Punjab minister gets 5-year jail term in daughter's abduction case
Punjab minister Jagir Kaur was sent to jail on Friday after she was convicted and sentenced to 5 years imprisonment by a CBI court for conspiring in forcible abortion and abduction in connection with the killing of her daughter Harpreet Kaur 12 years ago.
The 57-year-old minister, who broke down in court after special CBI judge Balbir Singh pronounced the sentence, was, however, acquitted of the murder charge.
Kaur, a former President of Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee (SGPC), was immediately taken into judicial custody and taken to the Central Jail at Patiala.
She was convicted under sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) read with 313 (forcible abortion - causing miscarriage without woman's consent), 344 (wrongful confinement of more than 10 days) and 365 (kidnapping or abduction with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine a person) of the IPC.
Harpreet had died under mysterious circumstanced during the intervening night of April 20 and 21, 2000 en route from Phagwara to Ludhiana's Christian Medical College and Hospital.
No post mortem was conducted after her family claimed there was no foul play and that Harpreet had died following severe dehydration, vomitting and fever.
She was cremated in a hurried manner on April 21 at Kaur's home village Begowal in Kapurthala.
Besides the five-year sentence, Kaur was also fined Rs 5,000 by the special CBI court. Jagir and five others were chargesheeted in the case.
Of them, Dalwinder Kaur Dhesi, Paramjit Singh Raipur and Nishan Singh were also convicted on conspiracy charges.
Another accused Satya Devi was acquitted of all charges while the fifth accused Sanjiv Kumar died during the trial
Kaur is the only woman in the 18-member Parkash Singh Badal-led SAD-BJP alliance ministry which was sworn in earlier this month.
She held the portfolios of Rural Water Supply & Sanitation, Defence Services Welfare and Removal of Grievances and Welfare of Pensioners.
Her counsel told reporters that they will move the Punjab & Haryana High Court early next week to seek bail and file an appeal against today's judgement.
A few days after Harpreet's death, Kamaljit Singh, a resident of Begowal claimed that he was her husband and father of Harpreet's stillborn child.
On April 27, 2000 Kamaljit approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
On June 9, 2000, the HC directed the CBI to conduct an inquiry into the matter.
During the investigations, Kamaljit produced videotape images of his engagement ceremony with Harpreet.
After conducting a probe, on October 3, 2000, the CBI registered an FIR under various sections of IPC against Kaur and others.
Besides Kaur, the other accused Dhesi, Raipur and Sub Inspector Nishan Singh were also acquitted of charge under 302 IPC (murder).
Dhesi and Raipur were convicted under section 313 (forcible abortion /causing miscarriage without woman's consent).
The two were awarded five years imprisonment and fined Rs 5,000 each on this charge, Special CBI Prosecutor R K Handa said.
Both along with Singh were also convicted under section 365 of the IPC (kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine a person) and awarded a sentence of three years imprisonment and fined Rs 2,000 each.
Dhesi, Raipur and Singh were also convicted under section 344 IPC (wrongful confinement for 10 or more days).
The three were awarded one year imprisonment and fined Rs 1,000 each.
All the sentences of the accused would run concurrently, the court ordered.
On October 4 and 5, 2000, the CBI arrested Phagwara- based Dhesi, a close aide of Kaur, and Raipur, on charges of forcing Harpreet to have an abortion against her will, conspiring to murder her and destruction of evidence besides some other sections of the IPC.
The couple's driver Harminder Singh and their domestic helpers Satya and Sanjeev were also arrested on similar charges.
During the investigations, Sub-Inspector Nishan Singh, who was on the personal security of Kaur, when the incident happened, was also booked by the CBI.
The CBI had filed the charge sheet against Kaur, accusing her of murdering her pregnant daughter, and other accused in the last week of January 2001 and the trial has dragged on since then.
Punjab Congress President Amarinder Singh hailed the verdict saying "law has ultimately taken its course and the guilty stand punished."
The faith of the people in the judiciary has been reaffirmed, he added.