Chandigarh: Former Punjab Cabinet Minister Bibi Jagir Kaur continues to wield political power even as a prisoner of law. Ms Kaur, who is serving a five-year sentence at the Kapurthala Central Jail in Chandigarh for forcing her daughter Harpreet Kaur to abort - who later died under mysterious circumstances - was found honouring the Inspector General, Prisons, inside the jail at a religious function.
Jagjit Singh, the Inspector General, Prisons, had earlier conducted an inquiry on the charges that she was given VVIP treatment inside the jail and gave her a clean chit.
At the function, Ms Kaur, who is also the head of the Dera Sant Baba Prem Singh, honoured some other jail officials as well, including the Jail Superintendent.
The Congress was quick to hit out at her party, the Shiromani Akali Dal. "This has been going on during the Akali Government in the past six years. They do not abide by the court or by the law," said Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari.
A Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special court in Patiala has sentenced Ms Kaur to five years rigorous imprisonment on counts of forcible abortion, wrongful confinement, abduction and criminal conspiracy. She has, however, been absolved of the charges of murdering her daughter, Harpreet Kaur, 19, who died 12 years ago. Ms Kaur has been surrounded in controversy about receiving special treatment in jail ever since. Video footage showed she was driven up to the jail in an air-conditioned Innova car.
Then there were reports of a 32-inch LCD TV and a direct-to-home dish antenna installed in a ward in the jail for her. An air-conditioner was said to be on its way. However, an inquiry into the incident by the IG Prisons gave her a clean chit.
After her conviction and arrest, 57-year-old Jagir Kaur was forced to resign as Punjab's minister for rural water supply and sanitation and defence services, but it was clear that she still had ample political clout. She was sentenced to be lodged at the Patiala jail, but within hours of her conviction, her request that she be transferred to the Kapurthala jail was accepted. Jagir Kaur, who heads a cash-rich "dera" (sect) in Begowal village, belongs to the Kapurthala district.
Jagir Kaur's daughter Harpreet Kaur was found dead on April 20, 2000, when Jagir Kaur was president of the powerful Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC). She was rushed to hospital from her mother's home by a domestic help and a doctor who later turned approver in the case. Doctors declared her dead on arrival, and no post-mortem was conducted.
On April 27, a man named Kamaljit Singh petitioned the Punjab High Court to commission an inquiry into Harpreet's death. He said Harpreet had married him secretly because her mother was opposed to their relationship. He produced photos and a video of their wedding to support his allegations. He said Harpreet was pregnant with their child and that Jagir Kaur had forced her to have an abortion.
Jagir Kaur was forced to quit her SGPC post. The case was handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation. But it was a complex one, mainly because the investigation only began a few months after Harpreet's death and since there was no post-mortem conducted. Many witnesses turned hostile since the trial began, including Kamaljit Singh, who later said that the video of the wedding that he had submitted was a ceremony staged on camera to pressure Jagir Kaur; he said he did not actually marry Harpreet.
Jagir Kaur and six other people were tried for Harpreet's murder. Three of the others were convicted in the case, one died during the course of the trial; two others were acquitted.