“Certain officers run amok.’’ This was how Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh today sought to explain the manner in which the Punjab police picked up Gautam Dheer, a principal correspondent with The Indian Express, hours after his report on a complaint against IGP Sumedh Singh Saini to the state human rights commission.
Later this evening, Dheer was released on bail after furnishing a surety and personal bond of Rs 10,000 each.
According to the police, Dheer was arrested for allegedly threatening a rape victim, a charge he denies. On Sunday, Dheer had reported on two Nayagaon residents—linked to the accused—complaining to the Punjab State Human Rights Commission alleging harassment at the hands of IGP Saini who is heading investigations into the alleged rape of the minor girl.
Earlier in the day, faced with a chorus of outrage and protest by journalists from all sections of the media, the Chief Minister took the initiative to order an inquiry into Dheer’s arrest by the Home Secretary.
He also promised that ‘‘heads would roll’’ once the report is submitted in three to four days.
‘‘The state government will not oppose Dheer’s bail plea,’’ he said. The CM also set up another inquiry into the alleged involvement of officers in the land mafia.
Regretting that some officers continued to foster ‘‘militancy-era’’ mindset, the Chief Minister said: ‘‘Apparently, there was no need for such an action.’’
Protests began early this morning when in a show of solidarity, mediapersons, print and broadcast, assembled at the Chandigarh Press Club. Dheer’s wife Sonia narrated how Punjab policemen stormed into her house and took away Dheer. Her mother remarked that this could happen to any citizen and if the police were allowed to get away with this, the liberty of everyone was at stake.
A resolution moved by Swadesh Talwar, Regional Photo Editor of The Indian Express, announcing the boycott of any press conference by IG Sumedh Singh Saini was unanimously passed.
Jagtar Singh Sidhu, president of Chandigarh Press Club; B S Jandu, president of Tribune Employees’ Union, Vinod Kohli of National Union of Journalists and Ramesh Vinayak, bureau chief of India Today also spoke on the occasion to express their support for Dheer. Later, the assembled reporters marched from the Press Club to the BBMB Bhavan venue where both Punjab and Haryana Chief Ministers were to take part in a function.
Amarinder was gheraoed the moment he entered the office and met a delegation of the media immediately. He announced the three decisions and proceeded for the function. However, when mediapersons learnt that the police were planning to slap more cases on Dheer despite the CM’s assurance, they approached the CM again.
Amarinder said the law would take its own course.
However, the state police seemed reticent to carry out the CM’s orders, and continued to delay bail. And it was only later in the evening that Dheer applied for regular bail and was released on a personal surety and bond of Rs 10,000 each.
Meanwhile, the Punjab Government is considering moving an application in the High Court on Tuesday seeking to remove the case of Gautam Dheer’s arrest from the jurisdiction of IGP Saini.
A S Sukhija, advocate representing Dheer, said: ‘‘Police officers have got no jurisdiction to release anyone under any law except section 169 CrPC by holding that the evidence is deficient and detention was not required.’’