Taking up a public interest litigation challenging the Punjab government's decision to appoint Sumedh Singh Saini as the state director general of police (DGP), the Punjab and Haryana high court on Tuesday issued notice of motion to the state as well as Saini for June 1. Saini was appointed Punjab DGP on March 14.
The petition filed by a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Voices for Freedom, which came up for hearing before the division bench comprising chief justice Ranjan Gogoi and justice Mahesh Grover, alleged that the state government appointed Saini as DGP despite knowing that a criminal case was pending against him in the special CBI court in Delhi.
The petitioner submitted that in the Ludhiana 'abduction and killing' case dating back to 1994-95, the special CBI court had in 2006 chargesheeted Saini and other accused under sections 364 (kidnapping or abducting in order to murder), 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 341 (wrongful restraint) and 342 (wrongful confinement) of the Indian Penal Code, adding that the trial was still pending in the court.
Senior Supreme Court advocate and Nagaland advocate general KN Bal Gopal appeared for the petitioner.
After going through the petition and the reply filed by the NGO about its activities, the bench said, "The writ petition discloses matters of substantial public importance and, therefore… is a fit case for further consideration."
During resumed hearing, when the bench was about to issue notices in the case, Punjab's senior additional advocate general Rupinder Singh Khosla intervened to present some papers downloaded from the NGO's website to inform the court about the petitioner's antecedents.
However, the bench refused to hear him, saying that it was not 'ousting' the DGP but only issuing notices. But when Khosla repeatedly tried to put his point forward, the bench said his "over-enthusiasm at the pre-notice stage" was itself a ground to issue notice in the case.
Coming down heavily on the state's counsel, the bench said state counsels normally did not appear in regular cases, but since the petition pertained to the state's DGP, the senior additional advocate general was appearing even at the 'pre-notice stage'.
When Khosla asserted that the petitioner NGO's website 'Reuters' showed that the organisation was providing a platform to terrorist organisations indulging in secessionist and anti-national activities, the bench said, "At this stage, we are not called upon to consider the said objections." The bench stated that it could also take suo motu notice of the facts presented before it.
However, the bench added that since the Punjab government was also a respondent in the plea, it "would be at liberty to file its return (reply)... raising objections... with regard to bona fides of the petitioner as well as… merits of the issues raised."