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Saturday, June 25 2022

Sacrilege incidents: SC notice on Punjab plea against observations in HC order - 3 min read

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New Delhi:  The Supreme Court has issued notice on a special leave petition filed by the Punjab government challenging certain findings and observations in the April 9 order, passed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in the Kotkapura violence cases in connection with incidents of sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib.

A bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and J. K. Maheshwari, in an order passed on Monday, said: “Issue notice. M/s. Karanjawala & Co., Advocate-on-Record accepts notice on behalf of the Respondent No 1. Notice be issued to the other respondents, returnable in four weeks.”

The high court had quashed the charge sheets and directed that investigation into the alleged violence be conducted afresh by a newly-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Punjab Police.

Senior advocate Salman Khurshid, appeared for the Punjab government. Gurdeep Singh, the then SHO of Kotkapura who has been arrayed as respondent no 1 in the petition, was represented by senior advocates Ranjit Kumar and R.S. Cheema, and a team from Karanjawala & Co led by Nandini Gore and Sandeep Kapur, senior partners.

According to a counsel in the matter, the top court observed that the present matter is a serious issue and that the same is required to be examined in greater detail. The top court also observed that it was only issuing notice in the matter at the moment and was not interfering with the investigation being conducted by the newly-appointed SIT.

The matter pertains to the alleged violence in Kotkapura, Punjab on October 14, 2015 in response to the incidents of sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib between June, 2015 to October, 2015.

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The high court had quashed the charge sheets filed in FIR no 129 on August 7, 2018 (which was filed after a lapse of almost 3 years), at Kotkapura by the SIT, and FIR no 192 of October 14, 2015, pertaining to police firing on protestors who had gathered to protest against sacrilege incidents.

It had issued certain directions to constitute a SIT consisting of three senior IPS officers from Punjab to investigate into the FIRs and issued directions on the functioning of such SIT. The state government did not challenge the directions but moved the top court against certain findings and observations. It included observations on the findings of the SIT qua the role of the persons mentioned in the charge sheet, who were not parties before the high court.

Ranjit Kumar, at the outset, submitted that the Punjab government had not challenged the basis on which the high court quashed the reports which were presented under Section 173 of the CrPC in FIR No 129 dated August 7, 2018 and FIR No 192 dated October 14, 2015. He further submitted that the high court had afforded a well-reasoned order outlining the apparent bias and malicious manner in which the SIT, tasked with the investigation, investigated the matter.

He submitted that his client was the SHO of the concerned police station in the jurisdiction of which the violence occurred and that he was being punished at the behest of Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh, an IPS officer (respondent no 3). He submitted that the record would reflect that his client executed his duties with utmost responsibility and followed the directions of the SDM, who was the concerned duty magistrate in the town.

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