Chandigarh, Jan 19 : In what could snowball into a major political controversy before the assembly polls in Punjab, Justice Ranjit Singh (retd), who headed the commission into the alleged incidents of sacrilege of Sri Guru Granth Sahib and the subsequent police firing on protesters in 2015, on Wednesday placed then Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, 94, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) patriarch, and then DGP Sumedh Singh Saini in dock.
Also, he castigated the Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda, whose chief and self-styled godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is currently serving a 20-year jail sentence for raping two of his disciples and a life term for a journalist's killing, for the incident of sacrilege.
Justice Singh made these comments here on the release of his 423-page book 'The Sacrilege' based on his inquiry when he was heading the current Congress government set up commission.
"Inference on the basis of material and evidence is against both then Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and then Director General of Police (DGP) Saini for not playing active role (with the subsequent police firing on protesters after the sacrilege incident)," Justice Singh told IANS at the book launch.
The incident of sacrilege took place in Behbal Kalan village of Faridkot district and the subsequent police firing on protesters that claimed two lives was raked up by the Congress against the SAD-BJP combine government in the 2017 assembly polls.
Even in 2022 polls, the incidents continued to rock the state's political sphere as the successive governments are under fire for failing to deliver justice in the cases.
Expressing surprise that the sacrilege and police firing cases have failed to reach any logical conclusion, the former Judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court said DGP Saini had not played an "active role" on controlling the (tense) situation.
The judicial commission was mandated to inquire nearly 160 cases of sacrilege.
Justice Singh said the commission completed the inquiry into all the cases in record time of nearly 12 months and submitted its report in four parts running into 544 pages.
"Since the report of the commission was debated in the Punjab assembly and was accepted by the House unanimously but did not come in the public domain.
"Effort has been made in the book to bring various facts and the truth before the public which led to the sacrilege incidents hurting the sentiments of the Sikh community and the nation leaving indelible scars." At the book launch, Justice S.S. Sodhi (retd) said various investigations by the Special Investigating Teams (SITs) into these cases of sacrilege have made little headway, leaving the public clamouring for justice.
He said the commission headed by Justice Ranjit Singh (retd) carried out the investigation without bias.
On the timing of the book release coinciding with the polls in the state, Justice Ranjit Singh said he has no political agenda behind its release.
"It's a sheer coincidence that the book is launching now owing to administrative reasons," he said, also blaming "extraordinary interferences" by the high court regarding petitions relating to the case.
He said the book did not talk about investigations conducted by the police as it was not in his domain to comment.
"The book is an eye-opener with startling revelations, unfolding the tragedy of sacrilege incidents that occurred," he said, adding the public at large carry a grouse against the power for not doing enough to bring the real culprits before justice despite investigations by several SITs and two inquiry commissions.
The incidents included tearing and scattering of the holy pages from the Saroop of Sri Guru Granth Sahib and also pasting posters threatening the peace in the state.
In the upcoming assembly polls, political parties have already started raising their pitch for justice of the 2015 victims. In fact, this was one of the key issues that enabled the Congress to replace its Chief Minister Amarinder Singh just ahead of the polls as he had promised timely justice in 2017 and amid charges for "going soft" towards the Badals.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at email@example.com)