The Punjab and Haryana High Court has clarified that suspended Himachal Pradesh IPS officer and accused in the Kotkhai custodial death case Zahur Haider Zaidi’s bail plea stands dismissed, and has asserted that there is no reason for modification of the order.
“While adjourning the matter to June 18, this court needs to observe here that it had been made very clear by this court on May 21 that I was not agreeing with learned counsel for the applicant-petitioner as regards the merits of the case, and even at that point, though I may not have specifically said that the case is dismissed, the implication was obviously to the aforesaid effect, which was what has been eventually stated in the order,” Justice Amol Rattan Singh said in the June 15 order, which was released on Wednesday.
Zaidi, who is an IGP-rank officer, in an application had said that the court during the last hearing on May 21 actually adjourned the matter and called for the list of witnesses to be examined, while keeping the petition for bail pending, after the counsels submitted that the list of witnesses belonging to Himachal Pradesh be called before considering the bail plea. However, the application said, the order copy made available later showed that the prayer for bail stands dismissed. The application sought modification of the May 21 order.
The HC in the May 21 order, while dismissing the bail petition, had kept the matter pending and asked for a complete list of witnesses to be examined by the trial court and also asked the CBI to inform it about resumption of the trial, which has got disrupted following the coronavirus pandemic outbreak. In the same order, the HC also directed the trial court to examine all the material witnesses of CBI on recommencing of the trial and asked the investigating agency to submit such list immediately to the CBI court.
The single bench in the latest order has also clarified with regard to the purpose behind keeping the matter pending. “As regards the direction given in that order for listing of the case again for the purpose of determining the number of material witnesses as would need to be examined, before any other petition of the petitioner can be considered for granting of bail, definitely the order states to that effect…,” the order reads.
The case relates to the custodial death of an accused who had been arrested in a case of alleged rape and murder of a 16-year-old school girl in Kotkhai area of Shimla district. The trial in the 2017 case was transferred to Chandigarh on orders of the Supreme Court. Zaidi was first arrested on August 29, 2017, within 38 days of the central agency taking over the investigation and remained in custody for over 19 months.
He was released on April 6, 2019 on orders of the Supreme Court. The IGP rank officer was taken into judicial custody on January 24 this year after the special CBI court cancelled his bail as IPS officer Soumya Sambasivan, a prosecution witness, complained to court that she was being pressured by the accused to not depose against him.
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