Punjab: Key accused, link to solving 532-kg drug bust mystery, dies in judicial custody

Kamaldeep Singh Brar
The family of Gurpinder (right) in Amritsar. (Express photo by Rana Simranjit Singh)

A key accused in last month s 532-kg heroin haul at the Wagah-Attari border died in judicial custody Sunday. Amritsar-based importer, Gurpinder Singh (29), was found vomiting blood inside the jail hospital washroom on Sunday morning at around 8.30 am, after which he was admitted to Guru Nanak Dev Hospital, Amritsar. Hospital Superintendent Shiv Charan said Gurpinder was declared brought dead.

It was on Gurpinder s licence that the rock salt consignment carrying heroin was imported from Pakistan for a Kashmiri trader, Tarik Ahmad Lone. He was the first person to be arrested after what was described as the biggest ever drug haul by the Customs Department. His family alleged that Gurpinder was diabetic and his health was neglected in custody, resulting in his death.

Gurpinder s arrest on June 29 was followed by arrest of Lone and truck driver Jasbir Singh, by the Customs Department. Later, Customs also named a drug peddler Ranjit Singh Rana and Jasbir s son, Harpreet Singh, the case.

In a parallel probe, Punjab Police registered separate case against Gurpinder and 20 others, including three persons from Pakistan for running drug racket to smuggle heroin into India. Police had also booked Parminder Singh, younger brother of Gurpinder in the same case. Parminder is currently locked up inside the Amritsar jail.

Gurpinder was a diabetic. He was first brought to Amritsar jail on July 1 and his blood sugar level was fluctuating. We admitted him to Guru Nanak Dev hospital on July 2. He was released from hospital on July 6 evening and Amritsar police took him on remand on July 7. Police remand ended on July 11 and again police took him on remand on July 12. He was sent back to jail on July 18 after the police remand ended and since then he was admitted to the jail hospital. We had kept him in hospital due to his diabetes. His brother, Parminder, is also in jail and he was with him last evening, said Jail Superintendent Arshdeep Singh Gill.

He added, I also saw Gurpinder in the evening and he seemed fine. But in the morning he went to brush his teeth in washroom attached with the jail hospital ward and blood started coming out of his mouth. We first took him to the doctor inside the jail, then he was sent to Medical College, Amritsar. We later came to know that he died there.

The jail authorities, according to the jail superintendent, have written to the district and session judge to form the board and conduct the postmortem . He remained in jail only for a few days after his arrest by Customs. We have nothing to hide. We are open for any kind of investigation.

Kin allege negligence

Kanwaljit Kaur, mother of Gurpinder, said, My sons were falsely implicated. Gurpinder was diabetic and was under stress. His health was not taken care of and he was not provided with necessary insulin inside jail and during police remand. My son died due to negligence of jail and police authorities. Gurpinder is survived by his wife, son, mother and younger brother.

Gurpinder s lawyer, Sudhir Sharma Sialkoti, said: It is sheer negligence on part of Punjab Police and Customs that they couldn t ensure proper health care of an important accused. Conspiracy can t be ruled out. Gurpinder needed an insulin shot everyday, However, Customs didn t give him insulin during first two days of his detention. It was the time when his health started deteriorating and he was admitted to hospital. Meanwhile, he was taken for police remand two times in a row and again during the remand his insulin supply was affected. T here should be proper investigation if there was any intentional negligence in supply of insulin to Gurpinder.

No conspiracy: Police

Amritsar (Rural) SSP Vikramjeet Dugal said, Gurpinder was cooperating and gave us crucial information and many names, which helped us register a separate case. Of the 20 accused, we have arrested nine and are working to arrest more. His brother, Parminder, was involved in receiving money through hawala. Both were definitely involved in the racket. We were well aware of his health condition and maintained proper insulin supply to him during police remand. We didn t take any chance. There is no conspiracy.

Jail Superintendent also claimed that Gurpinder had proper supply of insulin in jail and there was no negligence.

One case, two probes

The Customs Department had not sought Gurpinder and Tarik Lone s remand after their arrests. After they were sent to judicial custody on July 1, Amritsar (Rural) police registered a separate case against 20 persons, including Gurpinder and Parminder. Gurpinder was then taken on police remand. In fact, Customs have given no information about role of Gurpinder in the racket, except that the consignment landed in India on his licence.