Twenty-three-years after policemen in Amritsar tattooed the words ‘jeb katri’ (pickpocket) on the foreheads of four women, a special CBI court in Patiala has sentenced three cops to jail in a case which had sparked widespread condemnation.
Special CBI judge Baljinder Singh on Friday awarded three years rigorous imprisonment to the then superintendent of police, Sukhdev Singh Chinna, and sub-inspector Narinder Singh Malli, who was then SHO of Rambagh police station. He also awarded one year rigorous imprisonment to ASI Kanwaljit Singh.
Punjab Police had drawn widespread criticism for the infamous incident in December 1993, when the police officials in Amritsar tattooed the words ‘jeb katri’ on the foreheads of four women who were accused of stealing a purse.
The case came to the fore when during the hearing of the pickpocketing case, the police produced the four in the court with their foreheads covered with a dupatta.
One of the women showed to the court the tattoo on her forehead and the story made headlines.
The National Human Rights Commission had also taken a serious view of the incident.
The victims filed a writ petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court in 1994, praying for directions to the respondents, the government of Punjab, Amritsar superintendent of police, and others, for arranging plastic surgery for removal of the tattoo, giving compensation for the inhuman act and humiliation, and punishing the guilty cops.
On January 17, 1994, the NHRC not only approached the high court to become a party in the case, but also sent a letter to the Punjab chief secretary, seeking a report on the matter.
NHRC had also submitted an affidavit in the court, demanding a CBI probe.
After hearing the counsel of the NHRC and petitioners, the high court handed over the probe to the CBI, and also directed Punjab government to arrange for plastic surgery for the victims and pay compensation of Rs. 50,000 to each of them, as recommended by the rights body.
CBI filed a challan in 2015 under Sections 326 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt), 342 (wrongful confinement), 346 (wrongful confinement in secret) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.
The victims alleged in their petition that they had gone to visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar on December 8, 1993. After paying obeisance when they reached the bus stand, ASI Kanwaljit Singh stopped them and kept them in custody from December 8 to 15.
Later, the ASI on the directions of the SP and SHO, got the word pickpocket tattooed on their foreheads. The police had claimed that it was the women’s neighbours who had done the deed “to make people aware about their misdeeds”.