Punjab and Haryana high court judge, justice MMS Bedi, has recused himself from hearing a matter filed by a former senior superintendent of police (SSP), in which an Amritsar human rights activist accused the judge of “favouring high-profile accused persons” in a 2004 alleged mass suicide case by an Amritsar family.
On March 30, justice Bedi had reserved the judgment when he was told by complainant Sarabjit Singh Verka’s lawyer that Verka had approached acting chief justice SJ Vazifdar, seeking transfer of the case from justice Bedi. But later, justice Bedi chose not to pronounce the judgment and referred the matter to another bench.
The matter pertains to the alleged mass suicide by one Hardip Singh of Chowk Karori in Amritsar, along with his wife, mother and two children, by consuming poison in 2004. Before taking the extreme step, the family had reportedly written the reason for committing suicide on the walls of their house and had even posted suicide notes to their friends. There was reference to Kultar Singh, who was the Amritsar SSP then, in the suicide notes and he is facing allegations that he was responsible for the family taking the extreme step. Singh has since retired.
“The allegations in the complaint presented to me though tantamount to an attempt to interfere in the due process of law and lowering the dignity of the court, and would fall under the definition of criminal contempt….taking into consideration the fact that courts are already burdened with the judicial work on account of heavy pendency, it will not be worthwhile to utilise the precious time of the courts to get it declared that the complainant has committed contempt of court and to ultimately accept the apology,” justice Bedi observed in his order, accusing the activist of “bench-hunting” and terming Verka’s act as “his attempt to browbeat the court for a favourable order of deferring hearing”.
Justice Bedi was hearing a petition by Kultar Singh, in which he had challenged the trial court’s order of summoning him as an additional accused in the matter, filed in 2016. Kultar was summoned by the trial court on the application of Verka, an Amritsar activist, who had alleged Kultar’s role in the case. One more petition is pending before the high court in which Verka has sought a probe into the missing of case files in the case.
The complaint, as reproduced by justice Bedi in the order, says, “This court has favoured high-profile accused persons and had earlier disposed of a petition filed by the complainant (Verka) in which the complainant had challenged the shifting of inquiry from Jaswinder Singh (inspector general of police) to Hardeep Singh Dhillon, IPS.”