On 22nd July, 1993 – Gulshan, Jairnal Singh, Karnail Singh and Harjinder Singh were reportedly killed by Tarn Taran Police, led by SHO Gurbachan Singh Manochahal. The Police carried out the cremations themselves and did not permit the family members to attend. On arrest, and before Court, the Defence claimed the incident was in the course of “discharge of official duty”; further, the incident had occurred in a declared disturbed area to which the provisions of the Punjab Disturbed Area Act, 1983 were applicable. Section 4 of the Act permitted a Police Officer not below the rank of a Sub Inspector or a Havaldar in the case of armed branch of the Police , to open fire and even cause death of any person, if in his opinion it was necessary to do so for the maintenance of the public order and the person whose death was caused was acting in contravention of any law or order for the time being in force in the area.
The matter is yet to find a resolution! 23 years have elapsed. The SC in Devinder Singh & Ors. v. State of Punjab through Central Bureau of Investigation, [Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 139 of 2012] held recently, “It would be open to the accused persons to adduce the evidence in defence and to submit such other materials on record indicating that the incident has taken place in discharge of their official duties and the orders passed earlier would not come in the way of the trial court to decide the question afresh… from stage to stage or even at the time of conclusion of the trial at the time of judgment. The trial to proceed on the aforesaid basis.”