Verdict reserved on plea to transfer Badal’s trial

February 26th, 2009 - 9:15 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 26 (IANS) The Supreme Court Thursday reserved its verdict on a plea for transferring outside the state the trial of a corruption case against Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his two relatives.
A bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan reserved the verdict on the plea by former chief minister Amarinder Singh, who has been expelled from the Punjab assembly on charges of corruption.

The bench, which also included Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice J.M. Panchal, reserved its verdict on Amarinder Singh’s lawsuit after hearing for three days a battery of legal experts representing the two sides.

While former additional solicitor general Altaf Ahmed and senior counsel P. Narsimha argued on behalf of Amarinder Singh seeking transfer of the trial outside the state, Badal and the state of Punjab were represented by over a dozen advocates, including former union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, former attorney general Ashok Desai and former solicitor general Harish Salve.

The Punjab chief minister and his family members, including his wife Surinder Kaur and son Sukhbir Badal, are facing a charge of owning assets disproportionate to their known sources of income. Two cases had reached trial, one at Mohali near Chandigarh and another at Ropar - both in Punjab.

The case against Badal and his family members was registered in 2003 when Amarinder Singh was the Punjab chief minister.

The petitions was filed jointly by Amarinder Singh and several other Congress legislators of the state.

The counsel for Amarinder Singh contended that since Badal became the chief minister of the state last February, most of the prosecution witnesses, who are mostly government officials, have turned hostile, jeopardising a free and fair trial.

They also alleged that Badal had replaced the old team of public prosecutors and state counsel in the case.

They argued that the courts have examined only 58 out of the 138 witnesses till now and the prosecution was now seeking examination of the investigative officer of the case on the ground that almost all the crucial witnesses have been examined.

The bench earlier had taken exception to the fact that despite majority of witnesses turning hostile, the prosecution had not sought their cross examination.

The bench wanted the state to change its public prosecutor Pradeep Mehta in the case, but the state government counsel rejected the suggestion saying they can appoint more prosecutors to assist Mehta but cannot afford to change him.

Various lawyers appearing for Badal contended that the petition was politically motivated and the petitioners had no right to approach the court to seek the transfer of trial.

Amarinder Singh had approached the apex court last year in April. The bench has stayed the trial of the case in the state.

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