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'Specify Cause of Injury': HC Pulls Up PGI Rohtak in 'Abducted' Farmer's Case

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has directed PGI Chandigarh to form a medical board to assess Preetpal's injuries.

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The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Wednesday, 28 February, pulled up PGIMS Rohtak for not specifying the extent or the cause of the injury received by protesting farmer Preetpal Singh, who was allegedly "kidnapped" by Haryana Police personnel from the Khanauri Border between Jind and Sangrur on 21 February.

Preetpal was shifted to PGIMS Chandigarh on 24 February after the intervention of the Punjab Chief Secretary.

In its order, the court of Justice Harkesh Manuja directed that a medical board should be formed at PGIMS Chandigarh to assess the injuries sustained by Preetpal.

The Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (PGIMS), Rohtak, on 28 February submitted Preetpal's medical report via an affidavit, after it failed to do so on 26 February.

The court was hearing a habeas corpus petition filed by Davinder Singh, the father of the 30-year-old injured farmer, in which he had alleged that his son was picked up by the Haryana Police from "within the territorial jurisdiction of Punjab", while he was "peacefully protesting".

However, the Haryana Police has maintained that the protester was well within their boundary, and via an affidavit, also submitted a detailed map of where the protester was reportedly "found".

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has directed PGI Chandigarh to form a medical board to assess Preetpal's injuries.

Preetpal Singh is currently receiving treatment for his "critical injuries" at PGI Chandigarh.

(Photo accessed by The Quint. 28 February 2024)

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The Quint had earlier detailed extent of "serious injuries" sustained by Preetpal, who was later shifted to PGI Chandigarh after requests from his family to shift him to a hospital in Punjab.

Talking to The Quint, his brother Gurjeet Singh had said, "Preetpal was beaten by Haryana Police. He does not feel safe here (at PGI Rohtak). He is not receiving adequate treatment. We want him to be taken back to a hospital in Punjab."

However, the Haryana Police had refuted these allegations.

The Haryana Police had on 26 February submitted in their affidavit that they had "neither detained, nor arrested" Preetpal, and instead "found him severely injured in the fields adjoining the barricades" after dispersing off the protesters on 21 February.

"In view of above, it is clear that Preetpal was never detained by the local police rather he was immediately admitted in the Civil Hospital, Narwana, and thereafter PGI Rohtak for treatment. Thus, averments made in the petition regarding unlawful detention of Preetpal are contrary to the facts, hence, strictly denied. Further it is also clear that the present petition has been filed while concealing material facts."
-Sumit Kumar, Superintendent of Police, Jind, in affidavit to the High Court on 26 February
The court on 26 February also pulled up the Haryana government for not filing Preetpal's medical report, despite court's 23 February order seeking the same.

The Haryana government had then submitted that it couldn't file the report earlier as a copy of the said order was not uploaded to the High Court's website.

'No Probable Opinion on Manner of Injuries Inflicted...'

Hearing the habeas corpus petition on Wednesday, the High Court observed that the medical report submitted by the Director of PGIMS Rohtak, Dr SS Lohchab, did not specify the kind of injury (grievous or dangerous to life), nor did it specify how the injury was caused, and/or the kind of weapon used (sharp/blunt).

In its order the court said: "In the aforesaid affidavit dated 27.02.2024 of Prof. (Dr.) S.S. Lohchab, Director, the summary/status report about the injuries found on the person of Pritpal Singh, has been given; however, no probable opinion about the manner in which the injuries could have been inflicted has been given (sic)."

In response, the counsel representing PGIMS Rohtak requested for two days’ time to file an additional affidavit with the aforesaid details.

Counsel for the petitioner, Advocate Ish Puneet Singh, told The Quint that the court on 28 February also 'orally observed' that, "In light of the injuries received, the matter cannot be closed lightly."

Meanwhile, on request of the counsel for the petitioner, the court has also requested the Director, PGIMER, Chandigarh, to constitute a medical board to investigate the injuries sustained by Preetpal, and submit a report of the same by the next date of the hearing, that is 4 March.

Fresh Police Affidavit Circles 'Exact Location' Where Preetpal Was Found

In an additional affidavit filed before the court on 28 February, Jind Superintendent of Police (SP) Sumit Kumar submitted that the Haryana Police have "put the barricading 1,965 feet (approx. 599 metres) away from the Khanauri Border" between the two states, and "within" their territorial jurisdiction.

This is in line with the earlier claims of the Haryana Police that their action has been within their own jurisdiction in the Data Singhwala village of Jind district, and not in that of Punjab.

The SP also submitted a letter attested by Narwana Tehsildar, verifying the said distance between the border and the barricading.

The SP also submitted a map along with the affidavit, specifying the exact location and the 'khasra number' where a "severely injured" Preetpal was "found in the fields along the barricades".

A 'khasra number' is a unique number assigned to a parcel of land in rural areas.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has directed PGI Chandigarh to form a medical board to assess Preetpal's injuries.

Map shows exact location (highlighted in orange) where Haryana Police claims to have found Preetpal in an injured condition.

(A copy of the affidavit filed by Jind SP & accessed by The Quint)

Who, How, When?: Many Questions Left Unanswered

While the Haryana Police might have submitted the "exact location" where they claim to have "found" an "already injured" Preetpal, his counsel, Advocate Ish Puneet Singh, claimed that the affidavit still leaves several questions unanswered.

Talking to The Quint, Advocate Singh said, "If the injured protester was "found" lying along the barricade, who found him? Who was the first person to see him? Who took him to the hospital?"

"And most importantly, how was Preetpal, an "already injured" farmer, taken across the spikes, barbed wires and heavy police barricading, especially since the map given in the affidavit shows he was found on the other side of the barricade?"
- Advocate Ish Puneet Singh, Counsel for Petitioner

The farmers had earlier alleged that the police had "beaten him and abducted him in a jute bag". The Haryana Police had refuted such claims.

Preetpal is still receiving treatment at PGIMS Chandigarh.

The next hearing in the case is on 4 March.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  News   High Court   Farmers Protest 

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