In an operation that pitted Punjab Police against their counterparts in Delhi and Haryana and led to a political slugfest between the BJP and AAP, Delhi BJP spokesperson Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga was arrested from his Janakpuri residence Friday morning in connection with a case filed in Mohali on April 1.
The journey to take him to Punjab, though, was cut short with police in Haryanaing the Punjab Police convoy, the Delhi Police filing an FIR against Punjab personnel for abducting Bagga, and eventually managing to bring him back from Kurukshetra to the national capital.
While the Punjab Police comes under the newly formed AAP government, the Haryana Police is under the BJP, and Delhi Police under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The April 1 case against Bagga was based on a complaint by Dr Sunny Singh Ahluwalia, AAP Punjab spokesperson and party in-charge of the Anandpur Sahib Lok Sabha constituency. The FIR quotes Ahluwalia as saying that comments made by Bagga in the media and on Twitter amounted to “criminal intimidation… to cause violence… imminent hurt to Arvind Kejriwal and other AAP leaders in a pre-designed, well planned, orchestrated manner”. Sections invoked against him include IPC 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups) and 506 (criminal intimidation).
In a statement Friday, Punjab Police said Bagga had been served five notices — on April 9, 11, 15, 22 and 28 — but he “deliberately did not join investigation”. Mohali SSP Vivek Sheel Soni said that the Punjab team had informed Delhi Police personnel at Janakpuri station about the five notices and kept them in the loop about their operation.
Delhi Police said this was not true, and that their Punjab counterparts had not followed proper procedure before taking Bagga away, alerting Janakpuri station only after he had been picked up. Sources said the Delhi Police took down registration plate numbers of vehicles in the Punjab Police convoy and shared the information with Haryana Police.
Police in Delhi also filed an FIR against Punjab personnel based on a complaint by Bagga’s father. In his complaint, Preetpal Singh said he was at his home in Janakpuri with Bagga when there was loud banging on their door, around 8 am.
“It appeared as if they would break down the door. As I opened the door, some men barged into the house and started assaulting. Some of them were armed. They enquired about Tajinder and I asked them their purpose. They slapped me and said that they will not tell me,” he alleged.
He said his son Tajinder then arrived. “They caught him and started beating him. As I tried to intervene to save him, they pushed me back. When I took out my mobile phone to record them, they kicked and punched me and snatched my phone. After this, they forcibly dragged my son away. He asked them to let him wear his turban, but they dragged him out without (allowing him to wear) the turban. I went outside and saw that they had taken him away with 4-5 cars following,” he alleged, adding “I suspect that they will kill my son.”
The Punjab Police convoy did not get far. There was high drama when the cavalcade, heading to Mohali, reached near Kurukshetra around 11.30 am. Haryana Police signaled the convoy to stop, with senior officers including Kurukshetra SP Anshu Singla, Karnal SP Ganga Ram Punia and Ambala SP Jashandeep Singh Randhawa reaching the spot.
Explaining why the Punjab police team was stopped, Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij said: “This morning, we received information from Delhi Police that Bagga had been abducted in a Bolero vehicle. We were told that he was being taken in an illegal manner. Whatever instructions we received from Delhi Police, we abided by it.”
In the meantime, BJP workers started gathering on the national highway, as Bagga and the Punjab team were taken to the neighbor Sadar police station in Kurukshetra. Over the next couple of hours, the Delhi Police team too reached. At 2.45 pm, the team left for the national capital with Bagga. At 4.10 pm, Punjab ADGP Sharad Satya Chauhan reached Kurukshetra to hold talks with officers of Haryana police.
Mohali SP (Rural) Manpreet Singh said: “At the time of the arrest, we had tried to intimate the thana (in Delhi) but they did not take the intimation. However, we are still informed the SHO concerned. After our FIR, he (Bagga) had filed a petition in the High Court seeking its quashing. We had given him notices five times, asking him to join the investigation, but he evaded the investigation each time. The court had asked us to follow directions of the Supreme Court, given in the Arnesh Kumar versus State of Bihar. We arrested him legally after serving notices five times.”
With the Punjab Police team stuck in Haryana until Friday evening, the Mohali SSP shot off a strongly worded letter to the Kurukshetra SP. In the letter, Mohali SSP Vivek Sheel Soni said: “It has come to notice… that the (Punjab) Police party has been stopped by Haryana police on Karnal-Kurukshetra highway. This tantamounts to illegal detention and interference in administration of the criminal justice system. It is submitted that the police party along with the arrested accused (Bagga) may be released so that he may be produced before the court of Hon’ble Sh Ravitesh Inderjeet Singh, JMIC, Mohali (SAS Nagar) well within time as per law. ” The letter was marked to the DGPs of Haryana and Punjab and SP Karnal for “information and necessary action”.
However, Anil Vij said: “An FIR could have been registered (against Bagga) in Delhi, too. Why was an FIR registered in Punjab? Is there any torture house of Aam Aadmi Party in Punjab? Delhi Police will now investigate this matter and whatever is true, it shall come out. We got information on abduction and we acted on it as per law.”
The Punjab and Haryana High Court, meanwhile, turned down Punjab government’s plea to stop Bagga from being taken back to Delhi, while ordering Haryana to file an affidavit by Saturday on allegations of the Punjab Police team being detained.