Punjab Advocate General Atul Nanda Thursday termed the Central Bureau of Investigation’s closure report in Bargari Sacrilege case as bad in law, saying the agency had no jurisdiction in the matter after the state government withdrew the cases from it last year.
Nanda’s reaction comes a day before the monsoon session of Punjab Assembly begins Friday. The session is likely to be stormy with opposition planning to launch an offensive against the ruling Congress over a host of issues, including the closure report.
“The CBI lost all authority and jurisdiction to continue with any investigation in the cases, much less to file a closure report, after the state government issued a formal notification to withdraw the cases from the agency in September 2018,” Nanda said in a statement here.
“Instead of filing the closure report, the correct legal course for the CBI would have been to inform the court that it was no longer charged with the investigation, said Nanda.
The CBI on July 4 filed the closure report in the three Bargari sacrilege cases in the special CBI court, Mohali. Three Dera Sacha Sauda followers – Mohinder Pal Bittu (who was murdered in Nabha jail recently), Sukhjinder Singh and Shakti Singh – were named as accused in the case.
On Wednesday, Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh rejected the closure report and demanded reopening of the cases stating that the report had “caused a deep sense of hurt and anguish among the Sikh community”.
The AG found the sudden decision of the CBI to file the closure report “intriguing”, and said the move clearly indicated the agency’s newfound hurry to give a clean chit to the accused in the cases.
Nanda also expressed surprise at the CBI’s stand that Punjab government was a stranger to the events, and thus not entitled to a copy of the closure report. This stand, he said, was absurd, considering that the agency itself had, in its closure report, cited the “reports” and “inputs” of the Punjab Police.
Explaining the legal position in the matter, the AG pointed out that as per Section 6 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act (under which the CBI operates), the consent of the concerned state government is required to investigate, under the IPC, criminal offences which have taken place in that state. The earlier SAD-BJP regime had granted such consent – the then government on October 26, 2015 had decided to hand over the Bargari sacrilege cases to the CBI, which took over in November 2015.
However, on September 6, 2018, in line with a resolution of the House, the state government had passed a formal notification withdrawing the said cases from the CBI. He further pointed out that this action was legally upheld by the Punjab & Haryana High Court in its judgment dated January 25, 2019, in a case filed by some of the accused police officers.
The High Court, in fact, noted that the CBI had, despite the lapse of almost three years, made no progress in investigation. “ .during the course of hearing, this court called for the case diary of the CBI and perused the same. It was evident that investigation in the cases had hardly made any headway.On a specific query being put to the CBI counsel about the status of the investigations despite lapse of almost three years, no clear answer was forthcoming,” the HC had noted.
The fact that the CBI failed to challenge this judgment clearly shows that it had failed to conduct any meaningful investigations since it was handed over the cases in 2015, and had (thus) accepted the court findings, said the AG.
In contrast, the SIT set up by the state to probe the cases made significant headway, according to Nanda. By questioning some of the accused, the SIT had unearthed the role of other accused, he pointed out, adding that searches conducted at residences of some of the accused had revealed evidence related to the incidents, such as mobile chips, incriminating communication asking them to cause such activities, ammunition and payment of funds of upto Rs 6 crore for instigating the events, said Nanda.