Pilibhit fake encounter: Special CBI court sentences 47 policemen to life

A special CBI court today awarded life imprisonment to all 47 policemen convicted of killing 10 Sikh men in fake encounters in Pilibhit district of Uttarakhand (then Uttar Pradesh), 25 years ago.

The special CBI court had, on Friday, held these policemen guilty of killing 10 Sikh pilgrims in three fake encounters on the intervening night of 12-13 July 1991 in Pilibhit district of Uttarakhand.

The CBI, which investigated the case on the directions of Supreme Court, had charged a total of 57 policemen in the case. Ten of them died in the course of the trial.

On Friday, 20 policemen appeared before the court, which sent them to judicial custody. The court also issued non-bailable warrants against the remaining 27 accused.

''Special Judge Lallu Singh held 47 policemen guilty of the fake encounters. Sixty-seven prosecution witnesses were examined before the court during the trial,'' The Indian Express quoted CBI counsel Satish Jaiswal as saying.

The case dates back to 1991 when the state's Terai region witnessed a surge in militancy-related incidents. A local Hindi daily had published a report stating that some people involved in criminal activities were on a pilgrimage with their family members.

Acting on the news, police ''collected details'' and found that ''a group of men'' along with some women were on pilgrimage. They were travelling in a bus, which had obtained a temporary permit from the regional transport office in Bareilly.

According to CBI, the bus was on its way to Pilibhit on 12 July, when a police team stopped it at Kachlapul ghat. Eleven Sikh men were allegedly dragged out of the vehicle. The other passengers, including women and children, were taken to a gurdwara in Pilibhit while the men were made to sit in another vehicle.

Late in the evening, additional forces joined the police team and they divided the Sikh men into three groups. Later, on the night, the policemen gunned down the Sikh men in cold blood in the thickets falling under three different police station areas - Bilsanda, Niuria and Pooranpur - in Pilibhit.

The police then claimed that these men had criminal cases against them and claimed to have recovered arms and ammunition from their possession.

The CBI probe found that the police got the autopsy done on 10 of the bodies and got them cremated the same day.

The CBI said the motive behind the killings was to earn awards and recognition for killing ''terrorists''.

Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) chief Avtar Singh Makkar has hailed the verdict, which held 47 policemen guilty of staged killings of the 10 Sikhs.

In a statement issued on Sunday, Makkar said after a long drawn court battle, justice had ''finally been done''. ''The judgement will bring some relief to the families of the victims,'' he said.

Makkar said the conviction of the policemen will also send a message to the police that they cannot take the law into their hands.