Chandigarh, September 29
The Punjab and Haryana High Court today ruled that the evidence, collected against former Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal, ex-DGP Sumedh Singh Saini, police officer Paramraj Singh Umaranangal and three others, was based on presumptions, while confirming pre-arrest bail to them in connection with a case involving “unprovoked firing” on peaceful protesters at Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan.
Evidence based on presumptions
Evidence collected against petitioners is based on presumptions that they were involved in conspiracy and evidence prima facie lacks evidence qua motive. Based on the quality of evidence, this court cannot presume the existence of any conspiracy.
Justice Anoop Chitkara
Justice Anoop Chitkara asserted that the evidence gathered in the matter, prima facie, lacked evidence regarding the motive. “It is not the case of the SIT that any accused was spearheading any campaign to hurt the religious feelings of the Sikh community and other people who have immense faith in the Sikhism. Based on the quality of evidence, this court cannot presume the existence of any conspiracy,” Justice Chitkara ruled.
Apprehending the arrest for hatching a conspiracy for the “unprovoked firing” the petitioners had moved the court after the Faridkot Judicial Magistrate issued notices following the filing of the final investigative report by the police under Section 173 of the CrPC against all accused, including then Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal. The petitioners were represented by senior advocate RS Cheema, counsel AS Cheema, DS Sobti, Satish Sharma, SPS Sidhu, Sarbuland Mann, Sangram Saron and Madhaurao Rajwade.
Justice Chitkara observed their applications for anticipatory bail before the Sessions Court were dismissed. Nothing could have stopped the state from arresting the petitioners during the trial’s pendency, if it was interested in doing so, as they had till that time no favourable order, including any interim order.
Justice Chitkara further ruled it was undisputed that the latest special investigating team (SIT) chose not to arrest the petitioners-accused despite finding a prima facie case against them. Instead, it filed a police report without arresting them.
Justice Chitkara further ruled that the SIT had already concluded the investigation and did not need the petitioners’ interrogation. The evidence collected was based on eyewitness accounts, documentary or digital records. As such, the question of their custodial interrogation did not arise.
Justice Chitkara added the court could not presume the existence of conspiracy based on the quality of evidence. It was for the prosecution to prove it during the later stages of the matter, if such stage came.
“In the entirety of facts and circumstances and without referring to the evidence collected by the SIT in detail, so that it is misused by the people who propagate hate speeches and hurt religious feelings, it suffices to say that it is not a case for pre-trial incarceration of the petitioners…,” Justice Chitkara added.
Referring to the state’s apprehensions that the petitioners might influence the witnesses being “very powerful political figures and even enjoying the status of celebrities”, Justice Chitkara added it would be permissible for the state to file an application for bail cancellation in case of any communication or evidence that they were influencing the witnesses or hampering the trial.
Justice Chitkara added safeguards to the bail conditions, stating that the petitioners would not influence, pressure the witnesses, police officials, or any other person acquainted with the case or make inducement, threat, or promise directly or indirectly.
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