Updated: February 20, 2020 8:11:55 pm
Chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh Thursday informed Punjab Vidhan Sabha that the Supreme Court has dismissed a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) petition seeking permission to probe the Bargari and Behbal Kalan sacrilege cases, vindicating the state government move to withdraw the probe from the central agency.
“Now the cases will be investigated by the Punjab Police only,” Amarinder said, adding that the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probe into the sacrilege and firing cases would be taken to its logical conclusion.
As Amarinder made the announcement on the opening day of the Budget Session, there were loud cheers from the treasury benches even as the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) legislators gathered in the well of the House.
The Supreme Court earlier in the day allowed the state to carry on with its investigations into the sacrilege and the subsequent police firing cases, which were handed over to the CBI by the previous SAD-BJP regime.
In view of the CBI’s failure to take the probe to logical conclusion, the Congress government had announced in the House earlier that the cases would be taken back from the central agency and would be investigated by the state government.
A division bench of the apex court comprising Justices Rohington Nariman and Ravindra Bhatt dismissed the CBI plea, rejecting the arguments of their advocate Aman Lekhi on the ground that instead of the 90 days given to the agency to file the special leave petition (SLP), it had taken 257 days to make its submission. The judge also rejected Lekhi’s argument that the CBI team had a problem on the legal issue as it would form a precedent, and not on the investigation being transferred.
The bench ordered the dismissal of the SLP on the ground of delay, while keeping the question of law open. Incidentally, the question of law, whether section 21 of General Clauses Act applies to Section 6 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, was earlier left open in the cases of Kazi Lendum Dorji and R Chadrashekhar as well, Punjab Advocate General Atul Nanda said, giving details of the proceedings in the apex court.
Given this, the act of reverting the investigation to the Punjab Police from CBI has now attained finality and no further fetter remains on the SIT to investigate the same, said Nanda.
As per the judgments in Dorji and Chandrashekhar cases, once investigation is transferred to CBI, it cannot be withdrawn. Those cases were decided on their own facts, but the question of whether the state legislature has the power to take back an investigation from CBI, in terms of General Clauses Act, was left open.
The prosecution’s case was that the three FIRs in the sacrilege cases were initially registered by the Punjab Police but the investigation was later handed over to CBI, which re-registered the cases. It was submitted that since the CBI had filed a joint closure report in the said three cases, the Punjab government requires the certified copy of joint report along with the copies of documents attached thereto for its official use.
It was further submitted by the prosecution that only the investigation was transferred and CBI had been informing the stage of investigation to the Punjab government from time to time. Further, the prosecution argued that later on, a resolution was passed by the Punjab Legislative Assembly through which the investigation was taken back from the CBI and accordingly, on September 6, 2018, a notification was issued by the Punjab government, withdrawing the consent to the CBI to investigate the case.
The said resolution and the notification were challenged in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which, upheld the notification. The CBI did not file any SLP and thus, after the withdrawal of the consent, the state had full right to investigate the cases, it was argued for the state.
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