Botched-up probe into Punjab sacrilege incidents led to delay in justice: Sidhu

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Chandigarh, Apr 16 (PTI) Appearing to target his own government in Punjab, Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu on Friday alleged that a botched-up probe into the Bargari sacrilege incidents led to a delay in justice.

Another senior Congress leader Partap Singh Bajwa too sounded critical on the issue, saying the recent verdict of the high court in the case is a “monumental failure of the advocate general and his office”.

Following the high court ruling, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has expressed confidence in the team of his law officers.

Opposition SAD, on the other hand, said the “conspiracy hatched by the Congress government to defame the party had been exposed with the quashing of the investigation carried out by the state in the Kotkapura police firing case”.

SAD spokesman Daljit Singh Cheema said, “It has been proved conclusively that the Congress party had misused the issue for petty political gains.” Bajwa, who is a known detractor of the Punjab chief minister, demanded that a new SIT be set up to ensure justice for the victims at the earliest.

Reiterating his recent demand, Sidhu said the Punjab police's SIT probe report into the 2015 firings at people protesting in Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan against incidents of desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib should be made public.

Sidhu had raised the demand a few days ago during his visit to Gurdwara Burj Jawahar Singh Wala in Faridkot district, from where a copy of the Sikh holy book was stolen in 2015, leading to protests.

The Amritsar East MLA had raised the demand days after the Punjab and Haryana High Court reportedly quashed the probe report by the Special Investigation Team (SIT), headed by senior IPS officer Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh, and asked the state government to set up a new SIT without Singh.

Referring to the Justice (Retd) Ranjit Singh Commission of Inquiry, which was earlier set up by the Congress government to probe into the incidents, Sidhu, a former Punjab minister, in an interaction with reporters in Patiala on Friday, had said the culprits were named and the cognizable offences against them were spelled out.

'When the crime and those involved in it have been identified, then why no action? Why no chargesheet?,' he asked, apparently targeting his own government.

'What was the intent that you did not lay a solid foundation of the case? The FIR is the foundation of any case, any lawyer will tell you. But here, the foundation was weak and everything was in the air. When there is no foundation, you may hire top lawyers, what can they do? How will you build the case?' Sidhu asked.

He said his fight is against the system 'which is failing us. My fight is not personal'.

Referring to the incidents of sacrilege, he further said, 'People of Punjab even today are looking for justice and the truth is that they have lost hope.' Bajwa alleged that the Advocate General and his team were unable to defend the interests of the state despite professional and efficient investigation done by Kunwar Vijay and the SIT team.

Bajwa rejected the option being considered by the chief minister to challenge the verdict before the Supreme Court, saying in a tweet that “it is obvious that even if a stay is granted on the impugned order of the high court, the final decision will take time”.

He said he supports another option available in the interim which is that government should set up a new SIT and as material collected during investigation is already available, it should complete the probe within one month and file challans against the culprits at the earliest.

“About the loss of face of the government due to the failure of the advocate general, it is better to rectify the mistake now rather than to try and justify the same consequences again,” he said.

Sidhu said the 2017 Punjab Assembly polls were dominated by two big issues -- drugs and the incidents of sacrilege.

He said the Congress government came to power promising action on these two key issues.

The cricketer-turned-politician, however, said the questions still remain and people feel cheated.

Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh resigned soon after the high court quashed the SIT probe report. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, however, stood behind the officer and had even rejected his resignation and described him as a 'highly competent and efficient officer'.

The SIT was probing the 2015 Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan firings at demonstrators protesting against the incidents of desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib at Faridkot's Bargari. At Behbal Kalan, two people were killed in the police firing. PTI SUN VSD RAX RAX