicted criminal,” a lawyer in Patiala courts told IANS.

She was led into a waiting air-conditioned grey colour Toyota Innova luxury vehicle to be taken to the Patiala Central Jail.

Within hours of her being sent there, her request to be transferred to the Kapurthala central jail, nearly 200 km away, was “promptly” acceded to. Ms. Kaur, who is head of a cash-rich “dera” (sect) at Begowal village, belongs to the district.

Late Friday night, she was driven under police escort, which looked more like a ministerial convoy, in a white colour private air-conditioned Toyota Innova luxury vehicle. In the car, she was accompanied by only one woman police official seated next to her. It was allowed to be driven straight inside the Kapurthala jail complex, where police officials in uniform and jail officials in plainclothes were waiting for her arrival.

To top it all, one official in plainclothes and a uniformed officer touched her feet as she alighted from the car in her trademark white salwar-kameez and a cotton dupatta over the head.

The former Congress legislator, Sukhpal Singh Khaira, whom Ms. Kaur recently defeated in the Assembly election from Bholath in Kapurthala, on Saturday demanded that the police officials who touched her feet be sacked and a probe conducted into the VIP treatment being extended to her. “Video footage shows jail officials, in uniform and civil clothes, shamelessly touching her feet. I understand that she has been extended the facility of a special durbar inside the jail where people can meet her. All this is happening on the directions of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. There should be an inquiry and these officials should be sacked,” Mr. Khaira said here.

Raising questions over shifting Ms. Kaur to the Kapurthala jail, Mr. Khaira said the rules were being openly circumvented, at the behest of the Badal government, to give her VIP treatment. Justice could be done only if she was shifted to a jail outside Punjab and treated like any other convicted criminal.

Ms. Kaur, who is a powerful politician in Punjab and considered close to the Chief Minister, was inducted as Cabinet Minister on March 14. She was the only woman Minister in the Badal government. Being a former SGPC chief twice, the lone woman to head the Sikh body, she has a sizable hold over Sikh religious affairs.

Her daughter died under mysterious circumstances on April 20, 2000 and the body was cremated hastily by the family members. There was no post mortem. The Badal government was in power at that time as well.

Harpreet had angered her mother and other family members by secretly marrying Kamaljit Singh, a youth from Begowal who belonged to a lower caste.

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