Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: In a case exposing callous attitude of authorities while dealing with drug menace in the State of Punjab, Meenakshi I. Mehta, J., observed that in some paras of the Statu sreports/Reply, the police officers concerned had mentioned the tablets, allegedly recovered as ‘CLAVIDOL-100 SR’ whereas in certain other paras the same had been described as ‘CLOVIDOL-100 SR’. Criticizing the lackadaisical attitude of officers, the Bench remarked,

“…the said discrepancy reflects nothing else but their callously casual approach towards their official duty which is least expected from them because they are duty bound to check the crime graph in the State specially in the circumstances when the drug menace has become deep rooted and is taking its toll like a slow poison for the young generation upon which every nation pins hopes for a bright and secure future.”

Factual Background

On receipt of secret information three persons were arrested under Sections 22, 25 and 29 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. It was on their discloser statement that the contraband was supplied to them by the petitioner 1-Sandeep Kumar, the petitioner 1 was apprehended and 1500 Clovidol 100-SR tablets, packed in 150 strips and 600 white colour loose intoxicant tablets were recovered at his instance. On his disclosure statement the petitioner 2, Amit Sharma was also nabbed and 300 white colour loose intoxicant tablets recovered from him.

Urging for bail the petitioners contended that the sample of ‘CLAVIDOL 100-SR’ tablets, allegedly recovered from them was found to be containing ‘Pregabalin’ and the sample of the loose intoxicant tablets, contained ‘Tramadol Hydrochloride’ and the average weight of those loose tablets was reported to be 403.48 mg. The petitioners submitted the salt ‘Pregabalin’, as reportedly found in said 1500 ‘CLAVIDOL-100 SR’ tablets, does not fall within the purview of the Act and the total weight of the said 600 loose tablets, comes out to be 242.088 gms which was less than the commercial quantity of the said salt (Tramadol Hydrochloride), i.e 250 gms.

Observations and Order

Noticeably, the Trial Court had framed the charge against petitioners under Section 22 of the Act only for their having been found in possession of 600 and 300 loose tablets, containing ‘Tramadol Hydrochloride’, respectively, while specifically mentioning therein that 1500 tablets containing Pregabalin, as recovered from accused-petitioner Sandeep, do not fall within the purview of the Act and the petitioners have not been charge-sheeted under Section 29 of the Act meaning thereby that the Investigating Agency, in its own wisdom and also for the reasons best known to it, had not presented the Challan against both the petitioners under the said provision, i.e Section 29 of the Act.

Therefore, keeping in view the factum of the petitioners having been charge-sheeted under separate heads for the recovery of the said contraband and the period of their incarceration, the Bench granted bail to both the petitioners and ordered that the petitioners be released on regular bail.

Callous Conduct of Authorities

Further, noticing that the Assistant Commissioner Drugs, Food & Drug Administration had issued a letter to M/s Yorks Pharma for cancelling the permission to manufacture the formulations containing ‘Tramadol Hydrochloride’ salt including ‘CLAVIDOL 100-SR’ tablets, on account of the alleged contravention of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Rules 1945, while further directing it to stop the manufacturing of all the drug formulations containing the said salt and observing that as per FSL reports, the ‘CLAVIDOL-100 SR’ tablets, i.e the tablets with the same brand name, contain ‘Pregabalin’, the Bench ordered that Department is supposed to check and supervise the manufacturing of the drugs in the State so as to ensure the strict compliance of the relevant law/Rules. The Bench remarked,

“Subsequent use of the same brand name, i.e ‘CLAVIDOL-100 SR’ by the above-said manufacturer for manufacturing the tablets containing a different salt is likely to lead to grave consequences as the same can result in serious health hazards for the patients as well as the public at large.”

However, on being reprimanded by the Court the authorities concerned had issued another letter to the afore-named manufacturer qua the cancellation of the permission granted to it for manufacturing the drug formulations containing ‘Pregabalin’.

Criticizing the conduct of on the part of the Authorities, the Bench stated,

“It is highly deplorable and it speaks volumes of their questionable acts and omissions which pose a serious challenge for the State in tackling with the drug menace which seems to be touching new heights with every passing day.”

[Sandeep Kumar v. State of Punjab, 2022 SCC OnLine P&H 325, decided on 27-01-2022]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.


