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Sumedh Singh Saini | A former top cop on the run

A decorated former police chief who played a key role in bringing normalcy back to Punjab after the Khalistan militancy, Sumedh Singh Saini is now in the news for all the wrong reasons. Mr. Saini, a 1982-batch Indian Police Service officer, is on the run, with the police continuing to conduct raids across States to nab him. He is facing arrest for the abduction and murder of a man in 1991.

Mr. Saini became the youngest DGP in the country at the age of 54, when he was appointed to the coveted post in 2012, during the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janta Party government. He was shifted from his office in 2015, in the aftermath of a police firing incident, in which two persons were killed at Behbal Kalan of Faridkot district, which followed the sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib at Bargari. After 36 years of service, he retired in 2018.

Mr. Saini was said to enjoy the full confidence of K.P.S. Gill, a former DGP of Punjab, who has been credited with bringing the Punjab insurgency under control. Mr. Saini took active part in counter-terrorism and anti-insurgency operations and was awarded the President’s Police Medal for gallantry and The Wound Medal (Parakram medal).

Later, Mr. Saini was involved in anti-corruption drives when he served as the head of Punjab’s Vigilance Bureau between 2007 and 2012.

Mr. Saini’s critics, however, accuse him of indulging in police excesses and human rights violations. They say he was a police officer with political patronage and had sought to meander through various episodes of rights violations and encounters during his tenure in the force. Many accuse him of even going to the extent of overawing the courts.

Mr. Saini served as Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) at Batala, Bathinda, Ludhiana, Ferozepur, Rupnagar and Chandigarh during his service. It was in 1991 after a terrorist attack on Mr. Saini, in which he suffered injuries, while three policemen were killed, Balwant Singh Multani, an employee at Chandigarh Industrial and Tourism Corporation, was allegedly picked up by the police from his residence in Mohali.

The three-decade old case has now come back to haunt Mr. Saini, who, according to the police, has ‘absconded’, leaving behind the Z plus security allotted to him.

He has now approached the Supreme Court for an anticipatory bail after the Punjab and Haryana High Court dismissed his anticipatory bail plea. The court also dismissed his petition, seeking to quash the FIR, and issued directions to declare the subsequent investigation against him by the Punjab police in the case as “non est”.

Murder charge

In May this year, on the basis of a fresh application by the victim’s (Balwant Singh Multani) brother, Palwinder Singh Multani, the former DGP and six other accused were booked for alleged kidnapping and wrongful confinement, among other charges, under the Indian Penal Code. Later, murder charge under Section 302 was added to the FIR, after two co-accused turned approvers, and in their statement, claimed to be witnesses to the torture meted out to Balwant Singh Multani, under the custody of Mr. Saini, who was then the SSP of Chandigarh.

CBI case

After a preliminary inquiry surrounding the case had been conducted under the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered an FIR against Mr. Saini and others in 2008.

However, the High Court’s order was challenged in the Supreme Court, which set aside the former’s orders on the ground that the Bench of the High Court lacked jurisdiction to deal with the case and consequently, the FIR was quashed. The Supreme Court, however, had given the victim’s family the liberty to take recourse to fresh proceedings.

With controversies surrounding him, a case of alleged kidnapping of three Ludhiana men in 1994 is still pending against Mr. Saini at Delhi’s special CBI court. In 2007, during the SAD-BJP government, Mr. Saini was heading the State’s Vigilance, when Captain Amarinder Singh was booked for corruption in Ludhiana’s City Centre scam. Captain Singh, currently the Chief Minister of Punjab, was acquitted in the case in 2019.

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Printable version | Sep 27, 2020 3:37:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/sumedh-singh-saini-a-former-top-cop-on-the-run/article32589647.ece

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