The CBI has finally handed over to the Punjab Police papers relating to the sacrilege cases, which Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday said "clearly exposed" that the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) had been scuttling the process "to prevent their complicity in the cases from being exposed".
The documents and files relating to the cases were handed over to the Punjab Police, hours before the deadline set by the Punjab and Haryana High Court for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to do so was to expire.
The Director, Bureau of Investigation had written to the CBI Director on January 18 to return the entire record to the state police without any further delay after withdrawal of investigation of sacrilege cases from the CBI and consequent return of the entire record, including evidence gathered in cases transferred to the CBI on November 2, 2015.
The Chief Minister termed it a victory for the state government and an endorsement of its stand that the CBI had, all these months, been trying to scuttle the investigation by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Punjab Police at behest of the SAD, which was part of the ruling NDA at the Centre till September 2020.
"It is clear now that Harsimrat Badal, as Union Minister, had been pressurising the central agency to obstruct the SIT probe by refusing to hand over the case files as she knew that her party's role in the entire affair would be exposed once the police take the investigation to its logical conclusion," said Amarinder Singh in a statement.
SAD's complicity in the 2015 cases and their subsequent efforts to scuttle a fair and free probe would now be exposed with the completion of the SIT probe, he said, asserting that all those found guilty would be identified and punished under the law.
Nobody will be spared, irrespective of their political affiliation or position, he said.
Pointing out that his government had withdrawn consent to the CBI to probe the cases as far back as in 2018, after the Vidhan Sabha unanimously resolved to do so, the Chief Minister said the SIT was also constituted then to take over the investigation.
The central agency had, for more than two years, been persistently refusing to hand over the case files back to state, he said, adding that the agency, which had earlier filed a closure report in the matter, went on to constitute a new probe team in September 2019 with the clear and obvious aim of preventing the state government from conducting its own impartial, fair and speedy probe, he added.
The shocking part, according to the Chief Minister, was that the CBI adamantly refused to hand over the case diaries even after the High Court, in January 2019, upheld the state government's decision, and again, in February 2020, the Supreme Court dismissed the CBI's appeal challenging the High Court judgment.
The incidents of sacrilege occurred between June and October 2015 following theft of the sacred Guru Granth Sahib from a gurdwara in Burj Jawaharsinghwala in Faridkot district and discovery of torn pages from the holy book in Bargari. The incident caused widespread discontent and outrage amongst members of the Sikh community, leading to large-scale protests and agitations in October 2015. The retaliatory action taken by the police led to injuries and death of two persons.
In 2015, the Akali Dal government had transferred investigation of the sacrilege incident to the CBI. The Justice (retd) Zora Singh Commission was appointed to inquire into the incidents of sacrilege and police action in the protests, and a report was submitted to the government in 2016.
After the Congress came to power in 2017, the report of the commission was found to be inconclusive, and a fresh commission of Inquiry, headed by Justice (retd) Ranjit Singh Commission, set up and it submitted a report in 2018.