UT Director General of Police Tajender Singh Luthra admitted in the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Thursday that there have been gaps in the supervision of the ongoing SIT probe into the Haryana Civil Services (Judicial) preliminary examination 2017 paper leak case.
A full bench of the High Court told Luthra that “the accused is quite loud and the rest is quite mystery”. Luthra was directed to apprise the court during the next hearing “about the steps taken to spruce up the investigating and the prosecuting agency in UT, Chandigarh”. However, he has been exempted from appearing in court.
A day after the court heavily censured the prosecution wing of the police and the SIT probing the paper leak case for not properly defending the case in the trial court, Luthra assured the bench of Justices Rajesh Bindal, Rajan Gupta and Gurmeet Singh Sandhawalia that he would personally monitor the case on a day-to-day basis and “make sure that the gaps do not happen”. While Luthra told the court that the police were competent enough to probe the case, the bench said it was not raising the question of integrity of force but “of not following proper procedure and of not being alert” in the prosecution during the trial.
The court had earlier questioned how the statements of witnesses were provided to the accused Balwinder Kumar Sharma, former High Court Registrar (Recruitment), during the pendency of investigation and why the April 10 trial court order was not challenged. Sharma is accused of providing a copy of the paper to a candidate Sunita. The paper scam had been exposed by a candidate Suman who had approached the High Court, saying she was offered the paper at a cost of Rs 1 crore by Sunita and another candidate Sushila.
The bench reminded the DGP that the case, which otherwise relates to the state of Haryana, was handed over to Chandigarh Police to carry out an independent investigation but no application was filed to take the full bench into confidence about the developments during the trial. Luthra conceded that the SIT and the prosecution should have consulted the higher-ups.
The full bench also observed that it appears that neither Special Public Prosecutor Randeep Singh Rai nor any other senior counsel was consulted by the prosecution about the trial court order and that the case should have been handled by a District Attorney. Rai also clarified in court that the case was earlier being handled by a Deputy District Attorney and not an Assistant District Attorney. Stating that it does not want to use the word, the bench, however, said that there appeared to be “complicity” at some level or the other and that the replies filed in response to applications of the accused in the trial court should have been vetted by the Director Prosecution.
The full bench also asked the SIT whether the investigation was currently in a “vacuum kind of situation” and said that in case of any “pressure” of any kind on them, the court can be informed about it.
The lower court allowing the preservation of call details of the official and phone numbers of the SIT members was also debated during the hearing with the bench even asking Rai whether he had ever seen such an an order in his entire practice as a lawyer. Rai said it was the first and the order alarming.
While the full bench said it failed to understand the objective behind such an application for the preservation of call records of SIT members, Rai told the court that a petition has been filed to challenge the April 10 order allowing the application.
Rai also requested the court to transfer the bail pleas of the accused pending before a single bench of the High Court to the full bench but the court observed that it can only be done with orders from the Chief Justice. Senior Advocate Kanwaljit Singh, appearing on behalf of the High Court, told the court that the matter should be left to the master of roster only.