Badals were trying to scuttle probe, says Amarinder after CBI returns sacrilege cases’ files to Punjab Police
Documents and files relating to the 2015 sacrilege cases were handed over to the Punjab Police hours before the deadline set by Punjab and Haryana High Court for the CBI to do so was to expire
The CBI has finally handed over to the Punjab Police files relating to the sacrilege cases, which Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday said "clearly exposed" that the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) had been scuttling the process "to prevent their complicity in the cases from being exposed".
The documents and files relating to the cases were handed over to the Punjab Police hours before the deadline set by Punjab and Haryana High Court for the CBI to do so was to expire.
The CBI has taken the step within months of the Akalis walking out of its alliance with the NDA.
The Director, Bureau of Investigation, had written to the Director, CBI, on January 18, 2021 to return the entire record, including evidence gathered in cases transferred to CBI on November 2, 2015, to Punjab Police without any further delay after withdrawal of investigation of the sacrilege cases from the CBI.
Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh termed the development as a victory for the state government and an endorsement of its stand that the CBI had, all these months, been trying to scuttle the investigation by the Special Investigative Team (SIT) of Punjab Police at the behest of SAD, which was part of the ruling NDA at the Centre till September 2020.
“It is clear now that Harsimrat Badal, as Union minister, had been pressurising the central agency to obstruct the SIT probe by refusing to hand over the case files as she knew that her party’s role in the entire affair would be exposed once the police take the investigation to its logical conclusion,” said Capt. Amarinder Singh.
SAD’s complicity in the 2015 cases and its subsequent efforts to scuttle a fair and free probe would now be exposed with the completion of the SIT probe, he said, asserting that all those found guilty would be identified and punished under the law. Nobody will be spared, irrespective of their political affiliation or position, he declared.
Claiming that his government had withdrawn consent to CBI to probe the cases as far back as in 2018, after the Vidhan Sabha unanimously resolved to do so, the Chief Minister said the SIT was also constituted then to take over the investigation. The central agency had, for more than two years, been persistently refusing to hand the case files back to the state, he said, adding that the agency, which had earlier filed a closure report in the matter, went on to constitute a new investigative team in September 2019 with the clear and obvious aim of preventing the state government from conducting its own impartial, fair and speedy probe.
The shocking part, according to the Chief Minister, was that the CBI adamantly refused to hand over the case diaries even after the Punjab & Haryana High Court, in January 2019, upheld the state government’s decision, and again, in February 2020, when the Supreme Court dismissed CBI’s appeal challenging the HC judgement.
“Why else would CBI have behaved in this manner had it not been under political pressure from the Akalis, who clearly did not want the probe to be completed,” he asked, adding that SAD’s acts of omission and commission would now be exposed with the SIT no longer obstructed due to the absence of the case files.
The incidents of sacrilege occurred between June to October 2015 following theft of the sacred Guru Granth Sahib from a gurudwara in Burj Jawaharsinghwala, Faridkot and discovery of torn pages from the holy book in Bargari, Faridkot. They caused widespread discontent and outrage amongst members of the Sikh community. Large-scale protests and agitations had broken out in October 2015. Retaliatory action taken by the police led to injuries and death of two persons.
In 2015, the Akali Dal Government transferred investigation of the sacrilege incidents to the CBI. A commission headed by Justice Zora Singh (Retd.) was appointed to inquire into the incidents of sacrilege and police action in the protests, which submitted a report to the government in 2016.
After the Congress government came to power in 2017, it found the report inconclusive, and appointed a fresh Commission of Inquiry, headed by Justice Ranjit Singh (Retd.), who submitted a report in 2018.