Punjab and Haryana High Court revives contempt of court case against former Sessions Judge who acquitted murder accused despite HC stay

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The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Thursday revived a contempt of court case against former Additional Sessions Judge of Kapurthala, Jatinder Walia, for acquitting a murder accused despite a stay order by the High Court. [Kulwant Kaur vs Jatinder Walia]
Justice Arvind Singh Sangwan, based on a sealed cover report by the High Court’s Registrar (Vigilance), observed that the judge had prima facie committed contempt of court by violating the stay order.

A petition was filed in 2016 before the High Court by the murder victim’s mother. She sought cancellation of anticipatory bail granted to two accused in the case. She told the Court that the anticipatory bail was denied in 2014 before being allowed in 2015 without taking into account the first dismissal.

She also sought a direction for further investigation under provisions of Section 173 (8) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) by getting her statement recorded by the Investigating Officer.

On this plea, the High Court directed the trial court to not pass a final order.

In a subsequent order in November 2016, a direction was issued to the police authorities to record the supplementary statement of the petitioner and thereafter, time was granted for placing on record the supplementary statement and to file status report regarding the action taken on the basis of the statement.

In August 2017, the High Court was informed that the accused were acquitted by the trial court despite the High Court’s stay order.

Accordingly, contempt of court proceedings were initiated against judge Jatinder Walia.

On the contempt plea, the Court determined that a fact finding enquiry was necessary before a final conclusion and accordingly, it directed its Registrar (Vigilance) to conduct a fact finding enquiry and submit a report to ascertain whether there was willful disobedience of order.

Pending enquiry, the contempt plea was disposed of. The Court had observed that since an appeal against the acquittal was pending and the respondent judge had taken voluntary retirement, the petitioner could raise all the pleas before the appellate court.

On completion of the enquiry, the report was submitted in a sealed cover.

The operative part of the report, among other things, stated that it was difficult to accept that the judge was not aware of the stay order passed by the High Court.

Accordingly, the Court revived the contempt petition and issued notice to all concerned parties.

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