Appearance by:

For Petitioner 1: Keshavam Chaudhari, Advocate

For Petitioner 2: Parminder Singh Sekhon, Advocate,

For the State: Samina Dhir, DAG

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: After a massive security lapse that left Prime Minister Narendra Modi stuck on a highway in Punjab for 20 minutes on January 5, 2022, the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, CJ and Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, JJ has observed that the matter cannot be left to be resolved through one¬sided enquiries and a judicially trained independent mind, duly assisted by officers who are well acquainted   with the security considerations and the Registrar General of the High Court who has seized the record,   would be best placed to effectively visit all issues and submit a comprehensive report. The Court, hence, formed a committee to be chaired by Justice Indu Malhotra, former Supreme Court Judges.

The Enquiry Committee

Members

  1. Justice Indu Malhotra, former Supreme Court Judges – Chairperson
  2. Director General or his nominee not below the rank of Inspector General of Police of National Investigation Agency;
  3. Director General of Police, Union Territory of Chandigarh
  4. Additional Director General of Police (Security), State of Punjab
  5. Registrar General, Punjab and Haryana High Court

Terms of Reference for the Enquiry Committee

  • What were the causes for the security breach for the incident on 5th January 2022?
  • Who are responsible for such a breach, and to what extent?
  • What should be the remedial measures or safeguards necessary for the security of the Hon’ble Prime Minister or other Protectees?
  • Any suggestions or recommendations for improving the safety and   security   of   other   Constitutional functionaries.
  • Any other incidental issue that the Committee may deem fit and proper.

Other Directions

The entire record seized pursuant to order dated 7th January, 2022, be handed over to the Chairperson of the Enquiry Committee within three days.

The Union of India and State Government are directed to provide full assistance to the Enquiry Committee for completion of the assigned task.

The Chairperson of the Enquiry Committee shall be entitled to all the perks of a sitting Supreme Court Judge minus pension. They shall be provided full secretarial assistance, official car and other paraphernalia for effective completion of the enquiry, as directed above.

Till conclusion of the proceedings of the Enquiry Committee, the enquiries ordered by the Central Government and the State Government shall be kept in abeyance.

What has happened in the case so far?

On January 7, 2022, the Court had directed the Registrar General, Punjab and Haryana High Court to secure and preserve the records relating to Prime Minister’s scheduled tour of Punjab on 05th January 2022.

The State of Punjab had constituted a Committee to carry out a thorough probe. This Committee comprised of a Former Judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and Principal Secretary, Home Affairs and Justice, Government of Punjab. The petitioner has however urged that since lapses in the breach of security of the Prime Minister are being seriously attributed to the authorities of the State of Punjab, the constitution of an Enquiry Committee by the State was nothing but an abortive attempt to become a Judge in its own cause.

The Advocate General for the State of Punjab, on the other hand, urged that the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India has, in a way, already held the officers of Government of Punjab  ‘guilty’  of the alleged negligence and/or breach of security of the Prime Minister. He submitted that none of the agencies of the State Government had committed a dereliction of their responsibility for the security and safety of the Hon’ble Prime Minister, yet there is a smear campaign to discredit the State   Government.

Supreme Court’s Observations

While the lapse regarding the breach of security of the Prime Minister during his visit to Firozpur on 5th January, 2022 is not seriously disputed by either party, the Court, however, did not appreciate the blame game between the State and Central Government as to who is responsible for such lapses.

“War of words between them is no solution. It may rather impair the need of a robust mechanism to respond at such a critical juncture.”

Going through the legislative scheme of the Special Protection Group Act, 1988 as well as the Blue Book the Court observed that the object is to ensure full safety and security of the Prime Minister while he is touring a State. The additional object is to avoid any human error, negligence or any willful omission or commission which may hamper and/or expose the safety and security of the Executive Head of the nation while he is traveling in a particular State. Any lapse in this regard can lead to devastating and serious consequences.

The Court has, hence, asked the Enquiry Committee to submit its report at the earliest.

[Lawyers Voice v. State of Punjab, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 42, order dated 12.01.2022]

 

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: After a massive security lapse that left Prime Minister Narendra Modi stuck on a highway in Punjab for 20 minutes on January 5, 2022, the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, CJ and Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, JJ has directed the Registrar General, Punjab and Haryana High Court to secure and preserve the records relating to Prime Minister’s scheduled tour of Punjab on 05th January 2022.

