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Posted at: May 25, 2019, 7:00 AM; last updated: May 25, 2019, 7:00 AM (IST)

No mentioning religion of accused: HC

No mentioning religion of accused: HC

Saurabh Malik
|Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, May 24

Taking suo motu cognisance of the age-old system adopted by courts and the police of mentioning the religion of the accused/victim in criminal cases, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has banned the practice. It has directed the investigating officers in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh not to mention religion in the proceedings.

The Bench of Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Harinder Singh Sidhu ruled that mentioning of religion in an inquiry, investigation or trial was against the spirit of the Constitution and could cause bias and prejudice during the course of probe and trial.

Justice Sharma asserted: “India is a secular country. All persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practise and propagate religion. Accordingly, the investigating officers in the Punjab and Haryana as well as in the Union Territory, Chandigarh, are directed not to mention the religion of accused or victim”.

The ruling came in a drugs case where the trial court stated that “a Hindu young man was seen coming on foot by the side of canal”. Indicating that the case was not isolated, Justice Sharma said the HC had come across the practice of specifying religion in many criminal cases

The order is a part of a series of rulings and directions issued by the HC over the past few months for removing the possible element of bias in criminal proceedings. About two months ago, the Bench had cast aside an 85-year-old relic of the colonial past by directing its judicial officers and the governments of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh against mentioning the caste of the accused, victims or witnesses in any of the proceedings before it.

The matter was brought to the High Court’s notice after an appeal was filed against the State of Punjab by Gurpreet Singh aka Mani through counsel Vipul Jindal, challenging the judgment and order passed by the Amritsar Special Court convicting and sentencing an accused to 12 years’ rigorous imprisonment under the provisions of the NDPS Act.

Acquitting him of the charge, Justice Sharma asserted that mandatory provisions of the Act were not complied with in the case. The investigating officer was required to give only two options to the appellant – to get personal search conducted before a magistrate or a gazetted officer. But the officer gave the third option of being searched by him.

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