‘Cases coming up just before elections’: SC asks Punjab police to not arrest Bikram Singh Majithia till Feb 23 - Hindustan Times
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‘Cases coming up just before elections’: SC asks Punjab police to not arrest Bikram Singh Majithia till Feb 23

By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Feb 01, 2022 06:40 AM IST

Pointing to a spate of fresh cases alleging political vendetta by the Charanjit Singh Channi government, the top court underscored that every person has a right to file his or her nomination and contest election in a democracy.

The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday asked the Punjab government to refrain from launching criminal action against political opponents ahead of the assembly elections in the state, protecting Shiromani Akali Dal leader (SAD) Bikram Singh Majithia from arrest in an alleged drugs case till the polling is over.

SAD party candidate Bikram Singh Majithia is surrounded by supporters during an election campaign event for the upcoming Punjab state assembly election, in Amritsar on Saturday. (AFP)
SAD party candidate Bikram Singh Majithia is surrounded by supporters during an election campaign event for the upcoming Punjab state assembly election, in Amritsar on Saturday. (AFP)

Pointing to a spate of fresh cases alleging political vendetta by the Charanjit Singh Channi government, the top court underscored that every person has a right to file his or her nomination and contest election in a democracy.

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“We are in a democracy. At least allow them to file nominations, contest elections. Suddenly these criminal cases are coming up right before the election in the state (on February 20) and everybody has reasons to suspect the motive behind these cases,” a bench, headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, told counsel P Chidambaram, who appeared for the Punjab government.

Majithia is contesting the elections from two constituencies, Majithia and East Amritsar. He approached the apex court last week after failing to get protection from the Punjab and Haryana high court. A case under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, was registered against him on December 20.

In East Amritsar, Majithia’s opponent is the state Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu.

The bench, which also comprised justices AS Bopanna and Hima Kohli, asked Chidambaram to convey the court’s displeasure to the state government. “Please advise your state. The impression we should not gather is that this is all motivated. Another case is coming up tomorrow. We should be informed about a better stand from the state government,” it told the lawyer.

The court’s reference was to a petition filed by Lok Insaaf Party MLA Simranjit Singh Bains, who has sought protection from arrest in an alleged rape case.

During the hearing of Majithia’s petition , the court underlined that another MLA from Punjab has approached it seeking protection from arrest, complaining about criminal action against him in the run up to assembly polls on February 20.

“Today, another matter was mentioned regarding bail for another politician against whom FIR has been registered. He is also an MLA... We are not asking your police to hold their hands against drugs or other cases...but better give them time till elections are over,” the bench told Chidambaram.

The senior counsel, on his part, replied that he would bring the concerns of the court to the notice of the authorities concerned in the state government.

The bench on Thursday last week asked the Punjab government not to arrest Majithia, who has been named in a first information report by Punjab Police in an illegal drugs case, till Monday.

On Monday, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi appeared for Majithia, calling it a “classic case” of political vendetta.

“There cannot be any more gross case of political humiliation and vendetta. My client has never been found to be in possession of any drug nor has any investing team filed a charge sheet against him for his involvement in this so-called international drug racket,” Rohatgi, assisted by a team of lawyers from law firm Karanjawala and Co., submitted.

While the investigations being carried out in the drugs case since 2015 under the monitoring of the Punjab and Haryana high court did not reveal any evidence against Majithia, Rohatgi added, the Punjab director general of police acted on a purported advice of the state advocate general to register a criminal case against the SAD leader.

“I have appeared before the investigators every time they call. But please look at the kind of absurd questions they ask. I (Majithia) was asked to produce my wedding album so that they could see if any of my guests had any link with the alleged drug syndicate,” contended Rohatgi.

Countering him, Chidambaram argued that it was a “case of a drug racket” . “Finally, this investigation is now moving. Punjab is sinking under the drug trade. Unless we send a strong message through Majithia’s case by taking stern action, things will not change,” he said.

But the court questioned the timing of the criminal action by the state government. “We are not interfering with your investigation or anything right now. Give him (Majithia) time till elections are over and he can campaign,” it told Chidambaram, adding the petitioner has to be protected considering the urgency of the situation.

The bench then directed that Majithia will not be arrested till February 23, after which he should surrender before the trial court and seek regular bail. Elections in Punjab are scheduled for February 20.

“The trial court is at liberty to examine the bail expeditiously in accordance with law,” stated the court order while wrapping up Majithia’s petition.

On Friday, Majithia filed his nomination papers from Amritsar East to take on Sidhu, who is the sitting MLA. The SAD leader will also contest from Majithia constituency, where he is the sitting MLA.

Addressing the media after filing his nomination papers from Amritsar East on Friday, Majithia alleged that the Congress government did its best to prevent him from contesting the assembly elections.

“The Congress government even went to the extent of conducting raids at my residences, even though the high court clearly stated that it would consider my appeal to give me time to seek relief from the Supreme Court...We have complained regarding this to the Election Commission also and demanded action against officers responsible for this,” he had said.

The counting of votes will take place on March 10.

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