On 6 May 2020, in the midst of the nationwide lockdown to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic, Sumedh Singh Saini, who served as an Indian Police Service officer for 36 years, was booked in a case from 29 years ago. Saini served as a director general of police in the state of Punjab for three years, between 2012 and 2015. The first-information report against Saini was filed at the Mattaur police station in Mohali by Palwinder Singh Multani regarding the alleged abduction and disappearance of Palwinder’s brother, Balwant Singh Multani, in December 1991. Saini was charged under six sections of the Indian Penal Code which pertain to kidnapping or abducting in order to murder; causing disappearance of evidence of offence; wrongful confinement for ten or more days; voluntarily causing hurt to extort confession; a public servant who corruptly or maliciously makes or pronounces in any stage of a judicial proceeding, any report, order, verdict, or decision which he knows to be contrary to law; and criminal conspiracy.
Six others booked in the case were also police personnel—Baldev Singh Saini, a former deputy superintendent of police; Satbir Singh, who was then an inspector; Harsahai Sharma, Jagir Singh and Anokh Singh, all sub-inspectors at the time; and Kuldip Singh, an assistant sub-inspector. On 11 May, Saini was granted anticipatory bail in the case by a local court, which also directed him to join the investigation by appearing before the investigating officer within seven days. The Mohali Police has constituted a special-investigation team for the case, headed by Harmandeep Singh Hans, a superintendent of police. The SIT has already recorded the statement of some key witnesses and Saini has joined the investigation, as per the court’s order.
While the court put stringent restrictions on Saini, the additional district and sessions judge, Monika Goyal, who was presiding over the case, questioned the timing and motivation behind the FIR after almost three decades of the alleged crime. In the bail order, Goyal dismissed Palwinder’s contention that Saini was very influential and hence he had not come forward with his complaint, based on which the FIR, dated 6 May, was registered. Goyal said, “No explanation is coming as to why the present complainant had kept mum for such a long time especially after June, 2018”—the month Saini retired—“and had chosen this time, that is the outbreak of COVID-19 when whole of the State of Punjab is under curfew and had travelled all way from Jalandhar during this time to do an act of lodging the FIR in 29 years old case.”