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COVER STORY    

HIGH COURT SAYS CBI HUSHING UP DERA CASES

The CBI finds itself under pressure for filing chargesheets against the Dera in cases of murder and sexual abuse

The downfall of the Dera’s fortunes can be traced back to 2002-03 when the Punjab and Haryana High Court (HC) ordered the CBI to probe charges of two murders and of rape and sexual exploitation of sadhvis by Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. Though the probe was time bound, repeated extensions sought by the CBI, as also litigation against the HC’s orders in the Supreme Court, have meant that the investigating agency has filed a chargesheet in only one of the three cases, the Ranjit Singh murder case, and that too not the final one. There is overwhelming evidence to suggest that the CBI is doing what it does best: hushing up politically inconvenient cases. This led to a scathing indictment of the CBI by the HC on April 16, 2007, and is suspected to be a major factor behind the trouble in Punjab provoked by an advertisement placed by the Baba on May 13, 2007, in two regional dailies.

The judges said the CBI officers seemed to be acting on extraneous considerations
A Division Bench of Justice AK Goel and Justice HS Bhalla asked the CBI director to explain the delay and indicated the possibility of initiating contempt proceedings. The HC went so far as to record: “A period of almost five years has expired. Such gross delay in investigation can hardly be expedient to administration of justice and creates a doubt about the sincerity and competence of the officers who have been assigned the responsibility of carrying out the investigation. We are unable to hold that there is any genuine reason for the CBI for not having concluded the investigation so far…The only inference is that the officers concerned have either not been sincere enough or have been acting on extraneous considerations in dealing with the matter.”

Cases under probe are:

1
On July 10, 2002, Dera functionaries shot dead their former colleague Ranjit Singh while he was working in his fields in Kurukshetra. Singh was suspected to have leaked an anonymous letter written to the Prime Minister by a sadhvi alleging rape at the hands of Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. According to the CBI chargesheet, Ranjit had been threatened by the accused to seek apology from the Baba. The CBI arrested Inder Sain, Avtar Singh, Kishan Lal Pradhan, Jasbir Singh and Sabdil Singh. While the CBI has accused these five persons “and others” of criminal conspiracy, the Baba has not figured in the CBI’s chargesheet.

2
On September 24, 2002, the HC ordered the CBI to probe allegations of sexual exploitation made in the anonymous letter by the sadhvi and also in pursuance of the report submitted on the matter to the HC by the Sirsa District and Sessions Judge.

3
On October 10, 2002, Ram Chandar Chhatarpati, the Sirsa-based editor of Poora Sach, was shot and grievously wounded by two men who were later arrested. Chhatarpati had done a series of stories on the dera, and had also published allegations of rape and sexual exploitation against the Baba. Later, dera Manager Krishan Lal was also arrested in the case. Sirsa police investigations showed that the crime was committed with Lal’s licensed revolver, and that the walkie-talkie used in the crime was licensed in the name of the dera.

One of the two officers, DSP Armaan Deep Singh, was abruptly removed from the Dera cases
Much has been made of the CBI coming under political pressure from the Punjab Congress and the upa government in the wake of the dera’s public support for the party in the last Assembly polls. In a development that outraged the Chhatarpati family, one of the two investigating officers, dsp Armaan Deep Singh, was removed from the cases by the CBI’s top brass in New Delhi soon after the Assembly polls. On one occasion, when the CBI went to question the Baba at Sirsa in 2005, the team was browbeaten by the Baba’s relative, Congress member Harminder Singh Jassi, and then cm Amarinder Singh’s media advisor bis Chahal at a Sirsa rest house.

Chhatarpati’s son Anshul says the CBI failed to record the statement of the Baba’s driver, Khatta Singh, before a magistrate. “Armaan Deep was doing a good job and had even written to the CBI director seeking the Baba’s arrest but he was not allowed to do so. After the polls, the CBI’s efforts to question — leave alone arrest the Baba — have evaporated,” Anshul said.

When contacted by Tehelka, CBI officers refused to comment.

Jun 02 , 2007
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