August 21, 2021 4:46:03 am
Former Punjab DGP Sumedh Singh Saini was released from the state Vigilance Bureau custody early Friday on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which termed his arrest in a cheating and forgery case as “patently illegal”.
The order came on a habeas corpus plea filed by Saini’s wife. A habeas corpus plea required an arrested person to be brought before a judge to secure their release. Saini was arrested by the Vigilance Bureau Wednesday night in connection with a case registered in September 2020 for cheating, forgery, corruption and other offences.
Ruling that Saini’s arrest was in violation of three earlier orders of the high court, a single bench of Justice Arun Kumar Tyagi, on Thursday night, ordered retired IPS officer’s immediate release.
Early morning release
Saini was released at around 2 am from a Mohali court where the Vigilance Bureau had produced him for seeking remand. The former DGP spent close to 12 hours in the Mohali court.
Hours before he was arrested, Saini had moved the high court seeking directions for extension of blanket bail to him in all cases, while his wife Shobha Saini filed the habeas corpus plea on Thursday seeking her husband’s release from the custody of Punjab Vigilance Bureau. Both the petitions were heard by a single bench of Justice Tyagi.
Saini’s lawyers, in the HC, contended that he was illegally arrested in the FIR No. 11, dated September 17, 2020, “due to mala fides, malice and ulterior motives as a result of political vendetta” and the offences alleged to have been committed by the former DGP are not made out. Also, Saini has been granted interim anticipatory bail in FIR No. 13, dated August 2, on the same allegations.
The lawyers representing Punjab, however, submitted Saini has been arrested in a case, which did not have any connection to his service career and therefore his arrest was not violative of earlier HC orders. Saini claimed execution of rent agreement, which is purported to have been executed on October 15, 2018, but which was typed on stamp paper dated September 7, 2018 and notorized on October 18, 2018.
They contended that Saini executed the agreement to sell, dated October 2, 2019, to create a defence to attachment of the house which was purchased with bribe money given by PWD executive engineer Nimrat Deep Singh to latter’s father Surinderjit Singh Jaspal.
The court, referring to the political rivalry between Capt Amarinder Singh and Parkash Singh Badal, said: “It may be observed here that Sh. Parkash Singh Badal was the Chief Minister of Punjab from February, 1997 to February, 2002.
Captain Amrinder Singh became the Chief Minister of Punjab from February, 2002 to February, 2007. After the election of State Legislative Assembly 2007 Sh. Parkash Singh Badal again became the Chief Minster of Punjab.
There is political and personal rivalry between Sh. Parkash Singh Badal and Captain Amrinder Singh and their family which dates back to late 1990s and findings were recorded regarding this political vendetta in order dated 24.05.2007 passed in CRM-M-33867-2007, order dated 30.07.2007 passed in CRM-M-21713-2007, order dated 01.10.2007 passed in CRM-M-32475-2007 and order dated 28.05.2008 passed in CWP-10119-2007 by this Court”.
The bench also referred to the FIR registered against Bhart Inder Singh Chahal by the Vigilance Bureau in 2007 for cheating at a police station in Patiala.
Regarding the FIR No. 11 of September 17, 2020, registered on the basis of disproportionate assets inquiry against Nimrat Deep and others, the bench said that initially the FIR was registered against four persons namely Ravinder Singh Sandhu, Nagender Rao, Ashok Kumar Sikka and Shakti Sagar Bhatia. Nimrat Deep, his father Surinderjit, Taranjit Singh and Mohit Puri were nominated during investigation, while Saini was nominated as accused in the case on August 2, 2021.
Justice Tyagi said that in the present case, the petitioner is alleged to have committed offence under Section 467 (forgery) of the IPC by ante-dating an agreement to sell purporting to have been executed on October 2, 2019 — “which was on plain paper and not on any stamp paper” — to create a defence to attachment of the said house which was allegedly acquired with bribe money taken by Nimrat Deep.
One offence, 2 FIRs
The bench further held that it is doubtful as to whether the allegations regarding the execution of agreement to sell (October 2, 2019) satisfy the ingredients of Section 464 (making a false document) of the IPC so as to constitute the offence punishable under Section 467 of the IPC.
Further, the incidents of taking of bribe are alleged to have taken place in the year 2014. The said house was allegedly purchased in the year 2017. Application for attachment was filed on January 22, 2021 and order for attachment was passed on July 16, 2021.
Allegations in respect of the said agreements were also part of FIR No. 13 (August 2) in respect of which Saini has been granted interim anticipatory bail by the Coordinate Bench vide order dated August 12.
“The said allegations could not form part of another FIR and the petitioner could not be arrested in FIR N0. 11 for the same alleged criminal acts, which were subject matter of FIR No. 13, which were specifically referred to in order dated August 12 and for which the detenue (Saini) was granted interim anticipatory bail…therefore arrest of the detenue on substantially the same allegations is patently illegal,” said the bench in the order.
The high court on August 12 had granted interim anticipatory bail to Saini in a disproportionate assets case that was registered against him and six others on August 2. But the court had asked him to join the investigation within a week.
“In view of the above referred judicial precedents and above discussed facts and circumstances of the case evidencing illegality of the arrest of the detenue, the habeas corpus petition is allowed and the detenue is held to have been illegally arrested in circumvented violation of protection orders dated 11.10.2018 and 23.09.2020 and interim anticipatory bail order dated 12.08.2021 passed by the Co-ordinate Bench of this Court,” the order said.
“Therefore, the detenue is ordered to be released forthwith,” according to the court order which was uploaded on the high court website past midnight.
The high court on October 11, 2018 had held that Saini would be served a seven-day notice if any action was to be contemplated against him. On September 23, 2020, the court had extended the protection of the October 2018 order to any incident during Saini’s entire service career.
The bench also ordered that the Investigating Officer of the case “shall be at liberty to arrest the detenue after giving seven days notice” and “also seeking permission from the concerned Coordinate Bench of this Court hearing the petition, in which the detenue has been granted interim anticipatory bail on substantially the same allegations.”
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