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Can’t stigmatise judiciary, Supreme Court warns CBI

“One can’t stigmatise the judiciary,” the Supreme Court Tuesday said, slamming the CBI for casting aspersions on the subordinate judiciary in Gujarat while seeking the transfer of the 2005 Sohrabuddin Sheikh killing’s trial outside the state.


An apex court bench of Justice Aftab Alam and Justice R.P. Desai pulled up the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) when Additional Advocate General of Gujarat Tushar Mehta drew the court’s attention to a controversial paragraph in the transfer petition.


The investigating agency’s trial transfer plea said that the accused, who include former minister Amit Shah, had their kith and kin in Gujarat’s subordinate judiciary which could result in miscarriage of justice.


“This is a highly irresponsible statement. Have you asked for initiation of contempt proceedings,” the court observed when Mehta drew its attention to the CBI plea.


The investigating agency’s petition said that when Shah was presented in a Gujarat court “there was open servility and excessive demonstration of favourable and partisan attitude to Amit Shah by the learned chief judicial magistrate”.


“It is totally wrong, wholly irresponsible and impermissible (to say) that judiciary at the lowest rung was toeing some political line. There may be one or two isolated incidents,” the court said.


“Separation of power is a reality. There may be one or two isolated incidents. But to say that judiciary at the lowest rung was toeing some political line is completely nonsense,” the court said.


Appreciating the “good job” which the high courts were doing in “insulating” the subordinate judiciary from any political influence, the apex court said: “One can’t stigmatise the judiciary.”


Faced with the court’s anger, Additional Solicitor General Vivek Tankha, appearing for the investigating agency, told the court that he was not pressing this ground of the case transfer petition.


The court asked Mehta: “Accused can have objection (to the petition seeking transfer of trial outside Gujarat) but what is your (Gujarat government’s) objection.”


If the impression was sought to be generated that the “state is not taking steps for a conducive atmosphere for a free, fair and impartial trial and the judicial institutions in the state are not capable of delivery justice then the state has to oppose such a plea”, Mehta told the court.

“Right from the trial court to the (Gujarat) High Court all the orders passed were in accordance with the law,” Mehta told the court.


He described as a “coincidence” when the apex court asked how come the investigation into the Navrangpura firing at Popular Builder’s office, in which Sohrabuddin Sheikh was allegedly involved, travelled from local police to the crime detection wing of the crime branch and then to the anti-terrorist squad as Gujarat police officer D.G. Vanzara was transferred to these agencies.


Vanzara is in judicial custody for his alleged involvement in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh killing.


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