Punjab minister Bibi Jagir Kaur was sentenced to five years imprisonment by a CBI court in Patila on Friday for her role in the mysterious death of her daughter Harpreet Kaur in 2000.
Kaur, the minister for rural water supply & sanitation and defence services, was arrested soon after the judgement was out and sent to judicial custody for 14 days along with three others convicted.
Kaur has been held guilty under various sections of the Indian Penal Code - Section 120-B (conspiracy), 313 (causing miscarriage without woman's consent), 344 (wrongful confinement for 10 days or more) and 365 (kidnapping or abducting with intent of secretly and wrongfully to confine person).
The verdict comes as a major embarrassment for the recently re-elected Akali government which made saving girl child a main issue in its election manifesto. Punjab had one of the worst sex ratios in the country (846:1000) in 2011.
Opposition Congress has hailed the conviction of Kaur, a former president of SGPC that runs all Gurdwaras in state. "Law has ultimately taken its course and the guilty stand punished," Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee President Captain Amarinder Singh said. "Her conviction has exposed the Akalis and reaffirmed faith of people in judiciary, irrespective of her powerful status."
While Kaur will approach the Punjab & Haryana High Court against the verdict, CBI will fight to get her convicted in murder charge too. If the high court upholds the verdict, it would be almost an end of road for the only woman in the Punjab Cabinet.
The CBI had registered an FIR in the case following Punjab and Haryana High Court's order, after Kamaljeet Singh of Begowal village, approached it accusing Bibi Jagir Kaur of conspiring the murder of Harpreet, his wife. Harpreet had a love affair with Kamaljeet of Begowal village, where Bibi Jagir Kaur runs a dera. The former SGPC chief was against their marriage. According to Kamaljit, he and Harpreet got married secretly and the latter was six-month pregnant when she was murdered at Phagwara.
Just last week, Kamaljit had written to Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, seeking security in view of the upcoming verdict. Several witnesses turned hostile as the case progressed in CBI court. Even complainant Kamaljit turned hostile, only to reaffirm the charges later.
The verdict is seen to send strong message against honour killing. "It was another case of honour killing in Punjab, where the daughter and grand child were killed together. The conviction of a minister has sent a strong message to people,"Prof. Surinder shukla, a political scientist at Panjab University in Chandigarh, said.
Harsimrat Badal, Bhatinda MP and daughter-in-law of Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, had launched 'Nanhi Chhaan' project to empower women and save the girl child before the recently-held assembly polls.
"To curb dwindling sex ratio, zero tolerance will be shown on female foeticide and female infanticide. Besides bringing attitudinal change in people, the party would strictly enforce PNDT Act," reads the Shiromani Akali Dal's election manifesto.