Former cop in Punjab gets 35-year RI for abduction

Former cop in Punjab gets  35-year RI for abduction

In a rare decision, the Supreme Court has awarded 35-year rigorous imprisonment each to a former deputy superintendent of police (DSP) and a constable from Punjab for abducting seven members of a family during the days when terrorism was at its peak in the state.

Handing down a five-year jail term each to both convicts for every offence of abduction, a bench of Justices A K Patnaik and Gyan Sudha Misra ordered that their sentences would run consecutively. Seven victims, picked from their home in October 1991, never returned, and even their bodies were never recovered.

In the case, the bench used Illustration (h) under Section 220 of the Criminal Procedure Code to state that if an accused committed the same offence against several persons, he could be charged with separate offences. Likewise, as seven persons had been abducted by the convicts, they were held guilty on seven counts under Section 364 (abduction) of the IPC, said the court.

In a partial relief, the court, however, set aside the conviction of appellants Baldev Singh, then DSP, and Balwinder Singh, former constable of Amritsar, under the murder charge, noting that the prosecution had failed to examine other police personnel as witnesses, who could have deposed that the victims were last seen in the custody of the convicts. According to the last-seen principle, if a victim is last seen in the company of the accused, the burden of proof lies with the latter to explain what had happened to the victim.

“When the seven people abducted by the appellants did not go missing immediately after their abduction and were found in different police stations in the state of Punjab, and one of them was also found going in a Gypsy at Amritsar, the court cannot hold that the seven abducted persons were last seen in the custody of the appellants,” said the bench.

Complainant Inder Singh sent a letter to then police chief of Punjab on January 19, 1992, pleading for the release of seven members of his family, allegedly picked up by Baldev.

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