NEW DELHI, India: A Canadian Sikh who was tortured in India by senior police officers has asked the Supreme Court of India to bring the officers to justice
“This is the first petition made in India to deal with people who torture”. Rupinder Singh Sodhi, lawyer for the Canadian. Balkar Singh said in an interview from New Delhi.
The petition was heard this week in the Supreme Court. A two judge panel ordered the Government to respond within two weeks and show why the persons named as torturers should not face charges, Mr. Sodhi said.
The Supreme Court also gave the Government two weeks to shows why Balkar Singh should not be brought to trial immediately, he added.
Balkar Singh, a limousine driver at Lester B. Pearson International Airport in Mississauga, was arrested in India early in November. He has been held in jail under the country’s antiterrorist laws, but has not been charged.
A spokesman for the Indian High Commission in Ottawa said in an interview that she had no information on the court case. But, Shashi Tripathi added. The fact that the petition was presented “shows the independence of the judiciary” in India.
Representatives of the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi visited Balkar Singh on November 26. The next day Canada Judged a formal protest with the Indian Government, alleging that he had been mistreated and tortured.
Canadian officials issued a request on January 8 for a second visit. But this has not been granted.
In the petition prepared by Mr. Sodhi for the Supreme Court. Balkar Singh set out in detail the nature of the torture and the names and positions of six senior police officers in the northwestern city of Amritsar who he says were involved.
He also stated that, among other questions, he was repeatedly asked by the police about “his role” in the Air India crash on June 23, 1985, in which 329 people were killed. The Boeing 747 jet, codenamed Kanishka, plunged into the sea off Ireland on a flight from Toronto to Bombay.
Balkar Singh denied having anything to do with it, and Mr. Sodhi said there is no evidence whatsoever that links his client to the crash.
“The Indian Police are trying to justify their actions in the eyes of Canadians by linking him to what Canada is very sensitive about”.
Mr. Sodhi also said he had been informed that Balkar Singh was recently questioned by officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, but he did not know the nature of the questioning. An RCMP spokesman in Ottawa refused to comment on the visit to New Delhi.
In his petition, Balkar Singh stated that he arrived in Amritsar ‘on October 7. And that around 9:30 a.m. on Nov. 2 he was arrested at the Amritsar International Hotel.
He said he was blindfolded and taken to a police station, where he was directed to take off all his clothes and stand naked in the middle of a room. Within a few minutes, six police officers came in “and without even bothering to ascertain any fact or elicit information, started beating the petitioners”, Later he said, other officers were called in to begin the torture, which stretched over 14 hours while the police asked him how he was going to assist the underground movement in India that has been waging a struggle to carve out a se Sikh state, known as Khalistan. They also asked where he had left the money, and weapons he was alleged to have smuggled into the country and what his role was in the Kanishka plan crash had been.
Balkar Singh described six methods or torture, which he said left him more deadly than alive. At one time, he said, he was even considered dead by the interrogation team.
He said he heard some officers suggest that he ought to be shot dead to avoid their being implicated, and that others suggested sprinkling him with kerosene and burning him.
One form of torture involved tying his hands behind his back, tying his ankles and stringing him from the ceiling, Balkar Singh said. One member of the interrogation team sat between his legs and started jumping and pulling and using him as a swing. After some time. He was strapped to a chair and electric shocks were administered to his penis, anus. An armpit and temple and inside his nose.
Balkar Singh said the police told him he would be set free “if he could have big fish arrested”. But he stated that he knew nobody who was a big fish, “and if the entire police force is net able to catch (them) how can the petitioner catch them?”
Police reports released by Mr. Sodhi show that police say Balkar Singh was arrested on Nov. 6 at a bus stop in Amritsar, four days later than he claimed.
Ina form called the first information report, the police said he was “hand in glove with freedom fighters” and was inciting young Sikhs by preaching on behalf of an independent Sikh country called Khalistan.
The police stated he was roaming the city center area canvassing people to take part in “terrorist” activities.
Another police form stated that Balkar Singh had 19 live cartridges and antinational documents, such as letters written by freedom fighters, when he was arrested.
In another form police said their investigation has established that Balkar Singh has links with freedom fighters abroad and that he admitted having distributed lots of money among the freedom fighters.