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Punjab and Haryana High Court dismisses transfer plea of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Ram Rahim, says no straitjacketed formula for transfer of trial

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The Punjab and Haryana Court has dismissed a plea seeking transfer of murder trial against Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh from the present court to a Special CBI Court in either the states of Haryana or Punjab, or in the Union Territory of Chandigarh.

The Single-Judge Bench of Justice Avneesh Jhingan passed the order on a petition filed by Ram Rahim’s son, Ranjit Singh. The Court noted that the apprehensions of the petitioner cannot be held to be reasonable, as they are imaginary and based upon surmises and conjectures.

The bench also observed that the plea must be scrutinised carefully, especially with the advancement of technology and activism of social media, since it was filed at the end of the trial stage. The petitioner cannot be permitted to have bench of his choice or to get result of trial as per his wishes in the garb of transfer petition, observed the Bench.

It said, “With the advancement of technology and activism of social media, the allegation levelled by such litigants need to be scrutinized very carefully. On asking of apprehensive litigant, the transfer of trial at the fag end would result in browbeating the Judge and interference in fair administration of justice.”

The petitioner apprehended that the Special Judge is unduly influenced by the accused through the public prosecutor of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), who was not entrusted with the trial, yet took interest in the proceedings.

Senior Advocate R.S. Bains, appearing for the petitioner, argued that the apprehension of the petitioner of not having fair trial is based on various instances, some of them are not directly related to the trial in the present case. Reliance is placed on a complaint made against the Special Judge in another case to submit that the conduct of the Special Judge is not above board. It is argued that the Special Judge in his comments filed, has chosen to remain silent on complaint made against him.

Senior Advocate Bains also stated that there appeared to be a fiduciary relationship between the public prosecutor and the judge. Senior Advocate Vinod Ghai denied the contentions of the petitioner and submitted that if baseless allegations are made against judicial officers, a prayer for initiation of contempt proceedings would be justified.

“Bold statements are being made, but there is no material whatsoever worth put forth by the petitioner to show the proximity of respondent No. 2 with the accused. I pray that a serious view should be taken of the pleadings made without any foundation,” Ghai argued.

Supporting Ghai’s arguement, Senior Advocate R Venkataramani also stated that there was nothing before the Court to interfere in the judicial process. Therefore, no case was made out for a transfer of the present petition.

Senior Counsel Bains relied upon the judgment of the Supreme Court in Kaushalya Devi vs Mool Raj and others, 1964(4) SCR 884, and submitted that the Special Judge has filed his comments and as per the decision of the Supreme Court without considering the merits of the transfer petition, hence the case should be transferred. The prayer made by the Special Judge in his comments is harsh, the Counsel added.

Justice Avneesh Jhingan concluded that the High Court, under Section 407(1) CrPC, can transfer the trial from subordinate criminal court, if fair or impartial trial is not possible. The petition was dismissed for being void of merits.

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