In a huge letdown to SAD leader Prakash Singh Badal and a victory for Punjab Congress Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, The Punjab and Haryana High Court has directed the CBI to hand over all the documents, case diaries and papers related to cases of the 2015 sacrilege incidents, to the Punjab Police, within a month. At this development, Amarinder Singh is thumping his chest, given that this is a wonderful opportunity for him to get back to his old rival Badal, under whose tutelage the state had witnessed these incidents back in 2015.
Hailing the High Court’s directions as an endorsement of the State government’s stand on the issue, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said, “It is high time the CBI listened to the courts and handed the case files back to the State so that the perpetrators of the crimes could be brought to justice.”
He also said that his government had been fighting the CBI’s high-handedness for more than two years, but the agency had failed to heed the various directions and orders of the courts in this time. Asserting his commitment to bring the cases to their logical conclusion, Amarinder Singh said the central agency should respect the verdict of the judiciary and stop overreaching the courts at the behest of its political masters.
These directions of the High Court have come after a plea was filed by one of the accused in the 2015 Faridkot sacrilege incidents. Sukhjinder Singh had challenged the investigation being undertaken by the Punjab Police on the ground that the CBI was already conducting the investigation.
The High Court rejected the plea and instead, directed the CBI to step out of the matter, giving undisputed authority to the Punjab Police.
The decision is especially unfortunate for the SAD because it was in power in the state at the time of the incidents, dating back to June 2015. Copies of Guru Granth Sahib, considered utmostly sacred by the Sikhs, were found missing and mutilated in various places in Punjab. Eventually, after the police had failed to find the culprits, the Badal government had handed over the investigations to the CBI.
The incidents had led to a lot of anger in the state, with Amarinder Singh demanding resignation of CM Badal. Now it seems Amarinder’s moment of comeuppance is here.
More so troubling for Badal is the fact that his name is already soiled in connection to the sacrilege incidents. In August 2018, the one-man commission, appointed by the ruling Congress, had concluded that there was a possibility that the then Akali government was “under pressure” not to act.
This has clearly been a highly controversial matter in the state between the two parties. Since Congress came to power, this case has been a tug-of-war between the CBI and the Punjab Police, with the court now vindicating the Punjab Police.
It is amply clear that Badal would have preferred the CBI to conduct the investigations, at their own pace, rather than they being conducted under Amarinder Singh’s tutelage. However, now that the Punjab Police has the absolute power to conduct a detailed investigation in the matter, Amarinder Singh has the perfect opportunity to respond to his old rival Badal and cast a shadow over SAD, ahead of the assembly elections in 2022.