Can Punjab government withdraw sacrilege cases from CBI?
As the Punjab assembly has unanimously passed a resolution to take back cases of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib at Bargari and police firing at Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan from the CBI, questions are being raised on the move.
Experts are citing a Supreme Court judgment of March 1994 that had held that the withdrawal of consent for investigation by the CBI would not apply to cases wherein investigation was pending. They say the cases of firing at Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan, which chief minister Captain Amarinder had announced to hand over to the CBI last month, can easily be taken back as the agency is yet to take over them.
But they have doubts about the Bargari case which was handed over to the CBI during the previous Badal government in 2015 and is under investigation.
The 1994 SC judgment had come in the case of ‘Lehendup Dorji vs CBI and others’ in which former Sikkim chief minister Kazi Lhendup Dorji filed a writ petition seeking to know whether it was permissible to withdraw the consent given by the state government. The Sikkim government had in October 1976 conveyed its consent for CBI probe into offences punishable under IPC provisions as well as Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA).
Similar consent in respect of offences under other enactments was conveyed by the Sikkim government in 1979 and 1984.
Nar Bahadur Bhandari was the Sikkim CM from 1979 to 1984. After he demitted office on May 11, 1984, the CBI registered a case against him under PCA for acquiring assets disproportionate to his sources of income. Before the CBI could file the chargesheet in a court, the state government by its notification withdrew the consent earlier accorded to it for investigation of offences. Bhandari had then become the CM again.
This notification was challenged by Dorji in the apex court, which declared that the notification withdrawing the consent given by the Sikkim government would not apply to cases, which were pending investigation.
Meanwhile,SC laywer and AAP MLA, HS Phoolka, claimed that the state can withdraw the consent on valid grounds.
“In the Bargari case, the Ranjit Singh panel has stated that CBI has not made much progress in the case. It’s highly emotive issue in Punjab and the delay in investigation is causing unrest among the people. Withdrawal of the case and a time-bound probe by the SIT is a valid ground,” he said.