The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to entertain a plea of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Bikram Singh Majithia seeking quashing of FIR registered against him by Punjab Police under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act of 1985 and gave him liberty to approach Punjab and Haryana High Court. A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Surya Kant, and PS Narasimha questioned senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Majithia as to why a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution has been filed before the top court when other remedies are available. The bench said that Majithia can move the High Court for his relief including the bail application, which will be heard by the division bench.
We are not inclined to entertain the petition filed under Article 32 of the petition. Petitioner is at liberty to move the division bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court seeking quashing of the Fir and for grant of bail, the bench said. Senior advocate V Giri, appearing for the Punjab government, said that his bail plea has been rejected by the special court as well as the High Court. However, the state cannot oppose if the court is directing the matter to be heard by the division bench of Punjab and Haryana High Court, he said.
Majithia, a former minister in the state government was given protection from arrest by the top court till February 23 in view of the assembly polls in Punjab and he had unsuccessfully contested from Amritsar East Assembly seat. Majithia is currently lodged in Patiala jail after his bail pleas were rejected. On January 31, the top court had granted relief to Majithia and directed the Punjab Police not to arrest him till February 23 in a drugs case so that he can undertake electioneering, saying we are a democracy where politicians are permitted to file nominations and it should not get the impression that motivated cases are filed.
Flagging the sudden spurt in criminal cases against political opponents just before the assembly polls, a bench headed by Chief Justices N V Ramana had asked the counsel for the Punjab government, to advise the authorities to ensure that it does not get the impression that the state is acting against political rivals with vindictiveness. While protecting Majithia against coercive measures, the top court had directed him to surrender after the Punjab assembly polls, scheduled on February 20, before a trial court that would be at liberty to hear and expeditiously decide his regular bail plea.
Majithia had said that it was a “classical case of political vendetta” as the FIR was registered on December 20, 2021, on the directions of the Acting DGP concerning offences of the period 2004-2015. The pre-arrest bail plea of Majithia, who was booked under the NDPS Act on December 20 last year, was dismissed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court on January 24. An appeal has been filed in the apex court.
The high court on January 10 had granted interim protection to Majithia from the arrest in the matter while directing him to join the investigation on January 12. It had also imposed some conditions, including not leaving the country, on the Akali leader.
The high court had extended the interim protection on January 18. Majithia (46) had moved the high court seeking anticipatory bail after his plea was rejected by a Mohali court on December 24.
Majithia is the brother-in-law of SAD leader Sukhbir Badal and the brother of former Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal. The former Punjab minister was booked under the NDPS Act based on a 2018 report of a probe into a drugs racket operating in the state.
The report was filed by the anti-drug special task force (STF) chief Harpreet Singh Sidhu in the Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2018. The 49-page FIR in the matter was registered by the state Crime Branch at its Mohali police station.
Majithia was booked under sections 25 (punishment for allowing one’s premises for its use for the commission of an offence), 27A (for financing sale, purchase, production, manufacture, possession, transportation, use or consumption, import, and export or any act pertaining to narcotics) and 29 (abetting or plotting an offence) of the NDPS Act. In his bail plea, the SAD leader had submitted that the Congress government in Punjab had “left no stone unturned to misuse its powers and position for wreaking vengeance upon its political opponents”.