The Punjab and Haryana High Court recently took critical note of the casual manner in which special laws such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) and Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) were invoked by the police in a case involving allegations of police officers supplying arms to Naxalites.
The Court found that UAPA and PMLA charges were added in the 2011 case mid-investigation based on a letter by the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP).
Justice Jagmohan Bansal noted that such special Acts were invoked in this case even without understanding their scope.
“These are special Acts and cannot be invoked by writing a letter by SSP. This shows that on the one hand, there were serious allegations against the erring police officials and on the other hand, a casual approach was adopted which resulted in the acquittal of the officials. Apart from invoking UAPA and PLMA, provisions of the Arms Act, 1959 were invoked,” the judge said.
By way of background, in 2011, several Punjab policemen faced charges under several provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for allegedly enabling the sale of arms and ammunition to Naxalites.
As the investigation unfolded, Section 16 of the UAPA and PMLA charges were subsequently included in the case.
The first information report (FIR) alleged that the policemen in connivance with others sold arms and ammunition to Naxalites.
Thereafter, the Punjab police initiated both departmental and criminal proceedings against the accused policemen, leading to their dismissal from service.
The case, however, ultimately ended in the acquittal of the accused police officers in 2019.
Despite this, only some of the acquitted police officers (who were earlier terminated from service) were reinstated back to service.
The remaining accused police officers were not taken back.
Two such officers, who had not been reinstated to service, approached the High Court for relief by filing two writ petitions.
On December 8, the High Court directed the Punjab government to review the case of both petitioners and consider their reinstatement back to service.
The Court noted that the petitioners underwent both departmental and criminal proceedings based on the same set of allegations that were faced by other co-accused officers who were taken back into service.
All the police officials received the same punishment in the departmental proceedings. Despite their acquittal in the criminal proceedings, only a few of them have been reinstated, the Court observed.
The Court, therefore, directed the State to re-consider the case of the petitioners in line with the relevant Punjab Police Rules as well as the orders of reinstatement passed in the case of the other police officials who were accused along with the petitioners in the same case.
The State was given three months to do the needful. With these directions, both petitions were disposed of by a common order.
Advocates Balbir K Saini and Sandeep Bansa appeared for the petitioners. Deputy Advocate General Aman Dhir appeared for the State of Punjab.