A bench headed by the chief justice of India NV Ramanna today observed, "Filing of sedition cases when regimes change is a 'disturbing trend' and the 'State of affairs in the country is sad".

The CJI commented while hearing a case filed by Gujinder Singh, the 1994-batch IPS officer and suspended Director of the Chhattisgarh Police Academy, facing offences of sedition and disproportionate assets filed by the state government ruled by the Congress. The court has granted interim protection from arrest to the suspended cop.

Gurjinder Pal Singh, who had served as the IG of Raipur, Durg and Bilaspur, during the earlier BJP rule, was initially booked in the disproportionate assets case following raids at his premises by state's Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and Economic Offences Wing (EOW). Another case of sedition was invoked against him later on the grounds of his alleged involvement in promoting enmity and hatching a conspiracy against government.

The bench expressed displeasure over the trend of filing of sedition cases just after senior advocate F S Nariman made opening submissions on behalf of Singh, saying "the gentleman has served as the Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) and was acting as the Director of the Police Academy and now the proceedings under section 124A (sedition) of the IPC have been initiated against him".

"This is a very disturbing trend in the country and the police department is also responsible for this... When a political party is in power, police officials take the side of the particular (ruling) party. Then when another new party comes into power, the government initiates action against the police officials. This needs to be stopped," the bench headed by the CJI said.

The bench, which also comprised Justice Surya Kant, directed the Congress-led state government not to arrest Singh till further orders in either of the cases.

"Issue notice in both the matters returnable after four weeks. Learned Senior Counsel appearing for the State of Chhattisgarh accept and waive formal notice on behalf of the said State. In the meantime, the State is directed not to arrest the petitioner in both the matters until further orders. The petitioner is directed to participate in the inquiry/investigation and fully cooperate with the investigating agency without fail," the bench ordered.

While arguing the case Nariman said, "the issue of custodial interrogation of the police officer does not arise as the charge sheet has already been filed. The officer was once called by the present Chief Minister and asked to help in taking action against the former Chief Minister."

The state government was represented by senior advocates Mukul Rohatgi and Rakesh Dwivedi and lawyer Sumeer Sodhi. Rohtagi opposed Singh's plea saying, "He had been the head of the police academy in the state and "look at his conduct, he has been absconding. No relief such as protection from arrest should be granted to him," Rohatgi argued.

"We will consider the sedition case. This is a very disturbing trend and the police department itself is responsible for this... Do not say this that your client (Singh) was fair, your client must have acted as per the directions of the government of the day...," the bench observed.

Dwivedi also opposed granting any relief to the suspended police officer saying that the probe agency has found disproportionate assets "nine times more than the known sources of his income".

Senior lawyer Vikas Singh, representing the suspended police officer in the assets case, sought protection against any possibility of the arrest.

Recently, the Chhattisgarh High Court has refused to quash the sedition case against the officer who moved the top court against the order. Chhattisgarh government had moved the top court by filing caveats in the matter seeking hearing if any order is passed on his plea.

According to the police, the documents recovered during the ACB/EOW raids revealed that Singh was allegedly involved in promoting enmity and hatching a conspiracy against the established government and public representatives and was booked under sedition charges.

Singh was booked under IPC sections 124-A (sedition) and 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc) of the IPC at Raipur's City Kotwali Police Station. He has sought the case be handed over to the CBI or other independent agencies to ensure a fair probe.

The director of the state police academy was suspended on July 5 after the ACB/EOW, on June 29, registered an FIR under the Prevention of Corruption Act in connection with the disproportionate assets he had allegedly amassed.

The ACB/EOW, which carried a three-day search at around 15 locations linked to Singh from July 1 to 3, claimed to have discovered movable and immovable assets worth around Rs 10 crore.

"During the raid at the official residence of Singh, torn pieces of paper were also found from the backyard of the house. When the pieces were rearranged, serious and sensitive contents were found to be written and typed on it," the FIR stated.

"These papers contained objectionable comments against leaders of reputed political parties along with detailed plans of conspiracy. Besides, secret assessments related to representatives and candidates of different assembly constituencies along with comments on serious issues of concerned area were also written. The papers contained critical comments on several government schemes, policies, social and religious issues", it said.

[Inputs from PTI]