Punjab & Haryana High Court Orders State to Compensate Disabled Man Wrongly Accused of Illicit Liquor Trade

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Published on: October 30, 2023 at 14:31 IST

The Punjab & Haryana High Court has ruled that the State of Punjab must pay a litigation cost of Rs. 1.5 lakh to a man suffering from an 80% locomotion disability. The disabled man was wrongly booked under the Punjab Excise Act, 1914, for allegedly being involved in illicit liquor trade, based on a case of mistaken identity.

It was established that the disabled man was physically incapable of driving any vehicle due to Post-Polio Residual Paralysis in his lower limbs. He was unable to stand, walk, or run, and he relied on a wheelchair due to his disability.

Justice Arun Monga presiding over the case expressed the importance of compensating the petitioner, who had endured unnecessary suffering and legal battles due to the error made by police officials. The court awarded litigation costs of Rs. 1.5 lakh, with Rs. 50,000 for litigation in the lower court and Rs. 1,00,000 for the proceedings in the High Court.

The court ordered that these costs should be paid from the state treasury, with the provision for recovery from the police officials responsible, pending the outcome of the inquiry to be conducted by the Senior Superintendent of Police in Pathankot.

The case pertains to one Kulwinder Singh, who was falsely accused in a case related to illicit liquor trade under various sections of the Punjab Excise Act and the Indian Penal Code.

The police believed he fled from the scene when they attempted to apprehend him during a surprise check of the vehicle he was driving, where a large quantity of illicit liquor was discovered in violation of the Punjab Excise Act, 1914.

The Court noted that the Station House Officer and Assistant Sub-Inspector both offered unconditional apologies for the case of mistaken identity. They explained that the false name of the petitioner was provided by one of the co-accused, Charanjit Singh, who was arrested at the scene. This led to the petitioner being wrongly named as one of the prime accused in the FIR.

Justice Monga criticized the belated apology, suggesting it was made to shield the police officials from the consequences that could result from their earlier actions.

The Court found it perplexing that despite the petitioner’s anticipatory bail petition filed in September, the police did not verify his identity or consider his disability. They failed to inform the Sessions Court about the error even though the facts were known to them.

Consequently, the Court directed the Senior Superintendent of Police in Pathankot to investigate the matter, assign the case to an official not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police, and conduct an administrative inquiry. If the statements made by the SHO and ASI before the Court were found to be false, appropriate action would be taken against the officials.

The court also instructed that the inquiry report should be submitted to the Additional Sessions Judge who had dismissed the petitioner’s anticipatory bail petition. Based on the report, the ASJ would consider further steps, including filing a complaint against the delinquent police officials under Section 195 of the Indian Penal Code.

Case Title: Kulwinder Singh v. State of Punjab

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