Tribune News Service
New Delhi, November 25
The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to shift the 2015 Guru Granth Sahib sacrilege case trial to another state, saying “no credible case for transfer of trial to alternative venues outside the state of Punjab is made out”.
A Bench of Justice Hrishikesh Roy, however, said the state of Punjab “must make all arrangements to ensure safe conduct of proceedings at the trial courts and also provide adequate security to the petitioners (accused) and their associates as might be warranted from the security perspective”.
Accused Jatinderveer Arora and others – members of Dera Sacha Sauda—had sought transfer of trial of cases pending before the courts at Bathinda, Moga and Faridkot in Punjab to a court in Delhi or to a nearby state.
They had contended that they were facing bias and prejudice and were unlikely to get a fair trial in the face of strong presumption of culpability. The situation in Bathinda and other places was communally surcharged where fair trial was a near impossibility, they said.
However, the top court rejected their plea, saying, “The transfer of trial from one state to another would inevitably reflect on the credibility of the state’s judiciary. Except for compelling factors and clear situation of deprivation of fair justice, the transfer power should not be invoked,” it said dismissing the transfer plea.
“It cannot just be the convenience of the petitioner but also of the complainant, the witnesses, the prosecution. The larger issue of trial normally being conducted by the jurisdictional court must also weigh on the issue.
“When relative convenience and difficulties of all the parties involved in the process are taken into account, the conclusion is inevitable that no credible case for transfer of trial to alternative venues outside the state of Punjab is made out, in the present matters,” it said.
Eight Dera Sacha Sauda members were charged with sacrilege for allegedly tearing Guru Granth Sahib and throwing it on the ground. The FIR in the matter was registered at Baja Khana police station on June 2, 2015, after a “bir” of Guru Granth Sahib was stolen from a gurdwara at Burj Jawahar Singh Wala.
The Supreme Court had on February 20 this year dismissed the CBI’s petition against the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s 2019 order refusing to interfere with the Punjab government decision to take back all sacrilege cases from the central probe agency.
It had rejected the CBI’s petition on the ground of delay while leaving the question of law open.