The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted interim protection from arrest to former Punjab DGP Sumedh Singh Saini in the 1991 Balwant Singh Multani murder case.
“This case is of 1991. After 30 years what is the hurry to arrest him…We will grant you time to file a reply,” a three-judge Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan said, adding he would not be arrested till further orders.
The top court, however, asked Saini to cooperate with Punjab Police in the investigation.
Saini had challenged the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s September 7 order dismissing his anticipatory bail plea in the Multani kidnapping and murder case.
The court issued notice to the Punjab government on Saini’s petition seeking anticipatory bail in the case, asking it to respond in three weeks. It gave one week thereafter to Saini to file his rejoinder.
The case is likely to come up for further hearing after four weeks.
Multani, a junior engineer with Chandigarh Industrial and Tourism Corporation, was allegedly picked up by the police in December 1991 after a terror attack on Saini that left three policemen killed. Saini was injured in the attack.
Saini’s troubles started in May this year when he was booked at a police station in Mohali along with six others for the alleged kidnapping of Multani in 1991. The murder charge was added in August after two of the accused policemen spilled the beans.
On behalf of Saini, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi submitted that it was a serious matter of a decorated police officer being hounded.
“This is a very serious matter, he is a decorated officer…an outstanding officer…a dedicated and hardworking officer who had suffered bullet injuries,” Rohatgi told the court.
“I (Saini) was the then SSP, when I was targeted by terrorists,” Rohatgi said, adding “Multani was a PO (proclaimed offender) in a case.
He said the state government was after Saini because he had filed two chargesheets in which Punjab CM Capt Amarinder was an accused. “This is why they are after me,” he submitted.
Narrating the sequence of events since 1991, Rohatgi said the FIR had been registered against Saini in a mala fide manner.
On behalf of Punjab, senior advocate Siddharth Luthra sought to counter Rohatgi’s arguments, saying the high court had noted that Saini used to intimidate others.
The high court had also noted that a person had succumbed to his injuries after he was imhumanly treated by Saini, Luthra submitted.
“Even after retirement, the accused still has the audacity and power to have some files in his control. How can this be allowed?” Luthra said.
After registration of FIR, statements of approvers had been recorded and witnesses in the police station had for the first time stated that the picture of Multani released to have escaped from the prison was not Multani’s at all, Luthra said.
Saini is also facing trial in a Special CBI Court in Delhi along with three others for alleged kidnapping of automobile businessman Vinod Kumar, his brother-in-law Ashok Kumar and their driver Mukhtiyar Singh. While Vinod and Mukhtiyar were picked up by the police from the parking lot of the Punjab and Haryana High Court on March 15, 1994, Ashok was allegedly kidnapped from Ludhiana the same day.
The case was registered against Saini and others by the CBI on the orders of the Punjab and Haryana High Court on March 24, 1994. It was transferred to Delhi by the Supreme Court in 2004 after Vinod’s mother Amar Kaur expressed apprehension that Saini being a senior IPS officer might influence witnesses.
The CBI has sought cancellation of exemption from personal appearance given to him in the case.