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Friday, January 15, 1999
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Attack by Navjot Sidhu, friend
Punjab bid to close case fails
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Jan 14 — The attempt of the Punjab government to close the case against cricket star Navjot Singh Sidhu and his friend, Rupinder Singh Sandhu, in a murder case was aborted today when the Punjab and Haryana High Court upheld the order of the Sessions Judge, Patiala, declining an application moved by the Public Prosecutor for permission to withdraw the case against them registered on August 9, 1995.

An FIR registered by the Punjab Government on December 27, 1988 alleged that Navjot Sidhu and Rupinder Singh Sandhu showered blows on Gurnam Singh in the Sheranwala Gate Bazaar at Patiala after dragging him out of his car and injuring him. Mr Jaswinder Singh, a companion of Gurnam Singh, raised the alarm saying "Marditta, marditta". Later both the accused fled from the scene. They also took away keys of Mr Jaswinder Singh's car. Mr Gurnam Singh was taken to Rajendra Hospital, where he was declared dead.

Dismissing two revision petitions filed by the Punjab Government as well as Navjot Singh Sidhu and Rupinder Singh, Mr Justice Swatantar Kumar held: "I have no hesitation to hold and predicate the conclusion of the Sessions Judge arrived at in the impugned judgement. Consequently, both these revision petitions are dismissed. The interim order shall stand vacated. However, in order to avoid any prejudice to either of the parties to these proceedings, I would prefer to request the Sessions Judge dealing with the matter to conclude the trial of this case as expeditiously as possible."

The grounds stated in the application moved by the Public Prosecutor under Section 319, CrPC for seeking the Sessions Judge's permission to withdraw the prosecution are "for extraneous considerations and are nothing but plagiarism of the dictum of the state without any proper application of mind," he observed.

"Where the settled cannons of criminal jurisprudence discernibly presume every accused innocent till proved guilty, it also recognises with tenacity the protection to a complainant to have a fair chance to prove his case and even with the aid of state agencies, wherever necessary," the Judge ruled.

In the present case the record speaks for itself that at some stages the prosecution went all out to pursue the case with complete rigour and desire to bring the alleged accused persons to face the court of law, the Judge noted.

"On the other hand, on December 6, 1994, a sudden change of mind by the Public Prosecutor in the court can hardly be justified. The reports of all the doctors were available with the Public Prosecutor for all this period. They were so annexed with the challan and charge sheet. The Public Prosecutor had the occasion to examine the records as per practice even before the presentation of the charge sheet in the court of the competent jurisdiction", he noted.

The Judge observed that the Public Prosecutor applied his mind while filing an application under Section 319 of the Criminal Procedure Code for summoning Navjot Singh Sidhu as an accused. The committal proceedings, the framing of charges were steps where the Public Prosecutor ought to have applied his mind to the entire case and consequences thereof.

In his detailed judgement the Judge observed: "Curio are the cases where the complainant being dissatisfied with the approach and conduct of investigating and prosecution agencies, sets the judicial process into motion by filing a criminal complaint before the court of competent jurisdiction, even in relation to such serious offences (as murder). Thereafter, the state also files the police report in court. The cases are consolidated. Charges are framed. The prosecution evidence commences in the state case itself. Suddenly, the learned Public Prosecutor decides to withdraw the prosecution against one accused and thereafter against both the accused on the basis of the decision taken in court itself. The accused are sought to be protected by invoking the powers vested in the concerned authority under Section 321 of the code."

Mr Justice Swatantar Kumar ruled: "In these circumstances, such protection to an accused which exposes the complainant to the rigours of discharging the onerous burden of proof in murder trial at his own expense and means, to say the least, cannot be said to be interest of administration of justice."back

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