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Reprieve for Country's Sole Happiness Minister in Murder Trial

On Monday, a bench of Justices Adarsh K Goel and Uday U Lalit refused to interfere with an order by the Madhya Pradesh High Court whereby the trial in this case has been stayed. "Since the special leave petition has been filed against the interim order, we do not find any ground to interfere with the impugned order," stated the Court order.

Utkarsh Anand |

Updated:March 6, 2018, 9:42 AM IST
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Reprieve for Country's Sole Happiness Minister in Murder Trial
File photo of Lal Singh Arya.
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New Delhi: In a reprieve for the country's sole 'Happiness Minister' Lal Singh Arya, the Supreme Court has declined a plea to immediately restart a murder trial, in which he has been named as an accused.

The Madhya Pradesh minister is a co-accused in Congress MLA Makhan Lal Jatav's murder in April 2009, and is currently out on bail.

On Monday, a bench of Justices Adarsh K Goel and Uday U Lalit refused to interfere with an order by the Madhya Pradesh High Court whereby the trial in this case has been stayed. "Since the special leave petition has been filed against the interim order, we do not find any ground to interfere with the impugned order," stated the Court order.

On December 15 last year, the HC had put brakes on the ongoing trial at a Bhind court taking into account the CBI's objections.

The CBI has gone to the HC, complaining that the magistrate in Indore had erroneously sent the case to trial before a sessions court in Bhind and that the trial must continue at Indore itself. Arya has also separately challenged the validity of trial at Bhind on this ground.

While the magistrate had referred the case to Bhind on the ground that the murder had taken place at Bhind, the HC prima facie found the decision to be in violation of the Criminal Procedure Code because the CBI had filed its chargesheet in Indore.

Accordingly, the HC stayed the trial at Bhind, and said the petitions on the validity of the trial will be finally decided at a later stage. Challenging this order, key witness in this case Suryabhan Singh Gurjar moved the apex court, and sought an immediate vacation of the restraint order by the HC.

Senior advocates Kapil Sibal, Salman Khurshid and Vivek Tankha appeared for Gurjar, and questioned the rationale of stalling the trial at this stage. The lawyers contended that the killing was done 11 years ago and staying the trial now would virtually mean frustrating the entire purpose of criminal law.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing the other side, opposed these arguments and said that the objections to the present trial was filed in 2011. According to Rohatgi, his client could not be blamed if the HC has not been able to decide the validity of the order to commit trial to the Bhind sessions court in last seven years.

At this, the bench said that it would not set aside or modify the HC order since it is an interim order passed until a final view is taken on the issue. The Court observed that it was not inclined to interfere at this stage.

"However, we request the High Court to decide the pending matter expeditiously and as far as possible within one month from the date of receipt of copy of this order," further said the bench while making it clear that it has not expressed any opinion on the merit of the case.

Arya, 53, was tasked by MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan in January with ensuring "the happiness and tolerance" of the state's citizens.

The Happiness Ministry is modelled on the "gross national happiness" index used by Bhutan as a measure of its success.

Madhya Pradesh hopes for its own such "happiness index", and has promised social programs including yoga, meditation and free religious pilgrimages for senior citizens.
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