Human Rights

Who killed Satnam Singh?

Gurpreet Singh, Fatehgarh Sahib

On the orders of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Fatehgarh Sahib police has registered a case against a police party that allegedly killed a youth, Satnam Singh, a resident of village Mohadian in a fake encounter on August 9, 1988.

Justice S.K. Mittal directed Fatehgarh Sahib SSP to register a criminal case for the alleged offence and to hand over the investigation of the case to an officer at a rank higher than that of IPS officer. The court also directed the State to pay Rs 1.50 lakh as interim compensation to the petitioner Prem Singh, Satnam’s father, within a period of three months. The court stated: "It is made clear that is will be open for the State of Punjab to recover the said amount of compensation from the guilty police officials."

The court also observed that the since the matter pertained to the year 1988, the investigation should be completed expeditiously.

After receiving the court judgment, Fatehgarh Sahib SSP sent an official note along with the court judgment to the District Attorney (DA) to seek his opinion. The DA opined that the SSP should comply with the court order and register a fresh case against all the accused. He also advised that the compensation be paid to the concerned party within the stipulated period. A case was subsequently registered against the police party, including the then Sirhind CIA in charge, Inspector Sher Singh (now retired), and ASI Harbans Singh. However, the current Fatehgarh Sahib SSP Varinder Kumar was, himself, investigating the case.

When Prem Singh, Satnam Singh’s father, first sent a letter to the Supreme Court in April 12, 1995; the apex court treated the letter as writ petition under article 32 of the Constitution of India and disposed of it on December, 1, 1995 after passing the orders that the matter under Article 226 of the Constitution be transferred to Punjab and Haryana High Court for a hearing. Thereupon the matter was registered by the High Court and notice was issued to the State.

In its reply filed by the police it was alleged that the deceased, Satnam Singh, was a terrorist and more than seven cases were registered and pending against him. It was stated by the police that Satnam Singh was not arrested on August 8,1988 by Sirhind police and, in fact, he was killed in an encounter on August 9, 1988 on G.T. Road near village Madhopur. In this regard, an FIR was registered on August 9, 1988 under sections 307,34 of the IPC and 25 Arms Act, 3/4 TADA(P) at the Sirhind police station. As per the police, after conducting the post mortem examination of Satnam Singh's body, it was handed over to his father, Prem Singh, at which time neither Prem Singh nor any other person raised any objection about the death.

On September 19, 1996, the High Court, after hearing counsel for the parties and considering the replies filed by the State, directed the senior most Additional Session Judge, Fatehgarh Sahib, to make an inquiry into the allegations contained in the complaint and the reply filed by the opposite party, and to submit his report within six months. In compliance to the order, the Judge held an inquiry in which he came to the conclusion that Satnam Singh was killed on August 9, 1988 in an encounter on GT Road with the police on one side and Satnam Singh and others on the other side. Both sides participated, and it was not a fake encounter.

On April 24, 2001, the matter was again argued by the High Court, and after hearing both the parties, the court again remanded the matter to District and Session Judge, Fatehgarh Sahib, for further inquiry. He was directed to give a definitive finding as to whether Satnam Singh died of being shot at close range. In compliance to the order, the Judge submitted his report on August 5, 2002. Referencing details from the post mortem report, the judge concluded that Satnam Singh died of a shot fired at a very close range. This was also the testimony of Surjit Kaur, mother of the deceased, who was a witness to the fake encounter and murder of her son more than seventeen years ago.

After receiving the report from District and Session Judge, Fatehgarh Sahib, the high court sent a notice to all persons who, as per the contents of FIR dated August 9, 1988, took part in the operation in which Satnam Singh was killed. Thereupon some of the police officials who were present in the encounter filed a reply in the shape of objections, but lawyer Navkiran Singh, who was appointed as amicus, curried in this case. He submitted before the high court that the stand taken by the police in the FIR was supported neither by medical evidence nor by the Fatehgarh Sahib court report. Navkiran Singh claimed that guilt was established from the postmortem report as well as the second inquiry conducted by District and Session Judge, Fatehgarh Sahib, that Satnam Singh was killed by a gun/pistol shot fired at very close range.

The High Court judge mentioned in his judgment that the allegations of the petitioner on the killing of his son in a fake encounter be investigated after the case was registered. He directed the Fatehgarh Sahib SSP to register a criminal case for the alleged offence and to hand over the investigation of the case to an officer higher than the rank of IPS officer.

Satnam Singh's Mother: “Truth Has Preailed At Last”

Commenting on the High Court’s orders to register a criminal case against certain police officers, seventy-year-old Surjit Kaur, mother of Satnam Singh, said that truth has prevailed at last after 17 years. She had always said that her son was innocent, and killed by the police in a fake encounter. She told SikhNN that her son studied up to seventh grade at Mata Gujri Senior Secondary School, Fatehgarh Sahib, and later took training from a Khanna-based doctor. Satnam started his first clinic at village Panjkoha and later moved to village Hira of district Ludhiana.

Surjit Kaur maintained that the police would harass her and other family members. She said she was first picked up by Kurukhestra police and then handed over to Sirhind police as they wanted to know the whereabouts of Satnam Singh, but she knew nothing. She said the police tortured her for two months and electrocuted her and her husband. She alleged that the police even forced her to name other youths in militant, but she did not name anyone. She said she could name innocent persons. Kaur further said that the police destroyed her home and took her four cattle.

Satnam Singh ran away from home in fear of the police. The police were regularly torturing the family to find his whereabouts. Satnam Singh moved his clinic from village Panjkoha to Hira, the police turned their attention to torturing his family and his in-laws. Finally, after torturing Satnam’s mother-in-law, she told the police his whereabouts. The police picked him up while he was sleeping.

After Satnam Singh’s killing, his family approached Simranjit Singh of Shiromani Akali Dal who helped the family at first. But later, he requested the family to withdraw case for money. The family said they did not want money but justice.

Surjit Kaur said that initially her husband pursued the case, but his whereabouts had been unknown for last six years. Prem Singh regularly visited Gurdwara Jyoti Swaroop to pay obeisance and one day he had gone to pay obeisance but never returned. She suspected that because Prem Singh was pursuing the case, the police might have killed him. Kaur said police tortured Prem Singh so much that he sometimes lost his balance. After Prem Singh’s disappearance, she pursued the case in the courts herself.

It was very difficult for Kaur to pursue the case, as the family had no money. She receives Rs 200 every six months as old age pension from the state government. Kaur said the family was not in any condition to bear the bus fare to reach her lawyer Navkiran Singh in Chandigarh. She was grateful to Singh who contested her case pro bono. She said that several times Navkiran Singh gave money from his own pocket for her to return to her village. Surjit Kaur’s home is in a dilapidated condition and she lives in fear.

Satnam Singh was married to Baljit Kaur, they had two children. After Satnam’s death, Baljit refused to re-marry. She lives with her children, her father and brothers in Ludhiana. Over the past seventeen years, she visited her in-laws’ house once.

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