Supreme Court. (File Photo: IANS). Image Source: IANS News

New Delhi, Nov 25 : The Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to transfer the 2015 Bathinda Guru Granth Sahib sacrilege case trial outside Punjab.

A bench of Justice Hrishikesh Roy said: "The transfer of trial from one state to another would inevitably reflect on the credibility of the state's judiciary. Except for compelling factors and clear situation of deprivation of fair justice, the transfer power should not be invoked. The present bunch of cases are not perceived to be amongst such exceptional categories." The top court dismissed a petition filed by six accused, who are members of Dera Sacha Sauda sect, expressing apprehension of prejudice in the trial in Punjab.

According to the petitioners, the situation in Bhatinda and other places is "communally surcharged" and a fair trial is a near impossibility. The transfer petition was led by Jatinderveer Arora and others seeking transfer of trial pending before the courts at Bhatinda, Moga and Faridkot districts to Delhi or to any nearby state.

The top court observed that the allegation of surcharged atmosphere is not sufficient and the apprehension of not getting a fair and impartial trial cannot be founded on certain grievances or convenience of the accused, and the reasons have to be more compelling.

"When relative convenience and difficulties of all the parties involved in the process are taken into account, the conclusion is inevitable that no credible case for transfer of trial to alternative venues outside the State of Punjab is made out, in the present matters," noted the top court.

Justice Roy emphasised that from the available material, it cannot be reasonably concluded that the situation in Punjab is not conducive for a fair trial for the petitioners.

"The few instances mentioned by the petitioners' counsel may suggest heightened feelings amongst different groups but they do not, in my estimation, call for transfer of proceedings to another state," he held.

The top court observed that it is inclined to believe that the atmosphere in the state does not justify shifting of the trial venue to another state, noting that the incident occurred in 2015 and it has been more than two years since the petitioners were arraigned as accused in the cases.

"During this long period, no complaint has been made by the petitioners of any threat to their security or to their associates," noted the top court.

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