NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Wednesday sought Punjab government's reply on a plea by former DGP of Punjab Sumedh Singh Saini seeking quashing of a fresh FIR lodged against him in the 1991 case of alleged murder of a junior engineer Balwant Singh Multani, asking it not to proceed in the matter in a rush.
The Punjab government told the top court that it would make a statement on the next date of hearing of the matter.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court had on September 8 dismissed his plea for quashing the case or transferring it to the CBI for further investigation.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and M R Shah asked the state not to proceed in the matter and sought its response within four weeks.
During the hearing, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Saini, said that the illegal and malicious prosecution of his client should be stopped as one case after the other is being filed in the matter.
He said Saini retired as DGP of Punjab in 2018 and the problem with such cases lay in his having lodged five criminal cases against the present Chief Minister of the state.
“I will show how vindictive the state is in this matter. I am fighting against the State and the Chief Minister,” Rohatgi said, adding that during his tenure as SSP of Chandigarh in 1991, there was an attack to kill the petitioner.
He said that following the attack an FIR was registered in Chandigarh Sector 17 and Balwant singh Multani was arrested in December 1991.
It is the case of Multani''s father that his son was tortured by Saini and others and it was the case of the State then that Multani had escaped and was never found, Rohatgi said.
Giving the details of the case, he said that Multani was not seen since 1991 and when his father filed a habeas corpus petition in the high court, the state government had said that Multani had escaped from custody.
Rohatgi added that in May this year, an FIR was registered at the instance of the brother of Multani, as his father had died in 2014 alleging his son was tortured.
The senior advocate contended that the police said the top court had earlier rejected the case on technical grounds and registered the FIR.
He said there cannot be a third FIR in the same incident and even the top court had earlier held that a second FIR cannot be registered in the same case.
Terming it as a case of political vendetta, Rohatgi said the Punjab government has no jurisdiction in the case as the alleged torture happened in Sector 17 of Chandigarh, which is Union Territory and the state cannot add Section 302 to FIR without leave of trial judge.
The bench said that it is issuing notice in the matter and asked senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, appearing for Punjab, as to how much time he will take to file the reply.
Subramanium said that he will need three weeks’ time to file a reply after which the bench posted the matter for further hearing.
The bench told Subramanium “Please don''t rush and proceed in such a manner which may cause problems. Since the matter has not proceeded in the last one month, please don''t proceed any further. You withdraw the latest petition from the High Court”.
Subramanium said he will make a statement with regard to the submissions in the next date of hearing.
On September 15, the top court had granted interim protection from arrest to Saini in the fresh FIR.
On September 8, the high court had dismissed Saini''s two pleas including the one on anticipatory bail in the alleged murder case and the other seeking either quashing of the case or transfer of the matter to the CBI.
Saini was booked in May in connection with the disappearance of Multani in 1991 when he was working as a junior engineer with the Chandigarh Industrial and Tourism Corporation.
Saini had approached the high court after a Mohali court dismissed his bail plea in this case on September 1.
A Mohali court had on August 21 allowed the Punjab police to add a murder charge against him in this case.
This came after two former Chandigarh police personnel, former UT police Inspector Jagir Singh and former ASI Kuldeep Singh, who are also co-accused, turned approver in the case.
Multani, who was a resident of Mohali, was picked up by police after a terrorist attack on Saini, who was then the senior superintendent of police in Chandigarh, in 1991.
However, the police had later claimed that Multani had escaped from police custody of Qadian police in Gurdaspur.
Saini and six others were booked on the complaint of Balwant Multani''s brother, Palwinder Singh Multani, who is a resident of Jalandhar.
The case was registered against them under sections 364 (kidnapping or abducting in order to murder), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence), 344 (wrongful confinement), 330 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code at Mataur police station in Mohali.