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UP police
(Representational image only)

47 policemen accused in the 1991 Pilibhit fake encounter case have been sentenced to life imprisonment for shooting dead 10 Sikh pilgrim who were described as terrorists.

A trial court had on Friday convicted the 47 cops holding them guilty of a “fake encounter.”

The policemen were accused of stopping a bus filled with Sikh pilgrims on July 12, 1991 in UP’s Pilibhit and forcing 10 passengers to alight. The chargesheet said they were then taken to different police stations and were killed in “cold blood.”

57 policemen were charged in the case, but 10 have died since.

The CBI investigated the case on the orders of the Supreme Court.

Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) chief Avtar Singh Makkar has hailed the verdict of a CBI court in Uttar Pradesh (UP) which held 47 policemen guilty of staged killings of 10 Sikhs in Pilibhit district in 1991.

In a statement issued, Makkar said after a long drawn court battle, justice had “finally been done”. “The judgement will bring some relief to the families of the victims,” he said.

Makkar said the conviction of the policemen will also send a message to the police that they cannot take the law into their hands.

In a twist to the tale, twenty-seven of the convicted policemen found guilty have gone missing, according to a report in The Times of India.

In the latest report, sources told The Times of India that some of the cops went underground after retirement, while the others just disappeared after applying for long leaves.

The report stated that the Uttar Pradesh police have launched a search to trace these missing cops and have succeeded in locating six of them.

As per the report, the court will announce the punishment on Monday during which these 27 cops need to be produced before the court as non-bailable warrants have been issued against them.

Reports suggest that rest of the 20 cops were sent to judicial custody.

The incident took place in 1991, when Uttar Pradesh saw an increase in militant activities.

On the intervening night of July 12 and 13, the policemen gunned down the Sikh men in three encounters in the thickets falling under three different police station areas — Bilsanda, Niuria and Pooranpur— in Pilibhit. The police then claimed that these men had criminal cases against them and claimed to have recovered arms and ammunition from their possession.

(With agencies input)