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Pataudiís bail plea rejected
May move Supreme Court
Maneesh Chhibber
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, June 17
The Punjab and Haryana High Court today refused anticipatory bail to former Indian cricket captain Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi and one of his accomplices in a case relating to alleged poaching of a black buck and some other animals.

Mr Pataudi and seven others were booked under the Wildlife Act following recovery of carcasses of a black buck and two rabbits from their vehicle on June 3 in Jhajjar.

Pronouncing the judgement after arguments lasting over four hours, Mr Justice Rajive Bhalla said, "Sorry gentlemen. Petitions dismissed."

The marathon hearing saw counsels for Mr Pataudi and his co-accused, Mr Shashi Singh, putting all their legal skills to use to convince the court about the bonafide of their clients.

Punjab Advocate-General and renowned criminal lawyer R.S. Cheema was specially drafted to present the applicants' today. However, in the end the combined courtroom skills of Mr Cheema, Mr Dinesh Mathur, Mr Anand Chhibbar and some other lawyers failed to convince the court to allow the applications for pre-arrest bail.

After the judgement, Mr Mathur told The Tribune that they would challenge the High Court order in the Supreme Court after consulting Mr Pataudi and Mr Shashi Singh.

Today, Mr Cheema reiterated the applicants' stand that no purpose would be served by arresting them. He also questioned the power of the police in investigating the case.

"They (police) made no recoveries after they arrested Mr Madan Singh, another accused. In fact, he is now on regular bail. The applicants were allegedly caught on June 3 along with the carcasses of the animals. They cooperated with the police and were then let off. Unless there is something new to be recovered, custodial interrogation will serve no purpose except bring bad name to these people," Mr Cheema said.

He also questioned the legality of the supplementary disclosure statement filed by the police on June 6 as also the statement of Mr Madan Singh, co-accused, who had named Mr Pataudi.

The court was also assured that Mr Pataudi and Mr Shashi Singh are ready to join investigations, if and when required.

However, rebutting the stand taken by the counsels for the applicants, the counsel for Haryana, Assistant Advocate-General Ajay Gulati, maintained that the police had ample power to investigate the case.

He pointed out that despite three notices issued by the police to Mr Pataudi to appear before the court, he has not done so. He said custodial interrogation was necessary to know more about the case, including ownership of the Maruti Gypsy, seized by the police, and the gun used in the offence.

He also submitted the entire record along with an affidavit of the police officer in the court. He said that in his disclosure statement to the police, Mr Madan Singh, had claimed that Mr Pataudi had fired at the black buck.

Counsel for the All India Bishnoi Mahasabha, Mr K.D.S. Hooda, also opposed the applications, saying that if the accused are granted anticipatory bail, they will interfere with the investigations. He also alleged that so far the Wildlife Department had done nothing in the case.

He said had animal rights activist Naresh Kadyan not acted, the case would have been hushed up. "Police attitude is proved by the fact that no case under the Arms Act has been registered so far. The gun, which is in the name of Mr Pataudi's daughter, was found along with other material," he added.

Mr Madan Pal, counsel for Mr Kadyan, also opposed the bail pleas. He said a clear case is made out against the accused and anticipatory bail should not be granted to them.

After hearing the counsels, Mr Justice Bhalla reserved the judgement for some time. He finally, delivered the judgment around 5 pm.

Meanwhile, the police have also promised to intensify their efforts to locate and arrest Mr Pataudi and other accused. Sub-Inspector Kaptan Singh of Jhajjar police, who was present in the court during the hearing, said the future course of action would be chalked out by the senior district police officers.

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