Acting on a petition filed by Justice Ranjit Singh (retd), the Supreme Court has issued notices to Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal and party leader Bikram Singh Majithia. Justice Ranjit has in the apex court challenged a Punjab and Haryana High Court verdict dismissing his complaint accusing Badal, who currently represents Ferozepur in Lok Sabha, and Majithia, the sitting MLA from Majitha, of bringing disrepute to him and his commission on sacrilege issue.
On January 1, 2019, Justice Ranjit had approached Punjab and Haryana High Court and filed a criminal complaint against Sukhbir and Majithia under provisions of Section 10-A of the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952. He has accused them of “false, derogatory and defamatory statements on public platform” against him with an intention to “bring him in disrepute”, an offence committed under Section 10 of the Act of 1952.
On his last working day on November 8, Justice Amit Rawal, who was under transfer to Kerala High Court, dismissed Justice Ranjit’s complaint as “not maintainable” while referring to limitation period of six months.
“Period of six months cannot be enlarged after the complainant ceased to be a member or a chairman of the commission. If such interpretation is stretched … then every member of the commission at his own sweet will can bring the action from the date of alleged commission of the offence de hor of the fact that he no longer remains the chairman of the commission. That would tantamount to laying an incorrect law,” Justice Amit Rawal had said in the order.
Challenging the order in Supreme Court, Justice in his plea has said the High Court erred in introducing “of its own accord, an additional fetter to the said period of ‘limitation’ by holding that the complaint in question ought to have been filed only during the subsistence of the tenure of the Commission – even though the offence complained of may have been committed well within the period of 6 months preceding the filing of the complaint”. While pointing out that “the interpretation given by the High Court does grave violation to the bare letter of the law, as prescribed under Section 10A (4) of the Act of 1952 which enables the filing of a complaint under the Act within a period of 6 months from the date on which the alleged offence is said to have been committed.”
His petition further states that High Court “gravely erred in law as well as in facts by dismissing the complaint in question, after summoning the accused persons, on the ground that the complaint in question was not maintainable.”
The petition states that “on September 26, 2019, the case was taken up out of turn for hearing after taking up seven cases out of the urgent list of 90 old cases”. As per Justice Ranjit, the case was listed at serial number 235 in the motion list. After allowing out of turn hearing to the counsel, who appeared in place of the earlier counsel, the case was adjourned to September 30, 2019, which was the next working day, his petition reads.
What is the case all about
Justice Ranjit Singh headed a commission that inquired into various incidents of sacrilege that took place in Punjab between June 2015, and March 2017. He has alleged that ever since the commission was constituted, Sukhbir Badal and Bikram Majithia had been speaking against him in “a very derogatory, defamatory and disrespectful manner – thus bringing the commission and its chairman into disrepute, which is an offence under section 10A of the Act of 1952.” As per Justice Ranjit, “In August, 2018, once the commission submitted the first part of its report, the respondents (Badal and Majithia) increased their onslaught and in one of the interviews even questioned the law degrees of the appellant (Ranjit Singh) besides exhorting to sell the report as waste-paper. Incidentally, the report submitted by the commission had been placed before the state Assembly in its session and was unanimously accepted by the Assembly for appropriate further action.”
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