As per NDTV’s report, Prime Miniter Modi visited Bathinda for events that included a rally at Ferozepur. However, due to bad weather the convoy took off by road for a two-hour journey instead of flying to the site by helicopter. Around 10 km short of the rally venue, the convoy was stranded on a flyover because of protesting farmers. After waiting for 20 minutes, Prime Minister Modi turned back and left, scrapping all further programmes.

The Court directed the Director General of Police, Union Territory of Chandigarh and an officer of the National Investigation Agency, not below the rank of Inspector General, to be nominated by the Director General, National Investigation Agency to assist the Registrar General, Punjab and Haryana High Court to forthwith secure and seize the records from the State police as well as Central agencies.

It further directed the State Government of Punjab, including the police authorities, the Special Protection Group and any other Central/State agencies to cooperate and to provide necessary assistance in securing and seizing the records. The Registrar General, Punjab and Haryana High Court to keep the records in his safe custody for the time being.

The Court will now take up the matter on Monday, January 10, 2022.

[Lawyers’ Voice v. State of Punjab, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 22, order dated 07.01.2022]


For Petitioner: Senior Advocate Maninder Singh

For Respondents: Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta, and D.S. Patwalia, Advocate General for the State of Punjab

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Division (Vacation) Bench of Indira Banerjee and M.R. Shah, JJ., directed the High Court of Punjab and Haryana to re-consider its dismissal order with regard to request for second post-mortem in the case of alleged police encounter of infamous gangster Jai Pal Singh Bhullar. The Bench remarked,

“There are serious allegations against the Punjab Police in this case. The Punjab Police is alleged to have been involved in the alleged encounter in which the petitioner’s son was killed. The dead body of the petitioner’s son has been brought to Punjab and it presently lying in Punjab…Having regard to the issues raised by the petitioner, we are of the view that the High Court erred in dismissing the petition on the ground that the death had occurred in Kolkata, and the post-mortem had been conducted in Kolkata.”

Facts Pertaining to the Alleged Encounter

The petitioner, father of late gangster Jai Pal Singh Bhullar, alleged that his son had been killed in a police encounter and there were serious issues of human rights violation. The petitioner contended that his son had been mercilessly tortured to death under the guise of a fake encounter and the body was handed over by the West Bengal authorities in the sealed box. While conducting the last rites, number of injuries was found on the body of the deceased, the petitioner urged for conducting second post-mortem at PGI, Chandigarh or any other independent medical institution, as the first post-mortem report was not with him and according to the instructions received from the Doctor cause of death was fire-arm injury.

Noticeably, on 17-06-2021, (CRM-M-23367 of 2021) the High Court of Punjab and Haryana had dismissed the petition seeking directions to get a second post-mortem examination conducted on the dead body of his son on the ground that the petitioner’s son had died in Kolkata, and the post-mortem had also been conducted by the Doctors of Kolkata, which was outside the jurisdiction of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana and, West Bengal.

Directions of the Supreme Court

The petitioner had knocked the door of the Supreme Court by filing a SLP against the impugned order. The Supreme Court noticed that though the High Court had dismissed the said petition on the ground that the grievance of the petitioner was with regard to the mode and manner of the post-mortem examination, which took place in Kolkata by the Doctors of Kolkata. However, the Supreme Court opined that the Court has failed to consider that there were serious allegations against the Punjab Police in the case, which was alleged to have been involved in the said encounter. The dead body of the petitioner’s son had been brought to Punjab and was presently lying in Punjab. The Punjab Police was in seisin of the case. The petitioner had alleged that the Punjab Police had resorted to manipulation of the post-mortem report. Thus, the Supreme Court held that the High Court had erred in dismissing the petition.

Accordingly, the impugned order was set aside and the High Court was directed to reconsider the petition filed by the petitioner on merits within Monday itself i.e. 21-06-2021. Additionally, the Bench directed Punjab government to make necessary arrangements for proper preservation and storage of the dead body.

