LUCKNOW: A special CBI court today sentenced 47 policemen to life imprisonment for killing 10 Sikh pilgrims in a fake encounter in Pilibhit in Uttar Pradesh 25 years ago.
Special judge Lallu Singh had on April 1 held the policemen guilty of a "fake encounter".
On July 12, 1991, the policemen stopped a luxury bus filled with Sikh pilgrims and forced 10 passengers to get off. A charge sheet said they were divided into groups, taken to different areas in a jungle and killed in "cold blood".
The policemen claimed the next day that 10 Khalistani terrorists had been killed. They claimed that some of the Sikhs in the bus had criminal cases and were armed.
The case dates back to 1991 when the state's Terai region witnessed a surge in militancy-related incidents.
The CBI investigated the case on the orders of the Supreme Court and said the motive behind the killings was to earn awards and recognition for killing "terrorists".
According to CBI, the bus was on its way to Pilibhit on July 12, when a police team stopped it at Kachlapul ghat. Eleven Sikh men were allegedly dragged out of the vehicle. The other passengers, including women and children, were taken to a gurdwara in Pilibhit while the men were made to sit in another vehicle.
Late in the evening, additional force joined the police team and they divided the Sikh men into three groups.
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.
The CBI probe found that the police got the autopsy done on 10 of the bodies and got them cremated the same day.
Fifty-seven policemen were charged in the case, but 10 have died since.