On January 8th the BBC Asian Network radio show saw the Jagtar Singh case discussed by the Indian Deputy High Commissioner Dinesh Patnaik. During this interview, many inaccurate and misleading statements were made about the case. Sikh PA have worked with the Free Jaggi Now to highlight the inaccuracies made by one of India’s most senior UK based officials.
Below is a transcription of the interview with statements added from the Free Jaggi Now team to clarify the truth behind Dinesh Patnaik’s claims. ALL statements from the Free Jaggi Now team have come via liaison with Jagtar Singh’s family and his lawyer. For more information on anything stated, please get in touch via Media@SikhPA.com.
Nomia Iqbal interview with Indian Deputy High Commissioner Dinesh Patnaik on Monday 8th January 2018. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09kdlv1#play )
48.50: Portion regarding Jagtar Singh Johal
NI = Nomia Iqbal
DP = Dinesh Patnaik
FJN = Free Jaggi Now
NI: Just to give you a sense of how listeners have been feeling, not just today, but Jagtar Singh Johal – his case has really really concerned Sikhs here, certainly, especially the lack of transparency over what’s happening with him. We still don’t know what’s going on. Can you give us some clarity on that?
DP: I will be very clear, I agree with you, there has been a lot of concerns from a lot of people about Johal’s case and we have managed to actually give as much information as we can.
FJN: The authorities had Jagtar Singh detained for two days before any information was given to the family about his whereabouts. Applications made in the courts have not been responded to, a failure of the legal process that shows a bias.
DP: The very fact that he’s being charged under seven counts of aiding and abetting of murder of seven individuals… including a Christian pastor… and the investigation is on and in India according to the rules the police can remand into custody an individual for…
FJN: Jagtar Singh has categorically NOT been charged. No actual charges have been filed in the courts. Jagtar Singh has commented in court that he is innocent. From what we can gather in the media, the allegations range from ‘influencing the youth through social media’ to providing ‘funding for alleged murders of RSS leaders’ (which it is assumed occurred from outside of India, if the allegation is proven).
NI: Are you sure? Sorry to interrupt you Dinesh, please forgive me, but he’s not been charged though has he?
DP: Yes, right now he is under investigation…
NI: He’s under investigation, he’s not been charged though has he?
DP: He will be charged once the investigation is over. There are seven counts – under each of them he is being investigated separately.
NI: Ok, so he’s not actually been charged right now, as we, you and I speak…[DP talking over her: He will be charged]
FJN: It is worrying and also a sign of the unlawful nature of the Indian judicial system that the Indian deputy high commissioner confidently states ‘He will be charged’. Jagtar has been ‘under investigation’ for over a year according to Indian authorities, and has been questioned directly since his arrest on the 4th of November 2017, even being subjected to 3rd degree torture as part of his interrogation. Yet, no evidence or ‘recoveries’ have been shown or submitted to the courts. With this in mind, what makes Dinesh Patnaik so abrasively confident enough to state as fact Jagtar Singh will be charged?
NI: How do you know he will be charged?
DP: Well, he never will be charged if the investigation turns out that he is not guilty or he has nothing to do with the crimes that we are investigating – he will be let off.
FJN: Whilst Dinesh Patnaik’s statement here is logically correct, Captain Amarinder the Punjab Chief Minister originally claimed on a press conference on 7.11.17 that Punjab police had ‘solved’ the cases Jagtar Singh was arrested in connection with. Despite this, no evidence or charge has yet been made. Nevertheless, there is a general theme of Indian authorities damning Jagtar Singh as guilty before he is proven innocent.
DP: But each time he is remanded into custody for the investigation he has to be produced before a court which he has been produced before court. A medical test is done to assess that everything is fine with him, there is no torture involved.
FJN: All medicals have been done by the Punjab Police, the same group Jagtar Singh stated were torturing him. Dinesh has no proof that torture was not involved. Punjab Police have a history of torture associated with being detained in their custody, as documented by Amnesty international.
Applications have been submitted in the lower and high court for an urgent independent medical. A date has been set for the hearing as March 2018. Human Rights Watch and Ensaaf have documented how Punjab Police has enjoyed impunity for the last 34 years. Recently the Missing Punjab project released a list of 8527 unresolved cases of enforced disappearances of Sikh youth in Punjab police custody.
[brief technical interruption]
NI: But just to clarify, Jagtar Singh Johal has not been charged with anything right now. He’s not been charged. Dinesh is saying that he will be charged, he could be charged, but the investigation is still ongoing. But just on the point Dinesh, you understand therefore the concern over it and the feeling of anxiety of this case and the lack of transparency by India?
DP: No, we have… see the British High Commission has got consular access to him almost three or four times already.
FJN: The access to him has never been private, as requested by both Jagtar Singh’s lawyer and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. All meetings have been in the presence of Punjab Police. A court order was obtained by Jagtar’s lawyer for a private meeting with the FCO. This order was violated by the Punjab Police when they refused to allow this to happen and the Punjab courts provided no further relief in the matter.
DP: Every time he is remanded into custody he is produced before a court where his lawyers, his people, have access to him. You know, all the people who need access to him have access.
FJN: As documented, Jagtar Singh’s lawyer has stated he has been denied access to his client on occasion. To date no private meetings have been allowed with the lawyer (which is contrary to the Indian Evidence Act) or consular staff. One such meeting with Jagtar’s lawyer took place in a court yard, for five minutes, whilst Jagtar was surrounded by more than 10 police and NIA officials.
DP: You don’t expect us to put a person who is under investigation to access to the public – he has access to his lawyers, to his family, to the British High Commission who are concerned about him. Everybody has access to him. I am not able to…
NI: His family have access to him?
DP: Exactly, they can go and meet him.
