HC grants anticipatory bail to SAD chief Sukhbir Badal in 2015 Kotkapura firing case

The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Friday granted anticipatory bail to former Punjab deputy chief minister and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal in connection with the 2015 Kotkapura police firing case.

The court had reserved its order last month on the anticipatory bail pleas of Badal, former Punjab director general of police (DGP) Sumedh Singh Saini and some others in the case.

On Friday, it granted the relief to Badal, Saini and four others.

The court ruled that it was not a case for pre-trial incarceration.

The petitioners had moved the court after the Faridkot judicial magistrate issued notices following the filing of the final investigation report by police under section 173, CrPC against the accused. The allegations involve hatching a conspiracy to open fire on a group of protesters.

While a Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed by the Punjab Police is probing the Kotkapura firing case, another one is investigating the Behbal Kalan firing incident.

Eight years ago, these incidents had triggered protests. Two persons were killed in Behbal Kalan and a few injured at Kotkapura in Faridkot in the police firing.

The bench of Justice Anoop Chitkara emphasised that “it stays undisputed that the latest SIT, despite finding a prima facie case against the petitioners-accused, chose not to arrest them and instead, filed a police report without arresting them”.

“When the judicial magistrate concerned had directed the investigator to produce the petitioners-accused, they apprehended arrest and filed an application(s) for anticipatory bail before the Sessions Court, which was dismissed.

“Thus, if the State was interested in arresting the petitioners during the pendency of the trial, then nothing could have stopped them from doing so because, till that time, the petitioners had no favourable order, including any interim order,” Justice Chitkara said.

The SIT has already concluded its investigation and it did not interrogate the petitioners, the judge observed.

Furthermore, the evidence that was collected was based on eyewitness accounts and documentary or digital records. Thus, the question of custodial interrogation of the petitioners does not arise, Justice Chitkara said.

“The foremost parameter that requires consideration while granting anticipatory bail is the impact of the crime on the victim(s), society and the State. In the present case, the magnitude of the crime was undoubtedly massive. Still, the evidence collected against the petitioners is based on presumptions that the petitioners were involved in the conspiracy, and the evidence prima facie lacks evidence qua motive,” he added.

“It is not the case of the SIT that any accused was spearheading any campaign to hurt the religious feelings of the Sikh community and other people who have immense faith in Sikhism. Based on the quality of evidence, this court cannot presume the existence of any conspiracy, and it is for the prosecution to prove the same during the later stages of the matter, if such stage arrives,” the judge said.

He further held that “in the entirety of the facts and circumstances and without referring to the evidence collected by the SIT in detail, so that it is misused by the people who propagate hate speeches and hurt religious feelings, it suffices to say that it is not a case for pre-trial incarceration of the petitioners, subject to their complying with the terms and conditions of the interim bail bonds, including the interim order dated March 21, 2023 or as applicable”.

The State had opposed the continuation of interim bail primarily because the petitioners are very powerful figures, and if granted the relief, they may influence the witnesses, which would hamper the trial.

Also Read

On this, the counsel appearing for the petitioners submitted that they would have no objection whatsoever if the court imposes any conditions to take care of such apprehensions and otherwise assured the court that the petitioners are responsible citizens and undertake not to influence the witnesses or investigation in any manner.

“Based on these submissions, I am of the considered opinion that in case, at any stage, the prosecution gets any communication or evidence that the petitioners are influencing the witnesses or hampering the trial, then it shall be permissible for the State to file an application for cancellation of bail on that ground alone,” Justice Chitkara said in his order.

He added that the petitioners shall not influence, browbeat, put pressure, make any inducement, threat or promise, directly or indirectly, to the witnesses, police officials or any other person acquainted with the facts and circumstances of the case to dissuade them from disclosing such facts to police or the court, or tamper with the evidence.

Related Articles

Latest Articles