Eight years after two brothers were killed in a fake encounter in Jamalpur area of Ludhiana, the court of additional sessions judge Raj Kumar on Monday awarded life term to three convicts, two of whom are police personnel. The court sentenced Akali leader Gurjit Singh, police constable Yadwinder Singh and Punjab Home Guard (PHG) Ajit Singh to life imprisonment and also imposed a fine of ₹1.09 lakh on all of them.
Out of the total amount, ₹1 lakh is to be given to the parents of the deceased as compensation, said the court.
While pronouncing the verdict, the court stated that the parents of the two brothers have suffered lot of agony and have been deprived of love, care and affection of their children at this age.
“So, keeping in view the peculiar facts of the case, this court is of the opinion that justice would be done if the parents are adequately compensated. Invoking provisions of Section 357-A (3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, recommendation is made to the Ludhiana district legal services authority for grant of adequate compensation under Punjab victims’ compensations scheme,” said the court.
While one accused, constable Baldev Singh, has been acquitted, two others, including dismissed inspector Manjinder Singh, then SHO of Machhiwara police station, and his driver constable Sukhbir Singh, continue to evade arrest and have been declared proclaimed offenders.
Brothers killed in their rented accommodation
The cold-blooded murders occurred on September 27, 2014 after a police party led by inspector Manjinder Singh, then SHO of Machhiwara police station (under Khanna police) had shot dead brothers Harinder Singh, 25, and Jatinder Singh, 23, at a rented accommodation in Ahluwalia Colony of Jamalpur area of Ludhiana. Akali Dal leader Gurjit Singh alias Sam had accompanied the police during the “raid.” Belonging to a Dalit family, the brothers were from Bohapur village of Machhiwara.
A month before the incident, the brothers were booked in an attempt-to-murder case and police had claimed they had gone to arrest them in this case. Showing this as an encounter, police said they had shot the brothers in self-defence. It later emerged that brothers had no weapons and were killed in a one-sided firing by the police and the SAD leader.
Strong circumstantial evidence led to the conviction as it came on record in the court that all gunshots that killed the brothers were shot from the weapon of the Akali leader.
The Machhiwara police had claimed that the brothers had celebrated their love for weapons on social media and wrote “Gunda Staff” as their profession on Facebook. Several loopholes were found in police theory after it was found that Gurjit Singh (husband of Rajwinder Kaur, the then SAD sarpanch of neighboring Takhran Khokran village) had also accompanied the police party that day.
Behind the fake encounter was political rivalry as both brothers were claiming to be Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) workers during Lok Sabha polls that year. Days prior to the incident, Punjab Human Rights Commission had marked an inquiry against the cops acting on a complaint that the case against the brothers was fake. During the 2014 Parliamentary elections, Akali leaders had threatened the brothers not to support AAP in the area, and after the elections, they were implicated in an attempt-to-murder case, it was alleged.
Prosecution stated Machhiwara police party “raided” Jamalpur house where the brothers were hiding without making any official entry at the police station or informing Ludhiana city police.
Tragedy after tragedy for the parents
Forced to make repeated rounds of courts in the sunset of their lives, Satpal Singh and Gurmeet Kaur, the victims’ parents, were in tears once the quantum of punishment was pronounced. “We wish all the accused were caught and tried. One accused has been acquitted, the inspector is still on the run and police has been shielding him all these years,” said Gurmeet Kaur.
Wiping his tears, father Satpal Singh revealed that their 17-year-old daughter had also died of an illness six months ago. “We are left all alone now. The imprisonment is a balm on our wounds and provides some solace. However, we have been wrecked for life as the double tragedy of losing both sons in one go has shattered us forever.”