The Supreme Court Wednesday refused to entertain two separate appeals of the Chhattisgarh government against orders of the high court granting a stay on investigation in an FIR registered against senior BJP leader and former chief minister Raman Singh and the party spokesman Sambit Patra for their tweets in connection with the alleged fake toolkit case.
“Let the Chhattisgarh High Court decide the case. We know that in the entire country, there are people in different courts for stay, etc in this toolkit business. Why should we give separate preference to this case,” a bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana told senior advocate A M Singhvi who appeared for the Congress-led Chhattisgarh government to assail the high court’s relief granted to the two BJP leaders.
The Chhattisgarh High Court on June 11 had passed two separate orders and granted interim reliefs in the same FIR lodged against Singh and Patra while noting that averments in the FIR reflected that “by the tweets, Congressmen are aggravated which clearly indicates that no public peace or tranquillity is being adversely affected and it is purely political rivalry between two political parties”.
As soon as the bench commenced the hearing, the bench, also comprising justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, expressed its views saying that the high court be allowed to decide the pleas of the BJP leaders in the criminal case.
Referring to the findings of the high court, Singhvi, assisted by lawyer Sumeer Sodhi, said, “What will the High court decide at this stage, look at the observations. Even if I go there, I must have a genuine hearing”.
The high court said the petitioners are political persons and recorded the findings that no case is made out, he said, adding, “Now what is left for me to go back for.”
The bench, however, said: “Don’t waste your energy here. We are not inclined to interfere. Let the High Court decide the matter expeditiously. The SLPs (special leave petitions) are dismissed. Let the observations not come in the way of deciding the case on merits.”
The apex court requested the Chhattisgarh HC to decide expeditiously the pleas related to the fake toolkit case.
Earlier, the state government, through lawyer Sumeer Sodhi, had moved the top court against the high court orders granting stay of investigation in an FIR registered against the BJP leaders.
The high court had said it was “prima facie established that present FIR has been registered with political motives”.
In its appeal against the order in Raman Singh case, the state government said that on June 11 at the stage of admission, the high court vide the impugned order not only admitted the frivolous petition but also erroneously granted an interim relief sought by the accused/ Respondent number 1 (Raman Singh) by staying the investigation arising out of the FIR.
It sought setting aside of the orders on the ground that the top court has time and again held that extraordinary powers of the high court under Article 226 of the Constitution ought to be used sparingly and in rarest of rare cases.
The state government has further said that the high court erred in exercising such powers and staying the entire investigation as a nascent stage especially when ex-facie offence of forgery is made out and is writ large.
It said the state has been carrying out an investigation in accordance with law and considering the pandemic, has been fair in its conduct and the accused was given an opportunity to be present at his own house as per the notice sent to him and when the second notice was sent to him, he was given an option to be present through his lawyer.
The high court completely overlooked these aspects while returning a finding against the state government that the FIR has been lodged with “political motives”, it said.
The state government further said that the defence of the accused ought not to be looked at the stage of quashing; however, in the present case the high court seems to have been wrongly swayed by the submission of the accused that he was not the author of the document and further that one “Team Bharat” was the actual author of the document.
It said that the impugned order is ex-facie illegal, perverse and in stark derogation of the settled principles of law vis-à-vis the powers of the High Court to interfere at the nascent stage of investigation, therefore, deserves to be set aside.
The state government took similar grounds in the appeal filed in the case of Sambit Patra and sought setting aside of the order.
It has in interim sought an ex-parte stay of ad-interim orders granting stay of the impugned order dated June 11 passed by the High Court.
On May 19, an FIR was lodged based on the complaint of Akash Sharma, the president of the National Students' Union of India's (NSUI) Chhattisgarh unit, with the allegation that Singh, Patra and others had circulated fabricated content on social media platforms using a fake letterhead of the Congress by projecting it as a toolkit developed by the party.