Libertatem Magazine

Punjab and Haryana High Court Raps the Police Officials in Bathinda Rape Case for Constituting a Whole Male Members’ SIT Team

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Facts of the Case

In the present case, the Petitioner, in this case, was a 38-year-old widow, whose son of 19-20 years old was picked up by the CIA police officials. Further, it was mentioned that even though Petitioner’s son was suffering/convalescing from a Covid-19 infection at his residence, he was picked up by CIA police officials in broad daylight on 06.05.2021 at 10.00 a.m., as the Petitioner had declined to succumb to the sexual favour sought from her. Furthermore, it was alleged that a false fire FIR was registered against her son. This FIR was registered under NDPS Act by planting contraband on him so as to arm-twist the Petitioner. And eventually, under duress to get her son released, she was yielded to the sexual demands of the CIA staff. The Petitioner hence filed present Petition against the CIA officials of Punjab.  

Petitioner’s Arguments 

Mr Gurpreet Singh Bhasin, Learned Counsel of the Petitioner contended that the Petitioner was yielded to the sexual demands of the CIA staff, under duress so as to get her son released. Furthermore, to substantiate her allegations the Petitioner had also appended a pen drive (Annexure P-3). This pen drive contained the recorded conversations between the Petitioner and Respondent No.5 (an ASI) as well as certain live video clippings in support of her rape allegations. Further, the Learned Counsel for the Petitioner urged that the Petitioner was fearful that the police officials who were involved in the case, may try to bodily harm her and tamper with the evidence and/or destroy the same. 

Respondent’s Arguments

On the other hand, the Learned Counsel of the State contended that the facts of the case are only fictitious and not a reality. Further, the Counsel argued that this case was in fact, a honey trap that was laid down by the Petitioner. And this honey trap, later on, boomeranged on the Petitioner herself. Further, the Learned Counsel also submitted that vide order dated 13.05.2021, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) was also constituted. And the members of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) were Sh. Surinder Pal Singh, Superintendent of Police, (Headquarter) Bathinda, Sh. Paramjeet Singh, Deputy Superintendent of Police (D) Bathinda and Sh. Gurmeet Singh, Station House Officer, Bathinda Cantt. 

Court’s Observations

In this case, the Bench of Justice Arun Monga firstly observed that the allegations and factual averments contained in the present petition were so grisly and frightful, that one can only hope that the facts were only fictitious as also contended by the State Counsel. Further, while responding to the honey trap contention made by the State Counsel, the Court observed that if this case was not a honey trap laid by the Petitioner herself, then it was a case which reflected the sordid state of affairs in Punjab Police, particularly in the Crime Investigation Agency (CIA) at Bathinda. Moreover, it was further specified that the very protectors/enforcers of law and order had turned into predators, making a young 38 years old widow mother victim of their lust, as had been more elaborately stated in the petition. Further, the Court refrained to give the narrative thereof to maintain and respect the privacy of the Petitioner. In fact, it was stated that given the nature of allegations and the controversy involved herein, the identity of the Petitioner needed to be kept secret. So accordingly, the Registry should take appropriate steps to delete her name from the memo of parties in the Petition. And instead, wherever it is possible to do, replace the name of the Petitioner with Madam `X’ at the appropriate places in the petition. Further, while acknowledging the live video clippings and recorded conversations which were contained in the pen- drive, the Court observed though it was a heinous crime as it was being termed as a honey trap by the Defence, the truth will only unfold in time once it is properly investigated, in accordance with the law. and thereby, directed to take the same shreds of evidence from the Petitioner’s cell phone and treat them as a part of case property. 

Further, while observing the SIT team formed by the officials, the Court stated that it was rather intriguing, given the nature of the sensitive investigation, that no lady police officer was involved, which was even otherwise the requirement of law in cases of this kind. To say the least, it was highly deplorable to see the insensitiveness with which the district police officials had acted, in constituting the SIT having all male members. And thus, directed to constitute a new SIT team that only had women members.

Furthermore, on the concern showed by the Petitioner’s Counsel on her security, the Court directed the State Counsel to seek instructions as to what steps so far were taken under the “Witness Protection Scheme, 2018” as per judgment rendered by Hon’ble the Apex Court in Mahesh Chawla and others vs Union of India. 

Court’s Decision 

Following the above observations, it was decided by the Court to firstly replace the name of Petitioner with “Madam X” wherever possible in the petition. Further, the Court directed the Respondent No.1-State of Punjab through its Director General of Police to constitute a new SIT which would be headed by Ms Gurpreet Deo, Additional Director General of Police, the other two members who would assist her would be Ms D. Sudarvizhi, Senior Superintendent of Police Sri Mukatsar Sahib and Ms Prabhjot Kaur, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Budhlada, Mansa. Further, Ms Prabhjot Kaur, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Budhlada Mansa would be the Investigating Officer and would proceed under the administrative supervision of Senior Superintendent of Police, Sri Muktsar Sahib. The overall superintendence and control of the SIT would be vested with the Chairperson Ms Gurpreet Deo, Additional Director General of Police. Further, it was directed that the investigation would be carried out by the aforesaid lady IO/police officer in both the cases i.e. FIR No.68 dated 12.05.2021 registered under Section 376 IPC and FIR No.40 dated 06.05.2021 registered under Section 18(b) of the NDPS Act, 1985 at Police Station Cantt, District Bathinda. 

Further, Learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, Bathinda was directed to get the FSL report concerning the audio/video recordings. Furthermore, the Court directed the State Counsel to seek information regarding all the steps taken and also to seek instructions about the period within which the investigation shall be completed. Also, it was directed that Learned State counsel shall seek instructions as to the steps taken so far to proceed against the Accused, in criminal proceedings arising out of both the FIRs, as well as departmental action taken, if any. Instructions are to be sought on or before the next date of hearing i.e., 27.05.2021.

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