Punjab and Haryana High Court: While granting bail to the accused booked under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (‘POCSO’), Rajbir Sehrawat, J., stated that the accused cannot be forced to suffer incarceration without any effective proceedings being conducted against him by the Court.
The petitioner was booked under Sections 363, 366-A and 34 of the Penal Code, 1860 and under Section 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (‘POCSO’). Petitioner has been in custody for more than 4 years in this case and yet not even a single witness was examined by the Public Prosecutor since then.
Even after the order of the Court passed dated 21-07-2022, directing the State to examine the prosecutrix on the next date fixed before the Trial Court and answering as to why other prosecution witnesses were not produced in these 4 years, the prosecutrix was partly examined and no other witness were yet examined.
Observations and Analysis:
The Court said “the petitioner has already been in custody for more than four years in this case. Despite that, not even a single witness has been examined by the prosecution so far. The liberty of the petitioner cannot be jeopardized by casualness of the prosecution, particularly, when the allegations are that the prosecutrix had gone with the petitioner and remained with him for full one week; during which she visited several places and stayed in Hotels. Even if the petitioner is guilty, that has to be so held by a court of law by conducting Trial in right earnest and due promptitude. However, prosecution has abjectly failed in doing its duty of conducting prosecution proceedings appropriately. At this stage, the petitioner is not required for any investigation purpose. He cannot be forced to suffer incarceration without any effective proceedings being conducted against him by the Court.”
The Court granted bail to the petitioner without commenting on the merits of the case.
The Court said that the Public Prosecutor and the Investigating Officer of the case have not performed their duties with due promptitude, therefore, they deserve to be put under some coercive conditions so as to compel them to complete the process of the trial as soon as possible.
Therefore, the Court directed The Director (Prosecution), Punjab and the Senior Superintendent of Police to send a report qua stopping the salaries of these two officers on or before 15-10-2022.
[Bunty v. State of Punjab, 2022 SCC OnLine P&H 2357, decided on 12-09-2022]
Advocates who appeared in this case:
For the Petitioner: Mr. Gurpreet Singh, Advocate
For the Respondent: Mr. Sandeep, Additional Advocate General, Punjab
Mr. Madan Singh, ASI