LUDHIANA: The additional sessions judge Ludhiana Sunil Arora on Tuesday convicted and sentenced to 10 years rigorous imprisonment 12 accused in the infamous Rs 5.70 crores bank robbery that took place during the peak time of terrorism in Punjab. It was over 25 years ago on February 12, 1987 that Rs 5.70 crores were looted by the militants in police uniform from the Miller Ganj, Ludhiana branch of the Punjab National Bank.
Those convicted and sentenced include Khalistan Commando Force (KCF) memebers Gurnam Singh of village Rattan in Ludhiana, Daljeet Singh Bittu of Gurdev Nagar Ludhiana, Harjinder Singh of Lalton in Ludhiana, Balwinder Singh of village Tolly near Nakodar in Jallandhar, Mohan Singh of village Kartarpur Ludhiana, Swaroop Singh of Jalandhar, Gurjant Singh of Jagaraon, Avtar Singh of Jalandhar, Harbhajan Singh of Nakodar, Sewa Singh of Hoshiarpur, Assa Singh of Hoshiarpur and Mann Singh of Ludhiana.
Besides, Sukhwinder Singh Sukha and Harjinder Singh Jinda were also the accused in the case. Both of them were convicted and hanged to death for the assassination of General AS Vaidya, who was the Chief of Army Staff at the time of Operation Bluestar.
There were 26 more accused in this case who had already been killed during the militancy in various encounters with the police.
Five accused were discharged.
Most of those sentenced have already spent as much or more time in jail than they have been sentenced for and quite a number of them have grown older in their fifties and sixties. In fact one of those sentenced Assa Singh is 93 years old.
Most of those convicted were on bail. Those who have already spent as much or more time in jail will not have to undergo the imprisonment.
Interestingly not a single gunshot was fired during the dacoity and all the militants had come wearing police uniform. Despite the fact that there were about Rs 20 crores lying in the bank at that time, the militants went away with Rs 5.7 crores only as they had left the fresh notes and taken away the old ones. At that time there were no Rs500 or Rs 1000 denomination notes. All the money looted was of Rs 100 denomination.
The CBI had taken over the investigations within three days of the dacoity and it took more than 25 years for the case to be completed. There were 450 witnesses named and 196 were examined. The defence also cross examined 47 witnesses. This was probably among one of the longest drawn cases.
The case was registered at the Police Station Division Number 6 on the complaint of SN Gupta, the then Chief Manager of the PNB, Miller Ganj against unknown persons.
The defence was represented by senior advocate PS Hundal, while the prosecution was led by YK Saxena of the CBI.