Observing that “the evidence against the petitioner (Bikram Singh Majithia) is frail and not credible and so reasonable grounds exist to believe that the petitioner is not guilty of ‘financing’ drug trafficking”, the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Wednesday granted bail to senior Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Bikram Singh Majithia on Wednesday.
A division bench of Justices M S Ramachandra Rao and Sureshwar Thakur said that Majithia should deposit his passport with the investigating agency concerned and can travel abroad only with the leave of this court. Majithia was booked under the NDPS Act on the basis of a 2018 report of a probe into a drug racket in the state. He surrendered before the state police on February 24, 2022, and had been lodged in Patiala Central Jail.
The observation of the bench came after the State of Punjab pleaded that the investigation in the present case is progressing and the collection of evidence is underway and that more information is required to be collected from within and beyond India to ascertain the linkages, including financial transactions of the fugitive accused persons, to the petitioner. The bench, however, made it clear that this observation is tentative and made only for deciding this bail application and shall not be construed as an expression of a ‘final opinion’ on the issue as only after trial such a finding can be recorded.
Over the allegations against Majithia on financing drug manufacture/trade, the HC said, “Though there is a reference in the FIR to a statement by Jagjit Singh Chahal recorded under Section 50 of PMLA that the petitioner was given Rs 35 lakh as election funds from 2007-12, that statement does not provide any foundation for any allegations under the NDPS Act.”
Regarding the allegations against Majithia of harbouring offenders, the HC held that as per application filed by the State seeking judicial remand of the petitioner on February 24, 2022, Satpreet Singh alias Satta and Parminder Singh alias Pindi were nominated as accused in this FIR only on December 23, 2021, while Amrinder Singh alias Laddi was nominated as accused on January 21, 2022. The bench added that the said document also reveals that Pindi and Laddi were declared proclaimed offenders on August 16, 2014, and April 22, 2014, respectively in FIR No – 241 dated
December 7, 2013, and FIR No – 56 dated May 15, 2013, respectively and they had never been tried. Admittedly all
these three individuals are residents of Canada and they have not set foot in India after 2013. An extradition
proposal against Pindi is said to be pending with the Department of Justice, Government of Canada.
“It was only prior to 2013 they are said to have interacted with the petitioner…At that time they were not even accused of committing any offence. So they cannot be said to be ‘offenders’ and the petitioner cannot be accused of ‘harbouring’ them…In the light of this material, reasonable grounds exist to believe that the petitioner is not guilty of offence of ‘harbouring’ the co-accused,” HC said.
The bench further held that the alleged financial transactions involving the petitioner are stated by the State in its written submissions to have occurred between 2007 and 2013 when Satta and Pindi had frequently visited Punjab and not afterwards. But the FIR was registered only on December 20, 2021, eight years later. The bench pointed out that
“there is no material placed on record showing possession, transportation, storage by, or recovery of any contraband from the petitioner. All recoveries in the concluded trials have been effected from specific individuals and the petitioner was not shown therein to have any role in that regard”.
The bench held that there is no material to show that the petitioner supplied any chemicals, much less contraband to the Canada-based accused (such as Satta or Pindi) with reference to time, place and quantity.
The State is still attempting to collect information from various financial institutions in India and abroad, and does not appear to have made much headway in that regard as of date, though the FIR was registered almost eight months ago on December 21, 2021, the bench added.
“We are satisfied that reasonable grounds exist to believe that the petitioner is not guilty of the offences alleged against him in FIR No – 002 dated December 21, 2021, and he is not likely to commit such offences while on bail. It will take time for the trial to start and culminate. So no fruitful purpose is going to be served even if the petitioner is kept in judicial custody for a further indefinite period,” the bench said while directing to release Majithia on regular bail.