Akshay Kumar appears before Punjab SIT, denies meeting Sacha Sauda chief

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CHANDIGARH: Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar appeared Wednesday before a special investigation team, dismissing allegations that he arranged a meeting between former Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and controversial godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.
The five-member SIT formed by the Punjab government is probing police firing at Faridkot’s Behbal Kalan and Kotkapura on people protesting over the desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib.
Two people had died in the police firing in 2015.
The self-styled godman’s supporters were alleged to be involved in cases of desecration, after pages of the religious text were found torn and scattered.
Akshay Kumar’s counsel later told reporters that the actor denied having ever met the Dera Sacha Sauda chief, who is currently serving a 20-year jail term in two rape cases.
The SIT questioned the actor as his name figured in the Justice Ranjit Singh Commission report on the sacrilege incidents, which was tabled in the Punjab Assembly in August.
It was alleged that the actor brought together Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and the then deputy chief minister to ensure the release in Punjab of MSG-2, a controversial movie made by the sect chief.
The actor was quizzed for about two hours at the Punjab police headquarters in sector-9 here.
He told the SIT that he never met Dera Sacha Sauda chief in his entire life. So the question about any meeting does not arise, the actor’s counsel Sant Pal Singh Sidhu told reporters.
He said the claim by former MLA Harbans Jalal before the Ranjit Singh Commission about the meeting are concocted .
Even the Commission report has not placed any reliance on these claims saying these are based on ‘hearsay’, the counsel said.
Akshay Kumar has not been asked to appear again before the SIT, Sidhu said.
The counsel said the actor told the SIT members that he respected all the religions, particularly the Sikh religion.
The counsel was not present with Akshay Kumar when he was quizzed.
Even before his SIT appearance, the actor had denied mediating between the Shiromani Akali Dal president and the sect chief.
The former MLA wrote to the Ranjit Singh Commission on October 9, 2017, claiming that a meeting took place between Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and Sukhbir Singh Badal at the actor’s flat in Mumbai in 2015 in connection with the release of MSG-2.
The meeting was allegedly held before the Dera chief was pardoned by the Akal Takht, the supreme temporal seat of the Sikhs, in a 2007 blasphemy case.
After arriving at Chandigarh airport, the actor headed straight to the Punjab police headquarters, reaching there at about 9.30 am.
He refused to talk to the media waiting at the airport on his arrival and before his departure.
Heavy security was in place outside the Punjab police headquarters, officials said.
The police had earlier asked the actor to appear before the probe team in Amritsar, but later gave him to the option to come to Chandigarh.
The SIT has already questioned former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and former deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.
On Monday, Sukhbir Singh Badal also told the SIT that he had never met Akshay Kumar outside Punjab.
The actor had also issued a denial on November 12 over the alleged meeting.
It has come to my knowledge that some rumours and false statements are being loosely made on social media about my involvement with a person named Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in the context of a fictitious meeting involving Sukhbir Singh Badal, the actor had tweeted.
I have never ever met Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in my life, anywhere. I learnt from social media at some point that Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh resided for a while at some place in my locality Juhu in Mumbai but we never crossed each other’s paths, he said.
He had then dared anyone to prove it otherwise.
The SIT was set up by the state government in September, soon after it issued a notification taking over some of the desecration-related cases from the Central Bureau of Investigation.