India, New Delhi: Yesterday, a special CBI court here sentenced 47 policemen to life imprisonment for killing 11 Sikh men in three fake encounters in a single night in Pilibhit district in 1991. The body of one victim could not be recovered. In 38 policemen who are in judicial custody, 13 are still in the police force and currently posted in different organisations of the police department.
“Special Judge Lallu Singh Monday sentenced 47 policemen to life imprisonment for the death of 11 persons. The court also directed to give Rs 14 lakh each to the victim’s family from the fines collected from the convicts. The 38 policemen who appeared before the court today have been sent to jail. Warrants are issued against nine others,” said .
The court observed that the decision of dividing the victims into three groups, killing them in three different police station areas of Pilibhit and making the incident look like an encounter could not be taken solely by the convicts. It said that police officers who were holding important posts must be behind the incident, but the CBI kept them away from the investigation.
The court also observed that the investigating officer of the CBI was not fully free and had to regularly take directions and advice from his senior officers. While acting on their directions, several persons, who should have been accused, were set free by the investigating officers. In this case also, important persons who were part of conspiracy could not be made accused, it said. The convicts and their family members protested outside the courtroom against the judgment. “We are not satisfied with the judgment. The accused should be given death sentence. We will file an appeal,” said Balvinder Jeet Kaur, whose husband Baljeet Singh died in the encounter. Most of the 11 victims were from Gurdaspur in Punjab. Many of their families family reached Lucknow from Gurdaspur Monday.
On Friday, when the court held the 47 policemen guilty, the 20 policemen who had then appeared before the court were immediately taken into custody. Warrants were issued against the other accused. On Monday, 18 other policemen surrendered in court. Defence lawyer ZA Khan said they would file an appeal against the judgment in the high court. According to the prosecution, the case dates back to 1991, when the victims and their family members were returning from a pilgrimage in a bus. On July 12, a police team stopped the vehicle at Kachlapul ghat. Eleven Sikh men were allegedly dragged out of the vehicle. The other passengers, including women and children, were taken to a gurdwara in Pilibhit while the men were made to sit in another vehicle.
Late in the evening, additional forces joined the police team and they allegedly divided the Sikh men into three groups. On the night of July 12, the policemen gunned down the Sikh men in three encounters in three different areas in Pilibhit. The police then claimed that these men had criminal cases against them and claimed to have recovered arms and ammunition from their possession. The CBI probe found that the police got the autopsy done on 10 of the bodies and got them cremated the same day. One body could not be found. The CBI filed a chargesheet against 57 policemen. Ten of them died in the course of trial.