Jammu’s crime syndicates and gangs apparently patronized by nouveau rich have had many casualties in the past. But this time, investigators were caught sleeping with the criminals, forcing an embarrassed police to act against its men. These include a ‘decorated officer’ who was “the law” during his Kashmir tenure, a Kashmir Life report.
It was a plain crime with footprints of a typical Jammu gang-war common in the Dograland. At 1730 hours on August 29, 25-year-old Amandeep Singh responded to frantic knocks at his Shastri Nagar home and opens the door. He found a man, allegedly Jatinder Singh alias Raja, waiting for him. The man grabbed Singh by one hand and with a pistol in his other hand pumped a bullet into his stomach. As Singh fell down, Raja fled along with his two accomplices.
Amandeep’s family is in politics. His mother Depender Kour was an MLC, first with National Conference and now with PDP. His uncle Sudarshan Singh Wazir is a prominent Sikh leader. Police immediately rushed to the spot and within hours of Amandeep’s shifting to GMC hospital, they came out with absolute results.
Police said Raja, the son of city liquor baron Choudhary Nagar Singh alias Nago, and two of his friends Manik Singh Jamwal (Sainik Colony) and Ishuk Choudhary (Gandhi Nagar) drove to Singh’s home in a Maruti Swift car (925 JK02AC) and a motorcycle. While the two stood guard outside, Raja did the ‘kill’ and returned. Apart from the car and the bike, police detained the trio and recovered two country made pistols including the one that was used in the crime.
As Singh’s condition deteriorated, he was driven in a ventilator fitted ambulance to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi during wee hours where he passed away on August 31. As the body was cremated, the FIR was upgraded to murder and police identified a fourth co-accused Royal Singh of Dalpatian Mohalla (still absconding).
In the third week, as the investigation was progressing, a crisis erupted when prima facie crosscheck indicated that policemen investigating the case had tried to destroy the evidence. Reports suggested chief minister himself ordered action against the policemen. Six officers including city police chief Manohar Singh, SP (south) Mumtaz Ahmad, SDPO (Gandhinagar) Jaswant Singh Katoch and SHO were placed under suspension. SP Poonch Basant Rath replaced Manohar Singh.
A day after police set up Special Investigation Team (SIT) under SP Ramban Mubassir Latifi and formally registered a case against the accused policemen under section 201 RPC (FIR 279/2009 PS Gandhi Nagar). An FSL report said the bullet that killed Amandeep had not been fired from the weapon that police had shown as recovered. Investigators were accused of changing the weapon after taking money from the killer’s father.
Instead of the original weapon, police had sent an old, rusted non-functional country made pistol to FSL for examination on September 3. The weapon was apparently changed between August 30 and September 3.
Investigations formally started after Eid on September 22. Very professionally conduct, the ‘replaced’ weapon was opened and observations of all the police and FSL experts were recorded. The family of the murder victim was contacted to depose and repeatedly policemen were sent to the family of Nagar Singh to present himself before the SIT. During investigations it was revealed that the killer boy was being served packaged food that police were procuring from a neighbouring food joint. On September 23, notices were finally issued to Nagar Singh.
The breakthrough was finally announced on September 25 when DIG Jammu Farooq Khan said the destruction of evidence involved huge amount of money. “I have no exact figure but a very huge sum was involved in tampering the evidence. Money has played a major role…rather, a very big role. Exact amount and the officers to whom it was paid and the person(s) who made the payment would be known very soon,” Khan told reporters. Amandeep’s mother has alleged over two crore rupees were spent by the family to destroy evidence.
An FSL ballistic expert Sarwar Bukhari had confessed receiving Rs. 3.50 lakh during interrogation. Police recovered Rs. 3.10 lakh from his Channi Rama residence. From Raj Singh – a Polygraph Unit Assistant with FSL, Thathar residence in Bantalab, another Rs. 40,000 were recovered. Bukhari’s assistant Manzoor was also later raided and questioned. Khan’s briefing suggested the money was showered like water and involved everybody from police to FSL. The cash dispending civilian is identified but Khan said he is yet to be detained. This necessitated adding Section 120 (b) RPC pertaining to criminal conspiracy and Prevention of Corruption Act in the murder and fudging case. Statements of all the witnesses were recorded (under section 164 (a) before Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) to ensure that they didn’t turn hostile during later.
September 27 was a major milestone when police finally arrested three cops including SSP Singh, SHO Mirza and SI Satnam Singh. The trio were sent to the New Gandhi Nagar police station, which they commanded till September 19. Now police is looking for three civilians – Nagar Singh, and his two brothers Ujjagar and Rakesh, who are believed to have distributed a huge amount in cash and kind among police and FSL officials in lieu of tampering the evidence. Two others – SP City Mumtaz Ahmed and SDPO Katoch were, according to SIT, kept in dark by SSP and SHO about the tampering of the evidence but they still face the charges of “lack of supervisory role”. SIT said initially the original weapon was sent to FSL on September 3 but after the deal was struck, it was brought back to police station Gandhi Nagar where it was replaced. Now the case is against two cops and three FSL officials. Police have already got a six-days remand.
For retrieving the original weapon of crime, SIT is raiding all the suspected spots. So far it has failed and now it is planning to raid the properties that Manohar Singh owns elsewhere – Patnitop, Chandigarh and Gurgaon. Apart from Singh brothers, SIT is still probing the role of another police official in negotiating the deal between the accused family, FSL and police men.