Keeping trial against Delhi L-G Saxena in abeyance will add to pendency of cases

A Gujarat court has rejected Delhi L-G VK Saxena’s plea to keep the trial against him in abeyance in an assault case till he is in office, saying it doesn’t want to increase the pendency of cases in Gujarat courts.

The court of additional chief judicial magistrate PN Goswami had on May 8 refused to grant relief to Saxena in the case registered against him for allegedly assaulting Narmada Bachao Andolan activist Medha Patkar when she was holding a peace meet at Gandhi Ashram against Gujarat riots in April 2002.

A copy of the order was made available on Friday.

“This case has been going on since 2005, that is, 18 years, and will take more time … If the trial against the accused is suspended, naturally this case will remain pending for many more years. This will only increase the pendency of old cases existing in Gujarat judiciary,” the court said.

It noted that the trial against Saxena was going on since last year, and during this period, he did not request the state government to put it in abeyance nor did the state make such a request.

The court said that the accused has already been granted an exemption from appearance in the trial court.

“If the proceedings are stayed against Accused no. 4 (Saxena), the case will remain pending for many more years. Considering the condition of old cases pending in Gujarat courts, this will only increase pendency,” it said.

Saxena had sought a stay on trial against him as long as he holds the post of L-G of the National Capital Territory of Delhi by citing immunity granted under the Constitution. Trial against three other accused Bharatiya Janata Party MLAs Amit Thaker and Amit Shah as well as Congress leader Rohit Patel has been going on in the case. The court said Saxena did not hold the constitutional post then.

If the trial against three other accused continues and his (Saxena’s) stays, then all the witnesses already examined in the case will have to be re-examined when trial against him commences, and this will cause them hardship, the court said.

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The court also noted that the trial against Saxena and three others has been pending for the last 18 years. With as many as 71 more witnesses to be examined, such a suspension of the trial will take a considerable amount of time, it said.

The court said that Saxena appears to be aware of the legal position that the trial cannot be stopped. Had this been possible, it should not have continued once Saxena became L-G. The court further noted that Saxena was aware of the fact that he was not holding the position of L-G at the time of the incident.

As per the case detail, a group of people had allegedly attacked Patkar when she was part of a peace meet organised after the 2002 Gujarat riots, and a complaint was lodged by her at the city’s Sabarmati police station.

The accused were booked under sections 143 (unlawful assembly), 321 (voluntarily causing hurt), 341 (wrongful restraint), 504 (intentional insult to provoke breach of trust), and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code.

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