A serious situation prevailed in the court of Central Bureau of Investigation judge Lallu Singh, after he sentenced 47 policemen to life imprisonment and a fine of varying amounts, for killing 10 Sikh men in a fake encounter in Pilibhit in 1991.
Only three of these men were from Pilibhit, the rest were from Gurdaspur in Punjab.
Of the convicts, the three station house officers (SHOs) are to pay a fine of Rs 11 lakh each, sub-inspectors Rs 8 lakh and constables Rs 2.5 lakh each. Out of the total fine collected, Rs 14 lakh has to be paid to the dependents of each of the victims.
With one SHO having died during the trial, only the remaining two will be liable to pay the fine, clarified the CBI lawyer SC Jaiswal. He was not sure how much the total fine would work out to, as the number of sub-inspectors and constables was yet to be segregated.
After the 241-page judgment was read out, the convicts began creating a ruckus. They raised slogans and demanded a copy of the judgment.
Of the 47 policemen, 20 were present in court on 1 April, the day they were pronounced guilty. The judge had issued arrest warrants against the 27 absentee policemen following which 18 more turned up for the sentencing on Monday, while nine again did not.
In his order the judge observed that these policemen had killed the Sikhs to get a promotion.
Guruvinder Singh, who was three-years-old when his father Narender Singh was pulled out of the bus along with nine others and shot dead, said he was "happy with the verdict". A daily wage-earner in Pilibhit, Guruvinder said he "badly needs the money" and hoped he will get it soon.
Another victim of the fake encounter was Lakhwinder Singh of Gurdaspur, who was then a teenager. His brother Balkar Singh recalled that Lakhwinder was barely 17 or 18 when he went for the pilgrimage and ended up in the clutches of the UP police "who murdered him."
Speaking to this reporter over phone from Gurdaspur, Balkar said that while he was happy with the judgement he wanted the senior cops also to be punished. "These encounters would not have taken place without the connivance of senior officers. They also should be punished," he said.
The CBI lawyer said that the convicts were free to challenge the order. "So can we," he said without elaborating.
That is what Harjinder Singh Kahlon of Pilibhit plans to do. Kahlon, who said he has been fighting the case from the beginning, was satisfied but not happy with the judgment. "After the cold blooded murder of innocents, how can they get away with life sentence? They should have been awarded death penalty," Kahlon said.
These killings have ruined families and left the victims' kin traumatised for life, Kahlon said. He added, "after 25 years of legal battle and the irreparable losses they are going to be given only Rs 14 lakh. The amount should have been at least Rs 50 lakh each."
He now plans to approach the Supreme Court to seek death penalty for the policemen found guilty, higher compensation for the families of those killed, and punishment for senior police officers "as the encounters would not have happened without their knowledge".
The CBI has put the entire blame on the small fish. I want to know under whose pressure it allowed the then SP, SSP, DIG and IG to go scot-free," he asked.
Edited by Anna Verghese
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