Synopsis: The Court also posed concerns as to how the defendant was prosecuted under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code and under what statute the state approached the magistrate to do so.
In the anticipatory bail plea brought by former Punjab Director General of Police (DGP) Sumedh Singh Saini, accused in the Balwant Singh Multani murder case, 1991, the Supreme Court reserved orders.
While doing so, the Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah expressed their willingness to grant bail to the former DGP.
Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Saini, argued that the case against his client was the result of a political vendetta, as the former DGP had brought proceedings against the current Chief Minister of Punjab, Amarinder Singh.
Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra, appearing for the State of Punjab, argued that the investigation against Saini would be hindered by anticipatory bail at this stage.
However, Justice Bhushan questioned why Saini’s custody would be needed especially when the crime has been committed before 30 years.
The court acknowledged that 29 years is a long period, and questioned that if this was a case in which custody was required at all.
Justice Bhushan, after hearing the parties, observed that the Bench was prima facie inclined to grant Saini anticipatory bail.
The Court, however, reserved its order when Senior Advocate Rohatgi insisted on a reasoned decision.
Senior Advocate Luthra indicated that the chargesheet should be the same if bail is granted. On which, Justice Shah noted that it will be in breach of the judgement of Justice Sushila Agarwal.
Moreover, Senior Advocate Rohatgi mentioned while narrating the details of the case, that there was a bomb blast in 1991 in Chandigarh and the idea was to assassinate Saini. The FIR was registered in Sector 17, Chandigarh. In December, 1991, Balwant Multani was arrested. It is in Multani’s father’s case that the petitioner tortured Multani. Whereas, it was in the state’s case that Multani fled and was never identified. He has not been apparent since 1991.
Rohatgi then claimed that on May 6, 2020, a fresh FIR was filed against Saini. He added that Multani’s brother filed a FIR on May 5, claiming he was frightened before because the petitioner was a DGP. He says one police officer revealed in 2015 that Saini was torturing individuals. But he remained silent and only file a petition in May 2020. The police record states that the decision of the Supreme Court is still on the technical side of the case, whereby his client has got anticipatory bail by a detailed judgment on May 11, 2020 by Sessions Court.
The FIR against Saini was filed on the basis of the statements of two police officers who, along with the former DGP, were given anticipatory bail.
Rohatgi alleged that more cases were being filed against Saini, the latest being in Faridkot for a shooting that occurred in Chandigarh when he was a Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP).
The Senior Advocate argued that as the alleged torture was in Sector 17, Chandigarh, which is a Union Territory, the Punjab government did not have jurisdiction in the case.
Rohatgi added, that without the leave of the trial judge, the state cannot add section 302 to FIR.
On the other hand, Advocate Luthra had claimed during an earlier hearing that Rohatgi was attributing motives to the judge who refused Saini’s bail plea. He went on to say that it was noted by the High Court that Saini was misusing his authority.
In his petition filed by Advocate Misha Rohatgi, Saini challenged the September 7 order of the Punjab & Haryana High Court rejecting his anticipatory bail plea in kidnapping and murder case of Multani.
In December 1991, after an assault on Saini that killed three policemen, Multani, a junior engineer with the Chandigarh Industrial and Tourism Corporation, was allegedly picked up by the police. In the attack, Saini was injured.
Saini was arrested at a police station in Mohali in May this year along with six others for the alleged 1991 kidnapping of Multani. After two of the accused policemen came clean about the incident, a murder charge was added against the others.
Saini is also facing trial in Delhi before the Special CBI Court for the alleged abduction of an automotive businessman, Vinod Kumar, his brother-in-law, Ashok Kumar and their driver, Mukhtiyar Singh.
Although Vinod and Mukhtiyar were picked up on March 15, 1994 by the police from the Punjab & Haryana High Court parking lot, Ashok was allegedly alleged to have been abducted from Ludhiana the same day.