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Punjab CM strongly defends arrest of Scottish NRI

Author: Ishani Duttagupta
Publication: The Economic Times
Date: November 26, 2017
URL:   https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/opinion/interviews/punjab-cm-strongly-defends-arrest-of-scottish-nri/articleshow/61801407.cms

Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh strongly defends the Punjab Police and the arrest of Jagtar Singh Johal in an exclusive email interview with ET. Edited excerpts:

Q.: The UK government has made many representations on behalf of Jagtar Singh Johal. What is the response of the Punjab government?
A.: My government’s response is very clear. The law will take its own course in the matter. Johal was arrested by the police on grave charges in major cases, based on strong evidence against him. And he was arrested only after his role in the conspiracy to kill RSS/Shiv Sena leaders/workers was confirmed on the basis of specific inputs about his linkages/involvement in these crimes.

In fact, he is now in judicial custody after the police completed their investigations. So whatever has to happen will happen as per the judicial process. This man is also allegedly involved in the murder of a pastor, who was made a target just because he was a Christian. These people have been killing people because of their religion.

As far as the UK government is concerned, neither I nor my government has received any formal representation from them. I have only come across reports in the media and on the social media about the matter being taken up in the British Parliament, which I find quite shocking. I have read reports of the Parliament of that country discussing baseless allegations of torture of the accused.

My response to them is — do you have any information to substantiate these so-called allegations? How can a parliament of any country discuss criminal charges levied by another country when they do not have an iota of evidence to endorse these allegations? And I also want to ask them — had the same thing happened with an Indian citizen in the UK would you have ordered his release without the law taking its due course? The whole issue is being sought to be politicised by certain pro-Khalistani elements and it is unfortunate that a democratic institution like the parliament is being allowed to be used by them to further their anti-Punjab agenda.

Q.: Many people of Indian origin in the UK (especially Scotland) have been fighting for Johal’s release and for his human rights. Have they been in touch with the Punjab government?
A.: As mentioned above, nobody has been in touch with my government on this issue at all. I have no qualms in stating that the campaign launched by certain radical elements based in Britain and other Western countries is totally false and slanderous. It is an orchestrated media campaign against the Punjab government/Punjab Police. In fact, Punjab Police officers have been receiving death threats targeted at them and their family members from such elements over phone, WhatsApp and various social media platforms.

This is all being done unofficially. Had there been any basis to their allegations, they would have taken recourse to diplomatic channels and approached my government officially instead of carrying out an underhand campaign like this.

Q.: Have British diplomats been granted access to Johal? Does he have a lawyer?
A.: Let me clarify once again that nobody, either in their individual capacity or on behalf of the British government, has reached out to me or my government officially. There have been attempts to actually scuttle the investigations in the case. The British authorities have even refused to share a copy of the British passport of Jagtar Singh Johal, which has been handed over to the British High Commission in New Delhi, by his family. As for consular access, as soon as the MEA gave approval for consular access on November 15, a team of the UK high commission, New Delhi, comprising of consular officers Margaret Partridge and Amit Kotecha met Jagtar Singh on November 16.

Q.: Also, on November 15, a lawyer met him for an hour, late in the evening.

A.: As I said earlier, due legal process was followed at every step during and after his arrest. At the time of his arrest, a police officer facilitated his talk with his aunt, his closest relative available in India at the time. His medical examinations have been conducted as required, and he was produced before the court as per law.
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