By Vishal Gulati
Chandigarh, Jun 3 (IANS): This is a saga of an open-and-shut seven-year-old investigation into the murder of national shooter and lawyer Sukhmanpreet Singh, aka Sippy Sidhu, in Chandigarh. The investigating agency CBI's charge sheet blamed Kalyani Singh, who allegedly driven by her obsession with the failed love affair, had entered into a conspiracy to commit the crime.
The prime suspect, who was deceptive in the polygraph test, is the daughter of a high court acting chief justice who retired on April 19, while the victim's father once practiced law with the accused's father. Sippy's grandfather was a former judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
From holding candlelight marches in the city to moving petitions against the Central Bureau of Investigation's (CBI) closure report into the high-profile case that is hogging media headlines, the victim's family knocked on almost every door for justice for Sippy, who was 34 at the time of his death. He was shot four times with a 12-bore gun.
After almost seven years of the crime, Kalyani Singh, who was an assistant professor with the home science department of a local government college, was arrested by the CBI on June 15, 2022, after several rounds of questioning. With her arrest, the victim's family heaved a sigh of relief.
The bullet-riddled body of Sippy, a rifle shooter who had won the team gold along with Abhinav Bindra in the Punjab National Games in 2001, was found in a park in Sector 27 on September 20, 2015. The case was initially investigated by the Chandigarh Police. In January 2016 it was transferred to the CBI.
In December 2020, the CBI had informed the trial court that it had no evidence in the crime. However, it said it would keep investigations open as it had "strong suspicions about the role of a woman behind the crime".
The CBI, which said Kalyani Singh was evasive during previous interrogations, claimed that she was in a close relationship with Sippy and wanted to marry him, but his family had rejected her.
The CBI alleged that Sippy had leaked her objectionable pictures to her parents and friends.
In the latest development in the case, the Punjab and Haryana High Court last month set aside four orders of the Special Judicial Magistrate, CBI, which denied the suspect access to copies of documents filed by the prosecution.
Justice Gurvinder Singh Gill directed the prosecution to provide her with the complete set of documents which were filed by the prosecution along with an 'untraced report'.
On the plea of Kalyani Singh's counsel that some chats between Sippy and his girlfriend and objectionable photographs could cause embarrassment to some, the high court observed, "In case where personal sensitive information of complainant is pitted against right of accused to defend himself, some workable solution has to be found."
"Since a part of data includes chats between deceased and his girlfriends, apart from objectionable photographs, which could lead to embarrassment to those concerned, it will be in the fitness of things that such data be either provided by imposing some strict conditions on accused or only regulated access is provided to the same to the accused," observed the high court, while ordering that the trial court shall defer the consideration as regards framing of charges till the aforesaid documents or data is supplied to the petitioner.
While granting regular bail to Kalyani Singh, whose mother was a judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court at the time of the crime, on September 13 last year, the High Court had rapped the CBI for prima facie depending on "tutored and planted" witnesses for solving the crime through her arrest.
It had asserted that the CBI had failed to live up to its credentials of being the foremost investigating agency in the country. "Instead of employing the best scientific techniques to inculpate the real offenders, it prima facie chose to take the services of 'tutored and planted' witnesses merely for solving the crime through the petitioner's arrest," Justice Sureshwar Thakur had observed.
The CBI in a charge sheet based on 84 witnesses, filed under Sections 302 (murder), 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 201 (causing disappearance of evidence) of the Indian Penal Code in the special CBI court of Chandigarh, is clueless about the second assailant and the weapon used in the crime.
The charge sheet says it is established that Kalyani Singh driven by the obsession of a failed love affair, fuelled by a feeling of anger and morbid jealousy (due to the affair of Sippy with another girl) and humiliation to her family (after her objectionable pictures were circulated by Sippy), hatched a conspiracy with the unidentified assailant and killed Sippy.
The central agency has said on the day of the crime Kalyani Singh intentionally left her mobile phone in the house, where a birthday party was on.
Further, the call data record of her mobile phone showed its location to be in that house from 8.15 p.m. to 10.24 p.m., establishing the fact that the phone was "deliberately and intentionally" left in the house.
The charge sheet says Kalyani Singh in connivance with the second assailant had caused destruction of material evidence in order to save her and the unknown assailant from punishment and the clutches of the law.
However, key questions are still shrouded in secrecy with the federal agency failing to identify an assailant who allegedly helped the accused to carry out the murder, and also the untraceable firearm used in the crime.
However, defence counsel Sartej Narula argues that the CBI didn't have any forensic evidence. "The same witnesses which were already mentioned in the closure report filed by the CBI are there in the charge sheet. So, technically they don't have any evidence," he said.