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Mar 12, 2008 at 12:40pm IST

SC shifts Sabharwal murder trial out of MP

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the transfer of the trial in the Prof H S Sabharwal murder case from Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh to Nagpur in Maharashtra. Madhya Pradesh is ruled by a BJP Government while Maharashtra has a Congress-NCP Government in power.

A Supreme Court Bench headed by Justice Arijit Pasayat passed the order on a petition filed by the family of the slain professor pleading that the inquiry of the case be handed over to the CBI and the trial be shifted to Delhi.

It was also contended that an independent public prosecutor be appointed to handle the case.

The court, however, decided to shift the case to Nagpur instead after taking the opinion of the accused and the professor's family.

Senior advocate U U Lalit, appearing for one of the accused in the case, said that Nagpur would be a better option as it was a non-BJP ruled state and it was close to Ujjain where the trial was being held earlier.

The court also directed the sessions court of Nagpur to complete the trial within eight months.

Harbhajan Singh Sabharwal, a professor in a Ujjain college, had died on August 26, 2006 after he was attacked by a group of students who were protesting against the cancellation of election in the university.

The professor had declared the student election null and void. Protesting his decision some students of Madhav College and ABVP leaders had allegedly attacked him leading to his death.

The court had earlier made it clear that the order of the transfer of the case would not mean that it had gone into merit of the allegation made by the family of the slain professor.

The court, on July 11 last, had stayed the trial of the case after allegation were made that the state government was trying to save the accused.

Voicing concern over the manner in which the police officers, who reportedly were eyewitnesses to the killing of the Ujjain professor, turned hostile, the court had hoped that the case did not turn out to be another 'Best Bakery' incident where all the witnesses turned hostile.

"What action have you taken against those police officers who resiled from their earlier statements? Would not the trial be a mockery if your police officers turned hostile?," the court had asked the government counsel.

"Our anxiety is that every police officer will be given a clean chit. We have seen what has happened in the Best Bakery case," the court had observed.