A Delhi court on Thursday pulled up Punjab DGP Sumedh Singh Saini for adopting "delaying tactics" in a 19-year-old kidnapping case against him in which three members of a Ludhiana-based business family had gone missing after being allegedly picked up by the police.
As the DGP's counsel Ajay Burman requested the court to defer the hearing till his plea to transfer the case to another court was decided by the district and sessions judge, special CBI judge AK Mehndiratta expressed strong displeasure at Saini's conduct in challenging his "impartiality".
Saini and three other police officers are accused in the case registered by the CBI on April 18, 1994 on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana high court. The case was later transferred from Ambala to Delhi on the orders of the Supreme Court in 2000.
The court said its effort to expedite the trial of the case, which had already been dragging for years, had been challenged by the DGP by questioning its fairness.
"The accused... challenged the impartiality of the court by preferring a transfer petition, as an effort has been made to expedite the trial of the incident nearing two decades," Mehndiratta said.
The court said it could not turn a "blind eye" to the vexatious conduct of Saini's counsel observed during recording the statement of the witnesses. It was part of Saini's delaying tactics, it noted.
Saini's plea to defer the hearing till a final order on his transfer petition was strongly opposed by the CBI, saying there was no stay order passed by the district and sessions judge. The probe agency requested the court to continue the cross-examination of Ashish Kumar, a prosecution witness.
The court deferred the hearing for January 9, 2014, saying the cross-examination of Ashish Kumar, brother of Vinod Kumar, one of those allegedly kidnapped, would be fixed subject to further order passed by the district and sessions court on the transfer petition.
The district and sessions court has already reserved its order on Saini's transfer plea for December 9.
While cancelling the exemption granted to Saini from personal appearance, the special CBI court had on November 20 directed him to remain present in court on Thursday.
As the accused is a high-profile cop, the courtroom was full of cops from Delhi police and a number of them in civil clothes were trying to keep an eye on those moving in the corridor, entering the courtroom and even outside.
Saini arrived in the courtroom around 10am in an SUV with a red beacon, and left around 1.15pm. A battery of lawyers defending Saini was present in the courtroom.
A visibly tense Ashwani Walia, complainant in the case, was seen frequently leaving his seat. According to his lawyer Shelly Sharma, it is for the third time that Saini has appeared in the court during the entire proceedings.
Saini, who sported a blue blazer, was escorted by senior officers. He was calm as he left the courtroom.
The incident dates back to March 15, 1994, when Ludhiana-based businessman Vinod Kumar, his brother-in-law Ashok Kumar and their driver Mukhtiyar Singh were taken into custody at a police station in Ludhiana. Since then all three have been missing.
The CBI had chargesheeted Saini and the other accused in 2006 under sections 364 (kidnapping or abducting in order to murder), 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 341 (wrongful restraint) and 342 (wrongful confinement) of the IPC. The special CBI court had later framed charges against them.