In August and September, the Punjab Police registered at least three first-information reports against Simarjeet Singh Bains, a member of the state’s legislative assembly. Simarjeet represents Ludhiana’s Atam Nagar constituency in the assembly and is a founder of the Lok Insaaf Party. Two FIRs alleged that Simarjeet had held protests during which LIP members violated restrictions imposed by the government to contain the novel coronavirus pandemic. According to the police, one of the protests resulted in the assault of four police personnel. The third FIR, filed in Ludhiana, accused Simarjeet of encouraging the public to flout COVID-19 restrictions. Ludhiana had a total of 16,599 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus till 22 September—the highest of all districts in Punjab.
The MLA was booked under several sections of the Indian Penal Code in the three FIRs, including Sections 188, 269 and 505 which deal with disobedience of a civil servant’s order, negligence likely to spread infection of a disease which is dangerous to life and statements conducing to public mischief, respectively.
The FIRs are hardly an anomaly in Simarjeet’s political career. In the affidavits he submitted to declare his candidacy in the 2012 and 2017 Punjab assembly elections, Simarjeet had mentioned that six cases were pending against him. According to the affidavit he submitted for the 2019 Lok Sabha election, eight criminal cases were pending against him, which booked him under 23 sections of the IPC, including those dealing with theft, dacoity, house-trespassing and rioting. A few charges featured in multiple FIRs—for instance, the MLA was booked twice for attempt to murder; thrice for criminal intimidation; and four times for assault or use of criminal force to deter a public servant from discharge of his duty. Simarjeet claimed in the affidavit that all six cases were “false.”
For over a decade now, Simarjeet has faced several allegations of taking the law into his own hands. On multiple occasions, he characterised his alleged misdemeanours as a hands-on approach against corruption. Yet, despite the many accusations against him, Simarjeet has been elected as an MLA twice.
The most well-known charge against Simarjeet is from more than a decade earlier when he was a member of the Shiromani Akali Dal, which ruled the state between 2007 and 2017. A civil servant, reportedly the whistle-blower of a corruption scandal during the SAD’s tenure, had accused Simarjeet—who pitches himself as an anti-corruption leader—of assault.
In May 2009, The Tribune reported that “seven persons allegedly sold fake stamp papers worth crores causing loss to the state exchequer. The scam came to light when Sub-Registrar (central) Major Gurinder Singh Benipal found that the stamp paper of Rs 45,000 denomination submitted to him by a private party was only a coloured xerox.” The newspaper reported that of seven suspects in the case, two are a “father-son duo, who also happen to be Akali leaders.”