The Supreme Court today said that it will hear after four weeks an appeal filed by the Punjab government against a Punjab and Haryana High Court order granting bail to former state minister Bikram Singh Majithia in a drugs case.

At the outset, a bench comprising Justice Aniruddha Bose and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia was requested to pass over the hearing, so that it can be taken up after other listed matters, as senior lawyer Shyam Divan, who was to argue on behalf of the Punjab government, was busy in some other court.

"It will be difficult to pass over the case today. We will rather list it for hearing after four weeks," the bench said.

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader was granted bail and walked out of jail on August 10 last year after spending more than five months behind bars. Majithia was booked on the basis of a 2018 report of the anti-drug special task force (STF) into a drug racket in the state.

Earlier on January 30, Justice Surya Kant, while sitting on the bench with Justice J K Maheshwari, had recused himself from hearing the Punjab government's plea, saying that he was part of the high court bench which had directed the setting up of a special task force to probe the drugs case. Consequently, the matter was referred to Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud on the administrative side for setting up another bench and it was then listed before the bench led by Justice Bose.

The Punjab government has challenged the high court order dated August 10, 2022 which stated that there were "reasonable grounds" to believe that Majithia was not guilty. The high court had, however, said the observation is only for the purpose of adjudicating his bail application and the trial court should proceed independently of the observations made by it.

The high court had said, "We are satisfied that reasonable grounds exist to believe that petitioner is not guilty of the offences alleged against him in the FIR and he is not likely to commit such offences while on bail." It had said it would take time for the trial against him to start and culminate. "So no fruitful purpose is going to be served even if the petitioner is kept in judicial custody for a further indefinite period," it had said.

The high court had asked Majithia to furnish a personal and surety bond of Rs 2 lakh each and also deposit his passport with the investigating agency concerned. It had said that Majithia shall travel abroad only with leave of this court and shall not tamper with the prosecution evidence.

The STF report was based on confessional statements given to the Enforcement Directorate by some accused, including Jagjit Singh Chahal, Jagdish Singh Bhola and Maninder Singh Aulakh. Earlier, the apex court had directed the Punjab Police not to arrest the former Punjab minister till February 23 last year in the drugs case so he could undertake electioneering in the state. The court had, however, directed Majithia to surrender before the trial court after the Punjab Assembly polls on February 20 last year.

With PTI Inputs