Read Order: Jagseer Singh v. Central Bureau of Investigation and others

Tulip Kanth

Chandigarh, October 6, 2021: The Punjab and Haryana High Court has dismissed a petition seeking transfer of case titled as CBI v. Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and others(case No. CHI/1864/2013) from Special Judge CBI, Panchkula (Special Judge) to any other Special CBI Court in the States of Haryana, Punjab or Union Territory, Chandigarh.

The case pertains to the murder trial of Ranjit Singh and the petitioner herein is his son. Earlier, on directions of this Court, the investigation pertaining to murder of Ranjit Singh was transferred to CBI. After investigation, Jasbir Singh, Sabdil Singh, Krishan Lal, Inder Sain and Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh were nominated as accused.

This petition had been filed as the petitioner had an apprehension that the Special Judge is unduly influenced by the accused through second respondent (Public Prosecutor, CBI) who is not entrusted with the trial, yet takes interest in the proceedings.

The contention of the petitioner has been that considering the sensitivity of the case and involvement of high profile accused, the case be transferred.

On the other hand, the counsel for CBI mentioned that by order dated March 31,2021, along with transfer of second respondent, Mr. P. K. Dogra, Senior Public Prosecutor was transferred to Chandigarh. It was an administrative decision and there was no question of anybody influencing the transfer.

The Bench of Justice Avneesh Jhingan opined that High Court under Section 407(1) Cr.P.C. can transfer trial from subordinate criminal court if fair or impartial trial is not possible. 

The Court noted that on mere apprehension trial cannot be transferred. The apprehension must be reasonable and not imaginary. The power of transfer is to be sparingly exercised. There cannot be a straight jacketed formula for transfer of trial.

The Bench observed that the apprehension of the petitioner is based upon incidents relating to other cases. The presence of second respondent in the Court during Trial is duly explained in the pleadings by the CBI. He is a regular Public Prosecutor in CBI Court at Panchkula. Senior Public Prosecutor and a Special Public Prosecutor have been specifically appointed to represent CBI in this case. Being a designated Public Prosecutor in the court, his presence is obvious and being regular in Court, he can lend assistance to his colleagues.

While noting that the endeavour to argue that the trial in the present case is of different nature considering its sensitivity and involvement of high profile accused cannot form basis for transfer of the trial, the Bench also held that the apprehensions of petitioner cannot be held to be reasonable, these are imaginary and based upon surmises and conjectures.

It was also highlighted that if the trial is transferred on the basis that filing of comments by the Special Judge would affect the outcome of the trial, the trail of such pressure would not only end with the transfer but will proceed to the next Judge also. Moreover, a judge is aware of the powers bestowed and how to conduct fair trial.

In the end, the Court affirmed that the petitioner watched and participated in trial before Special Judge since April, 2021 i.e. when he was transferred. The petitioner in garb of transfer petition cannot be permitted to have Bench of his choice or to get result of trial as per his wishes. 

Dismissing the Petition, the Bench also added that with the advancement of technology and activism of social media, the allegation levelled by such litigants needs to be scrutinized very carefully. On asking of apprehensive litigant, transfer of trial at fag end would result in browbeating the Judge and interference in fair administration of justice.

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