29 Sep 2023 7:54 AM GMT
The Punjab and Haryana High Court today granted anticipatory bail to SAD chief and former Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab Sukhbir Singh Badal accused of conspiring "unprovoked firing" upon peaceful protestors at Katkapura and Behbal Kalan in 2015. The incident followed multiple sacrilege episodes in certain areas of Punjab.Justice Anoop Chitkara also granted relief to former DGP Sumedh...
The Punjab and Haryana High Court today granted anticipatory bail to SAD chief and former Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab Sukhbir Singh Badal accused of conspiring "unprovoked firing" upon peaceful protestors at Katkapura and Behbal Kalan in 2015. The incident followed multiple sacrilege episodes in certain areas of Punjab.
Justice Anoop Chitkara also granted relief to former DGP Sumedh Saini, former IGP Paramraj Umranagal and three others. The bench said,
"the magnitude of the crime was undoubtedly massive; still, the evidence collected against the petitioners is based on presumptions that the petitioners were involved in the conspiracy, and the evidence prima facie lacks evidence qua motive. It is not the case of the SIT that any accused was spearheading any campaign to hurt the religious feelings of the Sikh community and other people who have immense faith in Sikhism."
The Court further added that based on the quality of evidence, it "cannot presume the existence of any conspiracy", and it is for the prosecution to prove the same during the later stages of the matter, if such stage arrives.
The anticipatory bail pleas were moved after the Police submitted its final report and the Magistrate Court issued notice of the challan to them.
At the outset, the High Court said if the State was interested in arresting the petitioners it would have done so by this time.
It referred to Sidharth v. State of UP (2022) and said,
"there is no need for an accused whom the Investigating agency did not arrest. Still, the trial court wants custody at the time of filing of the chargesheet..."The SIT has already concluded the investigation, and they did not need the petitioners’ interrogation. Furthermore, the evidence that was collected was based on eyewitness accounts and documentary or digital records. Thus, the question of custodial interrogation of the petitioners does not arise."
Accused-petitioners are booked under Sections 307 (Attempt to murder) , 324 (Voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 341 (wrongful restraint), 427 (mischief), 504 (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 34, 119 (public servant concealing design to commit offence which it is his duty to prevent), 109 (abetment), 153 (Wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot), 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion) of the IPC and Section 27 (Punishment for using arms) of the Arms Act.
FIR was lodged in 2018 and SIT constituted to probe the incident reported involvement of then DGP Sumedha Saini and other police officials in excessive and illegal use of force on protestors and creating false evidence to conceal their wrongdoings.
The Court noted that the SIT relied upon the eyewitnesses' account, CCTV footage, CDRs, inputs from local administration and their communications with the State administration and "concluded that indiscriminate firing which had taken place at Kotkapura Chowk was the result of a conspiracy amongst S. Parkash Singh Badal, the then Chief Minister, Punjab, who passed away, Sukhbir Singh Badal, the then Home Minister, Punjab, Sumedh Singh Saini, the then DGP, Punjab, Paramraj Singh Umrangal, the then Commissioner of Police, Ludhiana, who used illegal means to suppress a peaceful protest."
State contended that petitioners are powerful political figures and if granted bail, they may influence the witnesses.
The Court directed that at any stage, if the prosecution gets any communication or evidence that the petitioners are influencing the witnesses or hampering the trial, then "it shall be permissible for the State to file an application for cancellation of bail on that ground alone."
Consequently, the relief was granted and the plea was disposed of.
Appearance: R.S. Cheema, Sr. Advocate with Mr. A.S. Cheema, Advocate
Advocates D.S. Sobti, Advocate, Satish Sharma, Advocate for the petitioner in CRM-M-14326-2023.
Advocates SPS Sidhu, Sarbuland Mann for the petitioner(s) in CRM-M-14308, 14915, 16991-2023.
Advocates Sangram Saron, Madhaurao Rajwade for the petitioner(s) in CRM-M-14921 & 14926-2023.
Gaurav Garg Dhuriwala, Addl.A.G, Punjab, Iman Singh Khara, Advocate for the complainant.
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (PH) 189
Case Title: Sukhbir Singh Badal v. State of Punjab
Click here to download/ read the order.