High Court Dismisses Case by Police Whistleblower on 10 Unlawful Killings, and Fines Him
On November 26, 2013, the Punjab & Haryana High Court dismissed the lawsuit filed by police whistleblower Satwant Singh Manak, on behalf of ten victim families whose loved ones were extrajudicially executed by the Punjab Police. Not only did the Court refuse to order an inquiry into Manak’s allegations that he witnessed the Punjab Police torture and unlawfully kill these ten people, but it also fined Manak, ordering him to pay 2,000 rupees to each of the accused police officers. The Court’s decision represents a major step backwards in acknowledging and redressing the widespread and systematic abuses that occurred in Punjab from 1984 to 1995, and will further discourage other victims and police whistleblowers from coming forward with information on abuses.
Listen to Manak’s reaction to the Court’s decision. “We will go to the Supreme Court with all the families,” Manak told Ensaaf. “When a man has fought such a long battle and given evidence, and even then it is not accepted as the truth, [the] whole family is destroyed…And still no justice…We need to have hope and trust in our Guru. This is how victory happens–with hope.”
“The High Court’s decision further embeds India in a culture of impunity for gross human rights violations, and clearly exposes the callous disregard for victims’ rights and the rule of law,” said Jaskaran Kaur, Co–Director of Ensaaf.
Ensaaf will provide litigation support to Manak and his attorney Rajvinder Bains as they appeal the High Court’s decision to the Supreme Court. Earlier last month, Ensaaf premiered its film The Last Killing chronicling Manak’s fight for justice for these survivor families. The police brutally tortured Manak and fatally tortured his father. Despite such persecution, Manak has persevered with the case for almost 20 years.
The Court’s decision is reminiscent of the arguments the Khalra family faced in their battle for justice for the torture and murder of human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra. The Court found that Manak filed the case because of a personal vendetta and to collect rewards and promotions; in the Khalra case, the police and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) unsuccessfully challenged the credibility of eyewitness Special Police Officer Kuldip Singh, stating that he came forward after several years only because he did not receive a promotion.
The Court claimed that if Manak was an eyewitness to the police abuses, Manak himself would be “a participant” and that he “had a change of heart when he himself was charged.” This ignores the issues presented in the petition: Manak reported the unlawful killings he witnessed to senior police officers; Manak’s colleagues filed false cases against him and tortured him because they feared he would report their role in drug smuggling; and senior police officials then dismissed him from the force. After he recovered from the police torture he experienced, described in detail in The Last Killing, Manak filed the petition at issue. Within a year, the courts also acquitted Manak in the false cases filed against him. The High Court addressed in detail the cases filed against Manak, but made no mention of his acquittals and of his allegations of police torture.
The Court further stated that the families themselves had not brought the case. It acknowledged that the families had submitted a petition to join Manak’s case, which the Court separately rejected without foreclosing their rights to independently pursue cases.
The Court further dismissed the evidence presented through post–mortem reports suggesting point blank killings, rather than encounters. In the case of victim Nirmal Singh Nimma, the Court repeated the police’s statement that Nimma was released from jail in 1995 and died of natural causes. Ensaaf documented Nimma’s case separately and recorded details of his illegal abduction, torture, and unlawful killing, which Manak later corroborated.
Ensaaf will support Manak and his attorney Rajvinder Bains as they appeal to the Supreme Court and demand justice for the families of those unlawfully killed. Read more about each victim here and inform yourself about the case by attending or hosting a screening of The Last Killing.