Punjab and Haryana High Court

Punjab and Haryana High Court: In a criminal petition related to 2015 Kotkapura firing case, the bench of Raj Mohan Singh, J. granted anticipatory bail to Sukhbir Singh Badal, former Home Minister of Punjab.

Sukhbir Singh Badal contended several incidents of sacrilege related to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, following which, mass protests and violent incidents took place in Kotkapura and police force was requisitioned from other Districts to maintain law and order. However, the mob protests turned violent on 12-10-2015 and 13-10-2015, the authorities resorted to several measures including mild lathi charge, water cannon and tear gas and even firing in the air to disperse the mob in Bajakhana and Kotkapura.

Several FIRs were registered under Sections 295-A, 307, 353, 332, 333, 323, 382, 435, 283, 120-B, 148, 149 of Penal Code, 1860, Section 25 and 27 of the Arms Act and Sections 3/4 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984.

A Special Investigation Team (‘SIT’) was constituted to investigate the matter, then the investigation was transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (‘CBI’).

The inspector’s statement recorded before the Commission of Inquiry does not state anything about Badal. Another SIT was constituted for conducting further investigation, but it was again transferred to CBI in all FIRs through notification. A resolution was passed in the State Assembly following the Action Taken Report to withdraw investigation from CBI after which, two separate notifications were issued for withdrawal of investigation and a third SIT was constituted to investigate the respective FIRs.

It is contended that the main charge sheet under Section 173 CrPC was prepared and signed while Model Code of Conduct was still in force and a report under Section 173(8) CrPC was also submitted. The High Court while disposing of two Civil Writ Petitions No. 17458 and 17460 of 2019 quashed the charge sheets under the FIRs with directions for constituting an SIT with specifications of members to be involved, restricting interference from any quarter, to work and file final report jointly, confidentiality of investigation by the SIT members, etc. The High Court directions were complied with, and an SIT was constituted accordingly.

It is contended that the said SIT filed a report under Section 173 CrPC indicating Sukhbir Singh Badal as accused in its report along with Parkash Singh Badal, Sukhminder Singh Mann and others under Sections 307, 119, 109, 153, 295-A, 323, 324, 341, 427, 504, 34, 120-B IPC and Section 27 of the Arms Act. It is alleged that Sukhbir Singh Badal being the Home Minister of Punjab at that time has been wrongly implicated in the SIT report for allegedly abandoning law and order of the State and departing to Gurugram despite having complete knowledge of incidents of sacrilege to use his absence as an excuse to evade responsibility. It is alleged that Sukhbir Singh Badal was the Home Minister of Punjab at the time of incident and his presence at the spot has not been claimed but fleeing to Gurugram and that some mala fide allegations are being alleged against the political setup.

The Court commented that it is not in a position to appreciate the mala fide allegations at the time. It was pointed out that the investigation conducted by SITs earlier was already quashed by the High Court and another SIT was constituted, and that Sukhbir Singh Badal was not arrayed as an accused in the earlier report.

It is alleged that that he is now being arrayed at the whims of present political setup in Punjab who openly proclaimed on different platforms that Sukhbir Singh Badal and others would not be spared. However, the Court refused to comment on the situation at this stage.

The Court, without affecting the merits of the case deferred the proceedings for status report of the State. The Court released Sukhbir Singh Badal on interim bail and directed him to appear before the Trial Court within a period of 15 days. The Court further clarified that grant of interim order in favour of Sukhbir Singh Badal does not construe to confer any equitable consideration for ultimate decision on merits.

Through an application under Section 482 CrPC, the Court ordered incorporation of words ‘committing Court/Area Magistrate’ along with the Trial Court for appearance of Sukhbir Singh Badal.

[Sukhbir Singh Badal v. State of Punjab, 2023 SCC OnLine P&H 246, Interim order dated 21-3-2023]

Order by: Justice Raj Mohan Singh

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For Applicant/Petitioner: Senior Advocate R.S. Cheema, Advocate D.S. Sobti, Advocate Shivkartar Singh, Advocate Arshdeep Singh Cheema, Advocate Tarunam Cheema, Advocate Arshdeep Singh Kler;

For Complainant: Additional Advocate General of Punjab- Gaurav Hard Dhuriwala, Advocate Imaan Singh Khara.

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