WHILE adjourning the case pending against them to next month, the Punjab and Haryana High Court Wednesday granted an exemption from personal appearance to Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal and party leader and MLA Bikram Singh Majithia for the next hearing. The duo are accused in a criminal complaint case filed by retired judge Ranjit Singh against them. The applications for permanent exemption from the personal appearance are pending before the court.
Badal and Majithia are accused of defaming the retired judge, who headed a one-man commission to probe desecration of religious texts and related police firing incidents, including those that happened under SAD-BJP rule in 2015. The case has been filed by him against Badal and Majithia under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952. On Wednesday, the case was listed for arguments over maintainability and for consideration of applications filed by Badal and Majithia for permanent exemption from personal appearance. However, the matter was adjourned without any hearing.
In his application filed through advocate Arshdeep Singh Cheema, Majithia has said that as the president of the Youth wing of SAD and also as the member of the state legislature he has to discharge “multifarious responsibilities”. The court has been told that Majithia belongs to a “highly respected family and has earlier served as a Cabinet Minister in the state government” and he has “a permanent place of residence in India and there is no apprehension of his running away from the process of law”. The court in Badal’s application has been told he is the party president and also an elected member of the parliament.
Justice (retd) Singh in February this year had filed the criminal complaint for allegedly making defamatory statements against him in connection with the report of the Commission set up by Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh to investigate the various incidents of sacrilege in Punjab.
On August 23 last year, Badal held a press conference in Amritsar insinuating that Justice Singh had no legal qualification and alleged that he had fabricated the documents, including witness statements, in preparation of the report of the commission he headed. On August 27, the Shiromani Akali Dal leaders, including Majithia, mocked the report in a demonstration held outside the Punjab Assembly and staged the report’s mock sale while shouting it was available at Rs 5 in the market. The two incidents have been cited as evidence in the complaint. The commission’s report was tabled in Punjab Assembly last year.
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