NEW YORK: The decision of New Jersey district court judge to accept Judy Russell plea of not guilty for reason of insanity, on the. charge that she wrote threatening letters purported to have been written by Sikh sympathizers of Ranjit Singh Gill and Sukhminder Singh and to give her a very light sentence has been the object of intense criticism by community members as well as the lawyers for the respondents.

Gurcharan Singh Dhillon the president of the World Sikh Organization (USA) told the World Sikh News that he felt the judges action was surprising.

The least he could do would have been to give her a deterrent punishment so that in future lawyers would be wary of playing such mischief he added.

Dhillon said World Sikh Organization would continue to support the respondents of the case.

Judy Russell was the Special Assistant United States Attorney who represented the Government of India in the extradition case of Sukhminder Singh and Ranjit Singh Gill and it was discovered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that she had been sending threatening letters made to appear to be from sympathizers of the Sikhs, to the magistrate presiding over the case as well as herself.

 The first letter was sent on January 14 1988 and such letters continued until March 3, 1988.

The letters caused authorities to take stringent security measures which included shackling of the two respondents, Sukhminder Singh and Ranjit Singh Gill throughout the course of the proceedings.

A commission of inquiry appointed by the Punjab Government had headed by Justice Ajit Singh Bains had exonerated both of them but the police still did not drop the cases against them. They were also accused of killing former Indian army general Vaidya who ad lead the army’s bloody assault in the Golden Temple in 1984 which resulted in the loss of thousands of innocent lives.

Judy Russell will not be required to serve any sentence in jail She will only be required to undergo psychiatric treatment and may not even be required to be confined to a custodial mental health facility.

She is presumably free to practice law also having not been disbarred despite the nature of her professional misconduct.

Jagjit Singh Mangal, President of the Sikh Cultural Society, New York who has been involved in the case from the beginning said he ‘was not very surprised at the outcome, but “I am disappointed.” These two young men have been victimized in India and here also it seems they will be victimized. The prosecutor forges threatening letters and is let off lightly Why have Ranjit Singh and Sukhminder Singh not been released? Mangat added.

Mary B. Pike, a Lawyer who represented the respondents told the World Sikh News “the outcome of the criminal proceedings rather tardily launched against Ms. Russell comes as no surprise, It is in keeping with the prior conduct of the case and it suggests very strongly that the pending habeas corpus case are going to be extremely significant in determining whether or not Ranjit and Sukhminder receive any measure of the justice which the litigant before an American court should be due.

Ronald Kuby an associate of William Kunstker the famous civil rights attorney, who also represented the respondents said, “Since the beginning of this case, Ranjit Singh Gill and Sukhminder Singh have been treated unfairly by the New Jersey Federal Prosecutor and the Federal Magistrate. They both suffered greatly due to the actions of Judy Russell and simple justice would dictate that at the very least the government should not be able to enjoy the fruit of Ms. Russells misconduct.”

At the very least the extradition of Sukhminder Singh and Ranjit Singh Gill should be barred by the federal judge.

“I am not a Physiatrist. I am not in a position to judge whether Judy Russell was sane or insane, but her actions inside of court and outside of court indicated a cunning, methodical and almost diabolical hatred for these two young Sikhs.

Hatred of the Sikhs may well be a form of mental illness. He added on a lighter note.

Rajwant Singh the General Secretary of Guru Gobind Singh Foundation Silver Springs M.D. said he was appalled by the judge’s decision. Judy Russell should have at least been disbarred and the case against Ranjit Singh Gill and Sukhminder Singh should be thrown out. They should be given political asylum here he added

Surinder Pal Singh Kalra, Director of Administration of the World Sikh Organization said, “The Sikhs have great expectations from the U.S. system of justice, but in this case something important has been overlooked. The Sikh community feels the Judy Russell’s case should be transferred to a higher court.

Two Sikh youth leaders have been victimized in the case. Other courts are recognizing the intensity of the atrocities in India and have granted Sikh political asylum. “Why have these two been treated differently. “Justice wears different faces’ for different people,” he concluded. Dr. Gurinder Grewal President of the World Sikh News said, “Two innocent persons are being punished on the arguments of a insane prosecutor. When she has admitted her insanity, the case against Ranjit Singh Gill and Sukhminder Singh should be dismissed and approbate punishment or treatment should be given to Judy Russell.”

Article extracted from this publication >>  March 24, 1989