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Are Punjabis liars?... SC to hear PIL on July 11
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 4
A PIL by advocate Sonia Sood in the Supreme Court submits that the Lahore High Court in its order 81 years ago in connection with a criminal appeal has characterised the entire Punjabi community as making unreliable declarations even in the face of death. It is highly objectionable, illegal, defamatory, biased and humiliating and needs to be expunged, the petition says.

The petition, which is expected to come up in for hearing in the apex court on July 11, observes that the court has the powers under Article 32 of the Constitution to pass necessary orders if natural justice has been violated as evidenced in the Lahore High Court judgement of 1924 (AIR 1925, Lahore 549).

Contending that the remarks by the then judges of the Lahore High Court against the “inhabitants of Punjab” are not only out of place but irrelevant in the arguments for reaching the said conclusion in the judgement, Ms Sood points out that the special weightage given to dying declaration in Section 32 (i) of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, “is based on the premise that when a human being is dying and is about to face his creator, the Almighty, then he/she speaks nothing but the truth.

Going by this logic, anybody who has a tendency to tell lies even at his/her deathbed would be the worst kind of human being. Hence it is essential to expunge the said humiliating remarks in the impugned judgement against the inhabitants of the Punjab.

The impugned order of the Lahore High Court in criminal appeal number 395 of 1924 states: “Dying declaration of the inhabitants of Punjab is unsafe as basis of conviction. The inhabitants of the Punjab often in a dying declaration not only accuse the actual offenders, but also include the names of other enemies and hence in Punjab it is not safe to base a conviction on the uncorroborated dying declaration of a deceased.”

The petition maintains that for centuries Punjabis as warriors sacrificed their lives for the protection of their motherland and who today are seeking the protection of the Supreme Court with regard to their rights and dignity.

The petitioner also makes it clear that she has not filed a similar petition in any other high court and clarified that as per the provisions of Section 362 of the CrPC neither the Sessions Court nor the High Court can review its earlier judgement or final order, except for the correction of clerical or arithmetical errors.

Ms Sood has said that as petitioner she has no option or alternative remedy but to move the Supreme Court because Section 482 of the CrPC stipulates that a High Court or a Sessions Court cannot review or modify its earlier judgement or final order.

In elaborating the grounds for the petition, Ms Sood, hailing from a Punjabi family from Moga which traces its lineage over the past 300 years, believes that the defamatory remarks of the Lahore High Court judgement is violative of Article 14 (Fundamental Rights) of the Constitution and the principles of natural justice and equity. Furthermore, Article 21 of the Constitution ensures every individual the right to live with dignity and respect.

Then, Section 32 (i) of the Indian Evidence Act does not discriminate the person who makes a dying declaration on the basis of caste, creed, religion and community.

The then judges of the Lahore High Court also did not afford an opportunity to the Punjabi community to be impleaded as a party. This again is violative of the principle of “audi alteram partam,” a rule of natural justice.

As the impugned order has set a precedent and is being followed by the trial courts, it is imperative that such discriminatory and illegal remarks should be expunged. Ms Sood has also cited precedents whereby the Supreme Court has directed the High Courts to exercise judicial restraint and expunged objectionable remarks.

Even as the Union of India and Punjab are the respondents, the petitioner, besides praying for expunging the remarks of the Lahore High Court judgement against the “inhabitants of Punjab” has contended that the Centre should adequately compensate the Punjabi community as the Supreme Court may deem fit.


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