SC grants interim protection from arrest to Punjab ex-DGP

New Delhi:  The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted interim protection from arrest for three weeks to retired Punjab DGP Sumedh Singh Saini in connection with the 1991 kidnapping-murder case of Balwant Singh Multani.

A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah asked the Punjab government to file its reply on the anticipatory bail plea of Saini, while asking him to cooperate in the investigation. The bench issued notice on Saini’s plea, returnable by three weeks.

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing Saini, submitted before the bench that his client was a decorated police office and the Punjab government was after him since he had got filed two charge sheets naming present Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.

Rohatgi said Saini had risen through the ranks, when Sikh militancy was raging in Punjab.

Senior Advocate Siddharth Luthra, opposing Saini’s bail plea, contended that Multani was picked up from his residence in SAS Nagar (adjoining Chandigarh) in 1991 and Rohatgi was attributing motives to a Judge who had declined to entertain Saini’s bail plea in the case.

Luthra pointed out that the Punjab and Haryana High Court had noted that former Director General of Police Saini had “misused” his powers.

The bench asked what was the hurry in arresting the retired IPS officer in a 1991 case, after nearly 30 years.

Luthra insisted that the court had noted that a person (Multani) had succumbed to injuries after inhuman treatment by Saini, and that even after his retirement, the accused officer had power to have some official files in his control.

Senior Advocate KV Viswanathan, representing Multani’s brother, argued that Saini was a “notorious police officer” and alleged that his client’s brother was killed at the hands of the petitioner.

The top court said that no arrest can take place before Punjab’s reply is heard on the matter. The bench also gave one week thereafter to Saini to file his rejoinder. The case is likely to come up after three weeks.

Multani, a Junior Engineer with Chandigarh Industrial and Tourism Corporation, was allegedly picked up by police in December 1991, after a terror attack on Saini (then SSP of Chandigarh) left three policemen dead.

On September 7, the Punjab and Haryana High Court declined to entertain his anticipatory bail plea in the case.

“In the light of the seriousness of offences that have come about, there being every likelihood of petitioner stifling fair investigations and trial and for which custodial interrogation of the petitioner is very much essential to piece together this unfortunate incident, necessitates dismissal of the instant bail application,” the court had said.

In May, Saini was booked at a police station in SAS Nagar (Mohali) along with six others in the case. In August, a murder charge was added after two of the accused policemen gave details of the crime.

A trial court in SAS Nagar in Punjab had on September 12 issued an arrest warrant against Saini in the case and directed the police to present Saini before it by September 25.

Earlier, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had dismissed the retired police officer’s anticipatory bail plea, following which he moved the Supreme Court.

Saini is also facing trial in a special CBI court in Delhi in the alleged abduction of automobile businessman Vinod Kumar, his brother-in-law Ashok Kumar, and their driver Mukhtiyar Singh.