HP HC | Sexual assault FIR quashed holding that extraordinary delay in lodging FIR raised grave doubt about the truthfulness of allegations made therein

Himachal Pradesh High Court: Ajay Mohan Goel, J. allowed actor Jeetendra’s petition seeking setting aside of an FIR lodged by his cousin (respondent ‘X’), after more than four decades, for sexually assaulting her.

The allegations contained in the said FIR were that in January 1971, the petitioner took ‘X’ to a room at a hotel in Shimla. The room had two separate beds. While she was sleeping, he allegedly joined the two beds and tried to outrage her modesty. Respondent ‘X’ filed an FIR under Section 354 of the Penal Code, 1860 in February, 2018. 

The petitioner sought quashing of the FIR on the grounds that there was an inordinate delay in filing the FIR and no explanation was offered for it. The petitioner alleged mala fide and oblique motive to harass him behind the lodging of the complaint against him, daughter of ‘X’ had been rejected in an audition by Balaji Motion Pictures Limited run by the petitioner’s family. He further contended that, as per the un-amended IPC, as it existed in 1971, Section 354 IPC was a bailable offence and the same was punishable with a maximum sentence up to two years or with fine or with both. The limitation period for taking cognizance on a complaint under Section 354 was three years. As the FIR had been lodged after a lapse of 47 years, there was a clear bar on the Courts to take cognizance of the alleged offence and therefore also, the FIR deserved to be quashed and set aside.  

Learned Additional Advocate General, responded that there was no time limit for lodging of an FIR prescribed in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and as the FIR stood registered, the matter should be allowed to be investigated by the police. The respondent maintained that the delay in filing the FIR was caused due to the trauma of the alleged incident. 

The Court noted that it was evident from the record that the daughter of ‘X’ did give an audition for Balaji Motion Pictures Limited which lent “credibility to the contention that the lodging of the FIR was an act of mala fide and a result of the daughter of his cousin having been rejected.” The Court observed that the allegations in the FIR did not inspire any confidence as it was hard to believe that it was only after the death of her husband and parents, ‘X’ became normal so as to be in a position to make the complaint. Reliance was also placed on Jai Prakash Singh v. State of Bihar, (2012) 4 SCC 379 and it was held that the extraordinary delay in lodging FIR raised grave doubt about the truthfulness of the allegations. 

It was held that there was a specific bar under Section 468(2)(c) of CrPC that no Court would take cognizance of an offence after the expiry of the period of limitation of three years, if the offence was punishable with imprisonment for a term exceeding one year but not exceeding three years. 

The Court relied on State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lal, 1992 Supp (1) Supreme Court Cases 335 which laid down the guidelines providing that an FIR can be quashed by the High Court where allegations made in the FIR complaint are so absurd and inherently improbable on the basis of which no prudent person can ever reach a just conclusion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused and also where a criminal proceeding is manifestly attended with mala fide and/or where the proceedings is maliciously instituted with an ulterior motive for wreaking vengeance on the accused and with a view to spite him due to private and personal grudge.

In view of the above, the Court allowed the petition and ordered the said FIR to be quashed and set aside. [Ravi Kapoor v. State of H.P., 2019 SCC OnLine HP 642, decided on 20-05-2019] 

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