NI: Well we need to speak to the family to get some clarity on that. What about these torture allegations then?
DP: That’s completely baseless. It is not a country where we do torture.
FJN: India is not a signatory to UN Convention against Torture. Many human rights organisations have recorded reports of an endemic system of torture within Indian police. In the case of Jagtar, his lawyer has strongly rebutted claims of the Punjab Police and the Punjab Chief Minister that Jagtar has not been tortured.
DP: Like I told you every time he is remanded into custody – and he has already been remanded into custody three times or four times – each time there is a medical test done to show that he is clear before and clear after…
FJN: Jagtar has reported to consular staff that only cursory medicals have taken place by the Punjab police, the same group accused of torturing him. Officers are always present during any examinations. A court order was issued to try and prevent the police from conducting medicals in the back of police vans. Both Jagtar Singh’s lawyer and the FCO have requested an independent medical, which has been denied, whilst a hearing for this to happen was set by one judge for March 2018.
NI: And have you released the results of…?
DP: Yes, this is given to his lawyers, to his people. See, whenever there is an investigation done you don’t release to the public or to the press investigation results.
FJN: No evidence has been produced in the courts and Jagtar has been detained since 4th November 2017 without charge. Yet the Punjab Police/NIA clearly released a video of an alleged ‘confession’, directly from detainment in police custody, to the media.
DP: Every day there are investigations across the country…
NI: Considering the huge amount of concern over the case, and especially allegations that he’s not been treated fairly, do you not think that it would be a good idea to be more transparent and release these results, to quell the allegations that India’s facing?
DP: There is a trial by media going on, a trial by social media. And that’s something which, as any government, or any system, nobody wants a trial by media or by social media.
FJN: Why would Punjab Police release a so-called ‘confession’ from Jagtar Singh to media, which media actually stated was ‘inadmissible in court’? Unless the focus of the authorities involved was in fact a trail by media. Jagtar’s lawyer has asked questions in court about the so-called confession; how did this alleged confession, taken in police custody, come to be released in the media, and claimed in the media as “an NIA exclusive”?
NI: Sure, but Dinesh, his lawyers are saying he’s been tortured…
DP: Yes, but his lawyers have not given any proof of any torture. The point of torture… each time he’s produced before court there is a medical test done. His lawyers have the results of that test, why are they not showing those results?
FJN Again, the is simply categorically untrue and Indian authorities have openly rejected requests for an independent medical which was requested by the FCO to look into the allegations of torture. Jagtar Singh has reported to consular staff that only cursory medicals have taken place by the Punjab police, officers are always present during any examination. A court order was issued to try and prevent the police from conducting medicals in the back of police vans.
NI: And just on the point you made about the charges. As I clarified, he’s not been charged yet…
DP: He’s not been charged…
NI: How long is going to take before he’s either charged or released? It’s going on for weeks now…
DP: Each case takes ninety days for investigation. That is the amount under the law that is… the investigating agencies are allowed. They cannot cross the ninety-day barrier.
NI: It just all sounds quite confusing Dinesh, because you’ve got your side saying there’s no evidence that he has been tortured, and you’re saying that the legal team have no evidence, but they’re raising it as an issue though, aren’t they? So clearly…
DP: Which court has raised the issue?
FJN: An appeal has been submitted to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment via Redress Trust and Ensaaf. We have necessary legal documents to prove that the allegation of torture has been raised with the FCO, the MEA, and the courts.
NI: So there isn’t… there is evidence right?
DP: Allegations in the media and allegations in the press are not allegations… if had they… why the case in court about torture?… not yet, because they need evidence to show that.
FJN: The evidence would have come via an independent medical, which is the only possible way to highlight Jagtar Singh’s torture. The independent medical has been continually rejected by Indian courts.
DP: The British High Commission has had access to the person three times. Have they said anything about Johal being tortured?
FJN: On the first meeting consular staff have had with Jagtar they classed him as vulnerable and has since continually sought a private meeting to fully assess his condition.
NI: So you’re confident that he’s being treated fairly and that he will get a fair trial if it indeed comes to that?
FJN: The possibility of a fair trial has already disappeared based on the fact Jagtar Singh has been on trial via media, where sensationalised headlines and news reports have called him a “Khalistani terrorist” and Captain Amarinder already claiming he is guilty in the first public press conference on the case. Dinesh Patnaik’s assertion that “he will be charged” further erodes our belief that there will be a fair trial.
DP: Yes, he will be treated as fairly as any other individual in the world. You’re talking about democratic set up. You saw the Chennai Six case… where everybody we’re talking about, how the Chennai Six would not be let off… the courts let them off – despite the fact that they were carrying arms in a ship into India – the courts let them off because there was no malevolent intention.
FJN: Despite the fact Dinesh states ‘the courts let them off because there was no malevolent intention’, it took four years for the Chennai Six to be freed. Regarding Jagtar, the torture of a British national has been alleged in the Indian courts and the Indian government have hindered its impartial investigation and private consular access.
DP: The courts in India are free and fair – they know exactly what is to be done.
FJN: Only last month, Amnesty International worked with Ensaaf to highlight a clear culture of impunity of Punjab Police in relation to killings and disappearances of detainees. The Indian judiciary system has also been consistently highlighted as corrupt.
DP: You can’t force the courts to take a decision on something because you put pressure through social media and through networks.
NI: Stay with me Dinesh, as I say, thank you for coming onto the show…
FJN: Social media has given us a voice, in fact our slogan is “Be Jaggi’s Voice”. In India people are arrested for social media use, artists are arrested and charged with sedition, human rights activist are arrested and implicated in false cases only to be found innocent after many years of their lives are wasted. Social media is a powerful tool to speak truth to power.