[Bhupinder Singh v. State of Punjab, SLP (Crl.) No(s). 4311 of 2021, decided on 18-06-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

Appearance before the Court by:

Counsels for the Petitioner: Adv. Ishma Randhawa, Adv. Azmat Hayat Amanullah, Adv. Dhananjay Grover and Adv. Nishant Awana

For the State of Punjab: Adv. Jaspreet Gogia

Also read 

[Police Encounter] P&H HC | Dead body kept at home for 9 days due to rejection by family to cremate; HC directs second post-mortem in gangster Jai Pal Bhullar’s alleged police encounter after SC’s intervention

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the matter relating to alleged sacrilege of the holy book, Shri Guru Granth Sahibji in different places in Punjab,the single judge bench of Hrishikesh Roy, J has refused to transfer the Trial of criminal cases pending before the Courts at Bhatinda, Moga and Faridkot districts to competent Court in Delhi or to any nearby State, out of Punjab.

The transfer was sought on the ground that the case has generated deep anguish and bitterness amongst a particular religious group, who form majority of the population in the State of Punjab and therefore the accused who are members of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect, are facing bias and prejudice and are unlikely to get a fair trial in the face of strong presumption of culpability.

The Court, however, said,

“From the available material, this Court cannot reasonably conclude that the situation in Punjab is not conducive for a fair trial for the petitioners. The few instances mentioned by the petitioners’ counsel may suggest heightened feelings amongst different groups but they do not in my estimation, call for transfer of proceedings to another State.”

The Court, however, directed the State to make all arrangement to ensure safe conduct of proceedings at the trial courts and also provide adequate security to the petitioners and their associates as might be warranted from the security perspective.


Incidents in support of the contention that the accused were unlikely to get a fair trial in Punjab


  • the murder of the accused Mohinder Pal Singh Bittoo on 22.06.2019 inside the Nabha Central jail, showed the threat to the lives of other co-accused in the hands of the radical elements in the State.
  • public appeals have been made to socially boycott the accused and also to those dealing with them, such as lawyers, doctors and taxi drivers and these developments would indicate the serious difficulties faced by the accused in conducting their defence.
  • a forced statement under Section 164 CrPC was obtained from the petitioner which suggests that in Punjab, an unbiased prosecution cannot be ensured.
  • mass gathering in the court premises where these cases are listed on the given dates, shows the threat to the life of the accused since adequate arrangement and security has not been provided by the State.

Why the Supreme Court refused to transfer the trial


Explaining when can a trial be transferred from one Court to another, the Court said that the Court must be fully satisfied about existence of such factors which would make it impossible to conduct a fair trial. General allegation of surcharged atmosphere is not however sufficient.

“The apprehension of not getting a fair and impartial trial cannot be founded on certain grievances or convenience of the accused but the reasons have to be more compelling than that. No universal Rules can however be laid down for deciding transfer petitions and each one has to be decided in the backdrop of that case alone.”

Further, powers under Section 406 CrPC must be exercised sparingly and only in deserving cases when fair and impartial trial uninfluenced by external factors, is not at all possible. If the Courts are able to function uninfluenced by public sentiment, shifting of trial would not be warranted.

The transfer of trial from one state to another would inevitably reflect on the credibility of the State’s judiciary. Except for compelling factors and clear situation of deprivation of fair justice, the transfer power should not be invoked.”

For coming to the conclusion that the present bunch of cases do not fall under such exceptional categories and hence, cannot be transferred, the Court kept in mind the following considerations:

  • The petitioners have not moved out and continue to reside in the usual place of residence in the State and doing their work/business in a routine manner.
  • No specific instance of prejudice was brought to the Court’s notice on account of social boycott call or appeal to the Medical professionals or taxi operators, to deny co-operation.
  • No complaint was lodged before the court or to the authorities about any threat or intimidation.
  • While there is a specific instance of one of the defence lawyer disassociating himself from the case on personal ground, the two regular lawyers Mr. K.S. Brar and Mr. R.K. Rana continue to defend the accused since January, 2019 without any break or difficulty. This would suggest that petitioners defence is not being compromised in Punjab and they are receiving adequate legal assistance.
  • The matter emanates from the State of Punjab and the accused, the witnesses and the prosecutors are all from the State. If the trial is shifted out, all of them will face difficulties.
  • The State’s pleading shows that those accused who have a threat implication have been provided personal security by the district police and laborate arrangements have been made on orders of the State’s DGP and on the trial date, additional force are deployed in the concerned Courts, to ensure safety of the petitioners and all other stakeholders.
  • As the sacrilege incidents occurred in 2015, with passage of time, the atmosphere is expected to have mellowed down considerably. It has been more than 2 years since the petitioners were arrayed as accused in the cases. During this long period, no complaint has been made by the petitioners of any threat to their security or to their associates.
  • The petitioners who reside in different districts in Punjab are doing their work or business in a routine manner, without any inhibition.
  • Insofar as the death of the accused Bittoo in Nabha jail, the projection of the State is that he was murdered by jail inmates undergoing life imprisonment in some other cases and for this incident FIR under Section 302, 34, 120B IPC is registered in PS Sadar, Nabha, chargesheet has been filed and trial has commenced. Hence, at this stage it cannot be said if this incident has any link with the other cases or it is a standalone event.
  • The trial it at the stage of final arguments. The other five cases are at the stage of evidence or charge stage. It will therefore not be fair to the prosecution, the State and the witnesses who are yet to testify, to shift the proceeding without compelling reasons as it will inevitably delay the trial. One must also remember that convenience of all parties should be looked at and not just the party which is seeking transfer.

