Punjab and Haryana High Court: The Division Bench of Rajan Gupta and Karamjit Singh, JJ., had slammed the State for inordinate delay in investigating the cases related to Ex-MLAs and Ex. CM, Bhupinder Singh Hooda. The Bench said,
“Undue delay in concluding an investigation is infringement to right to fair and expeditious investigation and trial which flows from Article 21 of the Constitution.”
The Court was informed by the ASGI that in two cases against two Ex-MLAs i.e. Avinash Chander and Sarwan Singh Phillaur, charges had already been framed and out of 68, 63 Pws had been examined. Further, in two separate cases registered against Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Ex-CM, State of Haryana, charge sheet was filed before Special Judge, CBI-cum-Special Court, PMLA at Panchkula by ED in land cases i.e. COMA-/03/2021 and COMA/42/2019. In both the cases, cognizance had been taken.
Similarly, the CBI submitted that the relevant information pertaining to Anti Corruption Bureau and Special Crime Branch, Chandigarh is available with CBI. However, certain data needs to be collected from Central units in Delhi hence, CBI would need 10 days time to file affidavit on the same.
At this stage, the Amicus Curiae, Mr. Khosla had submitted before the Court the judgment rendered by the Supreme Court in Ashwani Kumar Upadhyay v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 1043. In the Said judgment the Supreme Court had dealt with the matter of inordinate delay in disposing off of the cases against MPs and MLAs. The Supreme Court said that, “At present, there are around 4442 cases, which are currently pending against the MPs and MLAs (sitting and former). Nearly 413 of the above cases pertain to offences punishable with life imprisonment, out of which 174 cases are against sitting MPs and MLAs…Shockingly, in the States of West Bengal and Punjab, there are pending cases pertaining to the years 1981 and 1983 respectively.”
Suggestions as Given in Ashwani Kumar’s Case
“In the aforesaid circumstances, the following submissions are made for ensuring expeditious trial of cases where MPs/MLAs are accused:
(i) Special Courts in every district for MPs/MLAs:
Each High Court may be directed to assign/allocate criminal cases involving former and sitting legislators to as many Sessions Courts and Magisterial Courts as the respective High Courts may consider proper having regard to the number and nature of pending cases.
(ii) Practice Directions:
Special Courts will give priority to the trial of cases in the following order:— i. Offences punishable with death/life imprisonment; ii. Offences punishable with imprisonment for 7 years or more; and iii. Other offences. Cases involving sitting legislators to be given priority over former legislators.
(iii) Cases under stay:
The Supreme Court in Asian Resurfacing of Road Agency Pvt. Ltd. v. CBI, (2018) 16 SCC 299, held as under:— “If stay is granted, it should not normally be unconditional or of indefinite duration. Where the matter remains pending for longer period, the order of stay will stand vacated on expiry of six months, unless extension is granted by a speaking order showing extraordinary situation where continuing stay was to be preferred to the final disposal of trial by the trial Court. This timeline is being fixed in view of the fact that such trials are expected to be concluded normally in one to two years.”
(iv) Witness Protection:—
Witness protection in all such cases is essential having regard to vulnerability of the witnesses and the influence exercised by the legislators facing criminal trials. This Supreme Court in the case of Mahender Chawla v. Union of India, , (2019) 14 SCC 615, has framed “Witness Protection Scheme, 2018” and made it applicable to all the States till the enactment of suitable legislation by the Parliament or State legislatures. Trial courts shall consider granting of protection under the aforesaid scheme to all the witnesses, without any application by the respective witnesses.
(v) Monitoring by High Courts
Each High Court shall register a Suo Moto case with the title “In Re: Special Courts for MPs/MLAs” to monitor the progress of cases pending in the State. A Senior Advocate shall be appointed as Amicus Curie and a senior Police officer of the rank not below Inspector General of Police shall be present in the Court in each hearing to furnish requisite information, as and when required. The case shall be heard by the High Court at such interval as may be necessary; however, at least once three months.”
In the light of the above, the Bench directed that States as well as Central agency should ensure that the aforesaid order of the Supreme Court is examined by all the respective investigating officers to ensure due compliance. Opining that undue delay in concluding an investigation is infringement to right to fair and expeditious investigation and trial which flows from Article 21 of the Constitution, the Court sought reply from CBI as well as other investigating agencies to explain inordinate delay in investigation.
[Suo Motu v. State of Punjab, 2021 SCC OnLine P&H 1034, decided on 27-05-2021]
Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together
Appearance before the Court by:
Amicus Curiae: Sr. Adv. Rupinder S. Khosla with Adv. Sarvesh Malik
For the State of Punjab: S.P.S. Tinna, Addl. AG
For the State of Haryana: Ankur Mittal, Addl. AG
For CBI: Sumeet Goel, Advocate
For UT of Chandigarh: Pankaj Jain, Sr. Standing Counsel with Mr. Jaivir Chandail, Advocate
For Union of India: Satya Pal Jain, Additional Solicitor General of India with
Mr. Dheeraj Jain, Senior Counsel