Punjab AG terms CBI closure report in sacrilege case ‘bad in law’

Says agency had no jurisdiction to probe or file any report REPORT after state decided to withdraw cases in 2018

Punjab Advocate General Atul Nanda has termed the CBI closure report in the Bargari sacrilege case as bad in law, saying the national agency had no jurisdiction in the matter after the State Government withdrew the cases from it last year.

The CBI lost all authority and jurisdiction to continue with any investigation in the cases, much less to file a closure report, after the State Government issued a formal notification to withdraw the cases from the agency in September 2018, said Nanda. Instead of filing the closure report, the correct legal course for the CBI would have been to inform the Court that it was no longer charged with the investigation, said Nanda.

The AG found the CBI decision to file the closure report, all of a sudden, to be “intriguing”, and said the move clearly indicated the agency’s newfound hurry to give a clean chit to the accused persons in the cases.

Nanda also expressed surprise at the CBI’s stand that the State of Punjab was a stranger to the events, and thus not entitled to a copy of the closure report. This stand, he said, was absurd, considering that the agency itself had, in its closure report, cited the “reports” and “inputs” of the Punjab police.

Explaining the legal position in the matter, the Advocate General pointed out that as per Section 6 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act (under which the CBI operates), the consent of the concerned State Government is required to investigate, under the IPC, criminal offences which have taken place in such a State. Despite the earlier Akali regime having granted such consent, however, on 6th September 2018, in line with a resolution of the House, the State Government had passed a formal notification withdrawing the said cases from the CBI. He further pointed out that this action was legally upheld by the High Court of Punjab & Haryana in its judgment dated 25 January 2019, filed by some of the accused police officers.

The High Court had, in fact, noted that the CBI had, despite the lapse of almost three years, made no progress in investigation had been made by the CBI in the cases. The Court had noted “ …during the course of hearing, this Court called for the case diary of the CBI and perused the same. It was evident that investigation in the cases had hardly made any headway…. On a specific query being put to the CBI Counsel about the status of the investigations despite lapse of almost three years, no clear answer was forthcoming,”. The fact that the CBI failed to challenge this judgement clearly shows that it had failed to conduct any meaningful investigations since it was handed over the cases in 2015, and had accepted such Court findings, said the AG.

In contrast to the CBI’s failure to make any progress in the cases, the SIT set up by the State to probe the same had made significant headway, according to Nanda. By questioning some of the accused, the SIT had unearthed the role of other accused, he pointed out, adding that
searches conducted in some of the Accused’s homes had revealed evidence related to the incidents, such as mobile chips, incriminating communication asking them to cause such activities, ammunition and payment of funds of upto Rs. 6 crores for instigating the events, etc.