A day after the Punjab Assembly passed a resolution asking the state government to withdraw Bargari sacrilege and police firing cases at Behbal Kalan and Kotkapura from CBI, legal experts said the government could not withdraw at least the Bargari case from the CBI.
Prominent legal experts, quoting a Supreme Court judgment in Sikkim’s ex-CM Nar Bahadur Bhandari versus Union of India case in 1998, said the government could not recall cases once handed over to CBI.
Only last year, the Haryana government had expressed its helplessness in withdrawing cases related to Jat quota stir from CBI following its Advocate General’s opinion against it, citing the same SC judgment.
The previous SAD-BJP government had handed over the Bargari sacrilege to the CBI in November 2015. The CBI has already started investigations in the case.
Last month, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had announced to hand over Behbal Kalan and Kotkapura police firing cases also to the central investigation agency. Subsequently, the government issued a notification for the transfer of cases.
On Tuesday, following demand from leaders cutting across party lines, the Punjab Assembly passed a resolution to this effect. The CM later announced he would constitute an SIT of Punjab Police and hand over these cases.
Officials said they had examined the SC judgment before taking a decision on withdrawal of cases. An aide of the CM said, “Even if we are not able to withdraw Bargari case, we can certainly withdraw the police firing cases. The notification of transfer of cases was done a few days ago, but we have studied it and we can rescind those notifications as the CBI has not started the investigations into them as yet.”
“In such cases where the FIR has already been registered, the case can only be withdrawn with the consent of CBI and the Centre. but in cases where the FIR has not been registered (like in Behbal Kalan and Kotkapura firing), the state has the power to make a request. Also, the applicant in this case is a representative of the people, the Vidhan Sabha, that passed a resolution yesterday. I am confident that in such a situation, good sense will prevail upon the centre.”
Another senior official said they would send the request to the CBI. “We shall see what the agency does.”