Death of a protesting farmer: SC refuses to stay the judicial probe ordered by the Punjab and Haryana HC and listed the matter for hearing on April 19

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On April 01, 2024, the Supreme Court (SC) of India heard a plea filed by the Haryana government against the February 07 decision of the Punjab & Haryana High Court. The HC ordered the setting up of a committee to probe the death of a protesting farmer, Shubhkaran Singh. Today, a two-judge bench constituting Justice Surya Kant and Justice KV Viswanathan heard the matter. The SC bench refused to stay the judicial probe ordered by the HC stating that those who approached the HC for probe have ‘some genuine apprehensions’. Moreover, the SC ensured a fair investigation of the allegations against the Haryana Police. It said, “The HC, in its wisdom, has thought of appointing a former judge, why should we interfere with that…The right to fair investigation also needs to be protected…” The SC bench listed the matter for hearing on April 19.

The HC, in its order, said that the investigation cannot be handed over to either Punjab or Haryana Government. It constituted a committee of three members headed by Retired Judge of Punjab & Haryana HC Justice Jaishree Thakur who will be assisted by Amitabh Singh Dhillon and Parmod Ban, ADGP, Haryana and ADGP, Punjab respectively. An appeal was filed against this decision before the apex court. During the proceedings today, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who appeared on behalf of the Haryana government argued “If this is the way that the committee will be appointed for every incident, then what will be the morale of people who are here on the law and order situation.” Further referring to the seriousness of the situation, he contended that “no one can function like this in front of swords, weapons, and tanks”. The Court said, “Former judge will only monitor and infuse confidence. Are you experiencing difficulty with the committee?” SG Mehta further said that ADGP Haryana should lead the probe panel rather than the retired judge. After hearing all the contentions, the SC refused to interfere with the order of the HC and listed the matter for hearing on April 19, 2024.