New Delhi: Observing that former Punjab DGP Sumedh Singh Saini’s involvement in multiple cases “can be a political ploy in wake of the coming” assembly elections in the state, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has stayed investigations in all the cases against him, as well as his arrest in all the registered or likely to be filed cases.
The order will remain in force until assembly elections in Punjab, which are due in February 2022.
Justice Arvind Singh Sangwan began his 46-page judgment with a fable from Panchtantra, in which an ape intrudes into a village and is cornered by a crowd until the village sarpanch comes to its rescue. In the fable, the sarpanch notes that the crowd has not given plausible reasons for the ape to be shunned, and calls the entire episode an “injustice”.
The court drew parallels between the fable and Saini’s case, observing, “This is how the legal system in India works where the Court follows the principle of ‘audi alteram partem’, i.e. nobody should be condemned unheard. The plight of the petitioner appears to be similar to the story as this Court protected the right of the petitioner by passing various orders”.
Taking note of the “dare shown by the Punjab Police officials in trying to overreach the court” by arresting Saini last month despite contrary court orders, Justice Arvind Singh Sangwan Friday ruled, “Considering it to be a case of exceptional circumstances and hardship being caused to the petitioner by the State of Punjab (on political grounds), there will be a clear stay for the arrest of the petitioner in all cases pending or likely to be registered or registered…till the General Election in the State of Punjab are held which are due in February, 2022 onwards.”
The court however, asserted that Saini cannot leave the country until February 2022, without its prior permission.
The matter will next be heard on 13 December.
‘Malice, mala fides, ulterior motives’
Saini, a 1982-batch IPS officer, became the youngest DGP in Punjab in March 2012, at 54 years of age. He was the blue-eyed boy of Shiromani Akali Dal president and former deputy Chief Minister of the state, Sukhbir Badal, and was also a protege of former DGP K.P.S. Gill.
He was, however, removed from the post for the police’s shoddy handling of the protests against the sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib. Saini retired in June 2018 and was awarded the President’s Police Medal for gallantry and the Wound Medal (Parakram medal). He, however, has at least half a dozen cases registered against him.
Friday’s order was passed on a petition he had filed in 2018, demanding transfer of any matter registered against him to the Central Bureau of Investigation or to any other independent agency outside Punjab.
He said that he apprehended being falsely implicated in criminal cases “on account of malice, mala fides and ulterior motives on the part of the political party in power in the State of Punjab”.
The high court had then granted him protection from arrest in October 2018 and this protection was further extended in September 2020 to any incident pertaining to his entire service career.
He was, however, arrested on 18 August this year, in relation to a case registered in September 2020. A day later, the high court ordered his release, in view of “discussed facts and circumstances of the case evidencing illegality of the arrest of the detenue”.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)