Murthal case: HC rap for Haryana govt

CHANDIGARH: The Punjab and Haryana High Court today rapped the Haryana Government for “flinging mud in the eyes of the court” and not registering an FIR in the Murthal sexual assault case.

Murthal case: HC rap for Haryana govt

Cars set ablaze during the Jat agitation on NH-1 near Murthal in Sonepat district of Haryana. — Tribune file photo

editorial@tribune.com

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 28

The Punjab and Haryana High Court today rapped the Haryana Government for “flinging mud in the eyes of the court” and not registering an FIR in the Murthal sexual assault case.

The High Court indicated ordering a probe into the matter by the Central Bureau of Investigation  (CBI). The admonishment came after a Division Bench found that the state authorities had failed to register a case on the basis of a statement by a witness while turning their back on the procedure prescribed under the Code of Criminal Procedure for probing cognisable offences.

 “Has Haryana adopted a new CrPC? How are you carrying out investigations in the case without registering an FIR?” the Bench asked.

The Bench of Justices SS Saron and Gurmit Ram also questioned the constitution of a special investigating team (SIT) for looking into alleged sexual assault on women in Murthal by  goons during the Jat agitation. “Under what provision of law has it been constituted?” the Bench asked.

The case was placed before the Bench after two High Court Judges separately took suo motu cognisance of a news report published in these columns on the alleged sexual assault on women.

As the case came up for resumed hearing, the Bench initially appeared not too convinced on handing over the probe to the CBI, as suggested by the amicus curiae (friend of the court) Anupam Gupta. In contradiction to the Haryana Government’s stand regarding lack of witnesses in the case, Gupta told the court about a “witness”. He read out the latter’s statement that he had recorded to substantiate his demand for a CBI probe.

Gupta quoted witness Bobby Joshi as saying women were “forcibly taken to the fields” on the basis of his conversation with two Ludhiana women.  He claimed the SIT chief met him in Delhi, but did not record his statement and chose to keep mum. He vouched for The Tribune report on the incident and insisted the reporters could depose before the Bench if so desired. Gupta also told the court that evidence in the form of “tapes” could be shown to the court “in camera”.  Haryana Additional Advocate-General Lokesh Sinhal claimed that Joshi’s statement had been recorded. He said it was based on mere hearsay and that he had not alleged sexual assault. He had only said that women were taken to the fields.

Taking a note of the counter-claims, the Bench called for the statement and the zimni or the case diary. Sinhal told the Bench that zimni was not being maintained. At this, Haryana was virtually censured for everything it did not do in the case.

“What kind of investigations have you been conducting without maintaining zimni? Your whole perspective of criminal law is wrong. We will ask the CBI to register a case. No point in depending on you. You appear to be unable to understand the difference between evidence and information. You have to collect evidence and not information. Bobby Joshi provided you with information. It was for you to gather evidence,” the Bench said. It also sought to know the provision of law under which Joshi’s statement was recorded without registering an FIR. “His information was neither recorded as a part of an FIR, nor as an FIR,” the Bench observed.

Observing that the Advocate-General’s office was not only reckless, but also colluding with the authorities, the Bench observed. “How do you gain by denying the incident? Why shield the culprits?” Isn’t a case of outraging modesty under Section 354 of the IPC made out?”  The case will now come up on April 4.

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