Supreme Court sets aside Madhya Pradesh HC’s “utterly incomprehensible” judgment discharging accused in a minor’s rape case for delay in filing FIR

Supreme Court: In a rape case that resulted in suicide by the victim, the Division Bench of D.Y. Chandrachud and J.B. Pardiwala*, JJ., reversed the M.P. High Court’s order discharging accused of all the charges on the ground that there was a delay in lodging the FIR and holding the entire case put up by the parents of the deceased was doubtful. The Court remarked,

“The facts of this litigation are quite heart-breaking and at the same time, more disturbing is the utterly incomprehensible impugned judgment of the High Court discharging the accused of the offence of rape essentially on the ground of delay in the registration of the FIR.”

Factual Matrix

The father of the deceased (the informant hereinafter) had assailed the impugned judgment and order of the M.P. High Court discharging the accused and setting aside the Special Court’s order framing charge against the accused for offences punishable under Section 376 of the Penal Code, 1860 and Sections 5 and 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act).

On 27-04-2020, the deceased complained of severe stomach ache. Suspecting a stomach tumor, the informant immediately rushed to the hospital with his daughter for medical treatment. The informant made the deceased sit on a bench outside the hospital and went to talk to the doctor. However, before the doctor could attend the deceased, she delivered a baby.

Later on, the deceased disclosed to the informant that she had conceived through one Amit Tiwari and would take a room on rent and start living life along with Amit and the newborn. On the same evening, the deceased committed suicide by hanging herself on the rod of the OT light affixed to the ceiling with a dupatta.

Evidence Adduced

The following evidence was adduced by the prosecution to prove the offences alleged:

  • The school record indicates that the deceased was born on 20-07-2001;
  • The mother of the deceased revealed that on 07-07-2019 the deceased revealed that she had missed her period (menstruation) for the past one and a half months and that she had conceived through Amit Tiwari (the accused);
  • (C) The deceased attained majority on 20-07-2019;

The Impugned Judgment

The Special Court framed charges against the accused under Section 376 of the Penal Code, 1860 and Sections 5 and 6 of the POCSO Act. The accused filed a revision application before the High Court contending that he was in a consensual relationship with the deceased and the deceased being major at the time of the incident could be said to be a consenting party. Hence, the Special court could not have proceeded to frame the charge of rape against him.

The High Court allowed the criminal revision application and discharged the accused of all the charges.

Analysis and Opinion

The Court opined that in a case praying for quashing of the charge, the principle to be adopted by the High Court should be that if the entire evidence produced by the prosecution is to be believed, would it constitute an offence or not? The truthfulness, sufficiency and acceptability of the material produced at the time of framing of a charge can be done only at the stage of trial. There must be reasons to hold that in the interest of justice and to avoid abuse of the process of the Court a charge framed against the accused needs to be quashed. occasions. The Court expressed,

“It is to be kept in mind that once the trial court has framed a charge against an accused the trial must proceed without unnecessary interference by a superior court and the entire evidence from the prosecution side should be placed on record.”

The Court reiterated that the focus of Courts need not be on the proof of the allegation rather it has to be on the material produced to form an opinion on whether there is a strong suspicion that the accused has committed an offence, which if put to trial, could prove his guilt. Opining that the framing of charge is not a stage, at which stage the final test of guilt is to be applied, the Court held that to hold that at the stage of framing the charge, the court should form an opinion that the accused is certainly guilty of committing an offence, is to hold something which is neither permissible nor is in consonance with the scheme of Criminal Procedure Code.

Unappeased by the manner in which the case has been dealt with, the Court remarked,

“One (another) disturbing feature of this litigation is that it is the unfortunate father of the deceased who had to come before this Court seeking justice. It was expected of the State to challenge the illegal order passed by the High Court.”

“Another disturbing feature is that the trial court thought fit not to frame charge against the accused for the alleged offence punishable under Section 306 of the IPC i.e., abetment to the commission of suicide. Unfortunately, no one has questioned that part of the order of the trial court declining to frame charge for the alleged offence of abetting the commission of suicide punishable under Section 306 of the IPC. In such circumstances, we do not say anything further in this regard.”

Referring to Thakur Ram v. State of Bihar, (1966) 2 SCR 740, the Court expressed that barring a few exceptions, in criminal matters the party who is treated as the aggrieved party is the State which is the custodian of the social interests of the community at large and so it is for the State to take all the steps necessary for bringing the person who has acted against the social interests of the community to book.

Conclusion

Lastly, the Court criticized the High Court for assuming it fit to discharge the accused of all the charges on the ground that there was delay in lodging the FIR and that the entire case put up by the parents of the deceased was doubtful. The Court noted,

“What is relevant to note is that although the High Court has devoted two full paragraphs for the purpose of recording the submissions as regards the age of the deceased, ultimately no specific finding has been recorded in that regard by the High Court.”

In the light of the above, the appeal was allowed and the impugned order was set aside. The Trial Court was directed to put the accused on trial.

[Manendra Prasad Tiwari v. Amit Kumar Tiwari, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 10572, decided on 12-08-2022]


*Judgment by: Justice J.B. Pardiwala


Appearance:

For Appellant: Mr. Siddharth Singh, AOR

For Respondent(s): Mr. Swarnendu Chatterjee, AOR, Mr. Pragaya Parijat Singh, Adv. Mr. Himanshu Naidwad, Adv. Mr. Ambuj Tiwari, Adv. Mr. Yashwardhan Singh, Adv. Ms. Deepadrshi Garg, Adv. Ms. Ankita Choudhary, DAG Ms. Himanshi Shakya, Adv. Mr. Sunny Choudhary, AOR and Mr. Upendra Mishra, Adv.

*Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together.

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