Punjab Congress chief and former State Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has demanded removal of the State’s Director-General of Police Sumedh Singh Saini following leakage of a letter from a Supreme Court judge that suggested the police officer had falsely accused High Court judges of corruption.
“This was clear intimidation of the judiciary,” said Capt. Amarinder Singh.
Justice Tirath Singh Thakur's letter, first reported by The Hindu this past Tuesday, suggests that Mr. Saini fabricated wiretap evidence against some judges of the Punjab & Haryana High Court because one of them had ordered a CBI inquiry against him.
Capt. Amarinder Singh alleged that the wiretaps were designed to embarrass retired High Court judge Mahtab Singh Gill, who had ordered CBI probe against the police officer.
In 2007, Justice Gill dismissed an appeal by the Chandigarh Police against acquittal of three suspected Khalistani terrorists accused of engineering a sensational bomb attack on Mr. Saini in August 1991 when he was the SSP of Chandigarh. Two policemen had died in the attack and 18 others including Mr Saini were injured. He later admitted applications by a Khalistani terrorist on death row for a bomb attack and the father of another suspected terrorist and directed the CBI to investigate complaints that he was involved in extra judicial killings.
The matter reached the Supreme Court, where the Punjab Government pleaded that Justice Gill ought to have recused himself from the matter since Mr. Saini had earlier conducted an enquiry into the infamous jobs for cash scandal in 2002 against him on the directions of Justice A.B. Saharya, the then Chief Justice of the High Court.
Last December, a Bench of Justices B. S. Chauhan and A. K. Patnaik passed severe strictures against Justice Gill, saying: “The path charted by the High Court inevitably reflects a biased approach.”
“It was a misplaced sympathy for a cause that can be termed as being inconsistent to the legal framework,” the Bench added.
“The High Court,” Justices Chauhan and Patnaik said, was swayed away by considerations that are legally impermissible and unsustainable.”
The CBI investigation was quashed. These strong observations created ripples in Punjab’s legal circles.
Even as these proceedings were under way, Mr. Saini — then heading the Punjab Vigilance Bureau — submitted a report in 2008 to the Punjab & Haryana High Court Chief Justice alleging that some High Court judges were engaged in corrupt activities. The report was based on wiretaps of two persons. One of the judges whose name figures in the report is Justice Gill.
Mr. Saini, a highly-decorated police officer who played a key role in fighting Khalistan terrorists, also had a run-in earlier with Justice Gill. In May 2002, Mr. Saini, who was then the Inspector-General of Police in charge of Intelligence, was tasked on the instructions of the then Chief Justice Saharya to inquire into allegations that some sitting judges of the High Court were involved in seeking jobs for their kin from the Chairman of the Punjab Public Service Commission, Ravi Sidhu.
Justice Saharya withdrew work from three judges, one of whom was Justice Gill. He was not only indicted for influencing the selection of two candidates but also assuring “judicial relief” to his childhood friend Sidhu. Justice Saharya also noted that “aspersions that investigation was being misdirected to cover up his [Justice Gill’s] involvement in the recruitment racket cannot be brushed aside.”
Two days before Justice Saharya withdrew work from the judges, however, the entire investigating team of the Punjab Police was transferred out. Justice Gill was eventually let off with a warning. Mr. Sidhu was sentenced for his role in the Punjab Public Service Commission scam.
Disclosure: Ravi Sidhu, referred to in this report, was a member of the editorial staff of The Hindu