The arguments over the maintainability of the plea filed by Justice Ranjit Singh (retd) against Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leaders for allegedly bringing disrepute to the Commission of Inquiry headed by him to probe desecration of religious texts in Punjab concluded Wednesday.
The counsel representing Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal and party leader Bikram Singh Majithia alleged that the retired judge has misled the court by not making it clear that his term as Chairman had come to an end.
The case was heard by the single bench of Justice Amit Rawal. In an unrelated development, the Centre on Wednesday notified the transfer of Justice Rawal to Kerala High Court following a recommendation from the Supreme Court and asked him to assume charge on or before November 13. Coincidentally, the order was made public by Ministry of Law and Justice on its website when the hearing was on. Justice Rawal was intimated of the order around 4:25pm when the arguments were almost complete.
Earlier, Senior Advocate Puneet Bali argued that the statute has to be read as it is when it says the complaint under the Act can be filed only by a member of the Commission. Bali added that the Commission had ceased to exist when the complaint was filed before the the High Court by Justice Ranjit. Bali also submitted that affidavits filed by the retired judge are incorrect as they fail to make it clear that the complainant had ceased to be a member or chairman of the Commission as its term had come to an end.
“I will not make the argument of perjury because he has held a high office,” submitted Bali, adding that even the Registry would not have cleared the case for listing had it been mentioned that the complainant is no longer a member or chairman of the Commission.
The case has been filed against Badal and Majithia under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952. The retired judge in February this year had filed the criminal complaint against them 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 and the related incidents of police firing.
Senior Advocate APS Deol, who represents Justice Ranjit in the case, on Wednesday argued that the question of maintainability does not arise as the court already had summoned Badal and Majitiha and granted them bail after they made an appearance before the court. He added the next stage is now of evidence and going back to the question amounts to reviewing the previous orders.
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 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.