[Jatinderveer Arora v. State of Punjab, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 952, decided on 25.11.2020]


For Petitioners: Senior Advocate Ranjit Kumar

For Respondent: Senior Advocate Harin P Raval

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: The Division Bench comprising of Harinder Singh Sidhu & Arun Monga, JJ. dismissed the writ petition on the ground that there was no legal infirmity in the action of the State of Punjab to adopt the wider definition of the NRI in the domain of policymaking.

A writ petition was made against Clause 17 of the Notification whereby, definition and scope of Non-Resident Indian (NRI) have been restricted to include only an NRI and/or children of NRI.

The facts of the case were that the petitioner took the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (for short ‘NEET’) conducted for admission to MBBS/BDS in medical colleges situated all over India including the State of Punjab. The petitioner qualified the cut off marks prescribed in the examination and was eligible to apply for admission in the medical colleges. The petitioner was primarily aggrieved by the action of the State in excluding the first degree relations of NRI and wards thereof from the realm of the definition of ‘NRI’.

Pankaj Bansal, Counsel for the petitioner submits that by restricting the Category I to mean ‘an NRI and/or children of NRI’ results in hostile discrimination towards the students in the State of Punjab. NRI reservation was provided in all the medical colleges of India wherein a wider meaning has been given to word ‘NRI’ by including the first degree relations of NRI and wards of NRI within the meaning of word ‘NRI’. Learned counsel for the petitioner has also emphatically argued that restriction on the scope of the word ‘NRI’ has no reasonable nexus with the objectives sought to be achieved. He submits that if the scope of the definition of NRI is widened then the wider pool of talent would be available and the same will thus advance the requisite merit. The petitioner put reliance on the case of  P.A. Inamdar v. State of Maharashtra, (2005) 6 SCC 537, wherein the Supreme Court has discussed the definition of NRI.

Rashmi Attri and M.S. Longia, Counsels for the respondents opposed the impugned notification on the ground that there are quite a large number of NRIs and in its wisdom, the State Government had rightly restricted the scope of the definition of NRI to mean either ‘an NRI or children of the NRI’. Enlarging the scope of the same to first degree relatives and/ or the wards of the NRI would open flood gates for the applicants to seek the benefit of NRI quota.

High Court thus opined that purpose of narrowing down the definition of ‘NRI’ vide clause 17, does not miss the very ratio laid down in Inamdar’s case, inasmuch as, it has been clearly laid down by the Apex Court that under the garb of NRI quota less meritorious students who can afford to spend more money get admission even though neither the student is an NRI nor his/ her parents are NRIs.

Thus, the Court was of the opinion that the purpose of restricting the definition is to give weightage only to the genuine cases where the children of those parents who have migrated to other countries to get the benefit of education in their native country. Court further added that “we also do not find any merit in the argument that the narrowing of the scope of the definition of ‘NRI’ by the State is hostile discrimination qua the students of Punjab. It is open for the State Government to make any policy with regard to the residents of the State and no interference is warranted by this Court in the domain of policymaking. It is up to the State to widen or narrow the scope of the definition of ‘NRI’ and such exercise of power would not amount to any discrimination.” Thus the petition was dismissed.[Asmita Kaur v. State of Punjab, 2019 SCC OnLine P&H 937, decided on 26-06-2019]