Transfer of Badal case
New Delhi, May 14
“…we are of the view that the petitioners (Amarinder and some MLAs) have not made out a case that they have reasonable apprehension of not availing justice in the state of Punjab,” a three-member Bench, headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan, said in a 44-page judgement.
“…the case cannot be transferred on a mere allegation that there is apprehension that justice will not be done” and that the petitioners’ contention “cannot be construed as reasonable,” the Bench said in the verdict, written by Justice P Sathasivam.
The Bench, which included Justice JM Panchal, said transferring the case “at this stage” would be against the interests of the prosecution, the accused and the witnesses, and pointed out that the complainant (Balwant Singh, who is prosecution witness no. 56) himself had “disowned” his complaint. Even the investigating officer had resiled, stating that he did not record the statements of the witnesses and even the chargesheet was prepared on the “computer of a senior officer” and that he merely signed it.
Further, “all important witnesses, particularly government officials,” had informed the trial court that they were “forced to make false statements” at the time of registering the complaint on June 24, 2003 when Amarinder was the Chief Minister. These witnesses had averred before the trial court that the statements made by them before the judiciary “alone is absolute truth.”
The Bench also pointed out that the Punjab and Haryana High Court had dismissed a similar transfer petition.
“We are satisfied that the presiding officer of the Special Court (at Mohali) is conscious of his power and how to conduct fair trial at the same place. We are also of the opinion that the public prosecutor (Pradeep Mehta) cannot act on the dictates of the state government, he has to act objectively as he is also an officer of the court,” the CJI Bench observed.
The Mohali court has slated the next hearing in the case for May 19.
The apex court said it was “highlighted” that the first respondent was the Chief Minister and all other accused “are his relatives and friends.” But the “information furnished” showed that “except one or two” others were businessmen, agriculturists, a Special Inspector in Chandigarh and one Hindi teacher.
In view of this, if the trial was transferred outside Punjab, it would be difficult for them to attend the court proceedings on several occasions. “The same hurdle is there” for other witnesses, both from the prosecution and the defence, the Bench said.
It said it had verified the statements of the 59 witnesses, 35 of whom had turned hostile. The perusal “leads to a conclusion” that the presiding Judge had made an effort by putting relevant question to those witnesses and taking note of their assertion that they were forced to make incorrect statements at the time of preliminary investigation.
Recalling the arguments of counsel for the two contending sides, the court said the Capt had quit Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on being denied party ticket to contest the 1997 assembly election. He had held Badal, who was the SAD president, responsible for the ticket denial while joining the Congress. At the time of the 2001 assembly poll, Amarinder had made a press statement, levelling allegations of corruption and amassing of wealth against the Badal family.
Sukhbir had filed a defamation case against the Capt and when Amarinder persisted with the allegation even after becoming the CM, Badal also filed a similar criminal complaint. It was pointed out that the corruption case against Badal was “almost a verbatim copy” of the allegations he had levelled. Badals had contended that the disproportionate assets case against them was aimed at countering the defamation cases filed by them.