Thursday, May 9, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

‘Right to information cannot be curtailed’
High Court orders clubbing of all Ravi Sidhu cases
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 8
Acting on a public interest litigation for directions to the state of Punjab and other respondents for conducting “transparent” investigation in the Punjab Public Service Commission recruitment scandal, a Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court today ruled that in view of the immense public importance of the matter, prima facie the right of the public to know, and to be informed, of a case like the one against PPSC Chairman Ravinderpal Singh Sidhu could not be curtailed in the name of secrecy of information.

The observations were made in less than a week after a single Judge of the High Court “completely prohibited” the state, the investigating agency and other respondents from disclosing the details of the statements and confessions of the accused, besides the contents of the case diaries.

Today, pronouncing the orders on the PIL filed by a social organisation —Common Cause Forum — the Bench, comprising Mr Justice G.S. Singhvi and Ms Justice Bakhshish Kaur, also directed that the file pertaining to the case should be placed before the High Court Chief Justice so that the petition, along with all other connected matters in the Sidhu case, could be listed before one Bench. This, the Judges asserted, was essential in the interest of justice and to maintain consistency in Court orders.

In their detailed order, the Judges ruled that keeping in view the restraint order passed by the single Judge, all matters pertaining to the cases against Sidhu and prayer for quashing the selections during his tenure, in their opinion, should be heard by one Bench. The Judges also asked the Joint Registrar (Judicial) to contact the High Court Chief Justice for appropriate orders.

The Judges added that they had considered the averments in the writ petition and also taken note of the fact that the petitioner, before filing the petition, had addressed representations to the Additional Director General of Police for the copies of the first information reports, besides other details. The matter, the Judges further observed, was of immense importance and prima facie the right of the public to know could not be curtailed. The case will now come up for further hearing on May 10.

In their petition, Common Cause Forum had earlier sought directions to the respondents for holding the investigation of the case relating to Sidhu in a “transparent manner”. They had also demanded that the progress of the investigation must be made public from time to time to inspire confidence.

Counsel for the petitioner had added that the forum had moved several applications to the investigating agency for the supply of two FIRs, besides other information relating to the investigation of the case, including the details of the persons arrested till date. He had added that no orders were, however, passed.

It may be recalled that the single Judge, while taking up an application filed by Ravinderpal Singh Sidhu, had ruled: “It is in the interest of fair and impartial investigation, besides trial, that the respondents are completely prohibited from disclosing the contents of the statements of the witnesses recorded under Section 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure or the contents of the statements and confessions, if any, recorded under Section 172 of the Code”.

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