Supreme Court: In a case where a model had alleged casting couch, the bench of AS Bopanna and Hima Kohli*, JJ has set aside the anticipatory bail granted to the accused after noticing that the prosecuterix was denied the meaningful right to hearing by the Bombay High Court.

In the case at hand, the prosecuterix had alleged to have been exposed to the horrors of the notorious casting couch syndrome, at the hands of a businessman, who lured her under the garb of offering her some modelling assignments and then forced himself upon her and raped her in a hotel room where she was staying.

It was argued before the Supreme Court that while granting anticipatory bail, the High Court has failed to take notice of the nature and gravity of the allegations levelled against the accused and that the High Court ignored the fact that the accused is a wealthy and influential businessman who used his influence to delay registration of the FIR and having been granted anticipatory bail, is bound to influence the witnesses to the detriment of the prosecutrix.

The accused, on the other hand, argued that after the first impugned order was passed granting interim protection to the accused, he was called for investigation on several dates and had duly cooperated and reported to the Police Station, as and when called. It was also argued that there is no eye witness to the alleged incident; that the circumstantial evidence and the medical report does not support the allegations levelled by the prosecutrix against the accused and hence, there is no justification to interfere with the order granting anticipatory bail to the accused, more so, when no supervening circumstances for cancellation of bail have been pointed out by the appellant/prosecutrix or the counsel for the State.

The Court agreed with the contention of the prosecuterix and observed that,

“The nature and gravity of the alleged offence has been disregarded. So has the financial stature, position and standing of the accused vis-à-vis the appellant/prosecutrix been ignored.”

The Supreme Court noted that the High Court had granted anticipatory bail in favour of the accused in a brief order of three paragraphs, having been swayed by the “star variations in the narration of the prosecutrix” implying thereby that what was originally recorded in the FIR, did not make out an offence of rape, as defined in Section 375 IPC. The Court observed that this was an erroneous assumption.

The Court held that the first and second Supplementary Reports, the Medico Legal Report as well as other materials in the FIR were enough to show that prima facie the provision of Section 376, IPC will be attracted in the case at hand. Apart from this, the prosecuterix was not afforded a hearing.

“In a crime of this nature where ordinarily, there is no other witness except for the prosecutrix herself, it was all the more incumbent for the High Court to have lent its ear to the appellant.”

The Court was also unhappy with the fact that the name of the prosecuterix was revealed in the petition. It was, hence, observed that

“Having regard to the sensitivity of the allegations levelled in the matter and the nature of the offence complained of, it is imperative to protect the identity of the appellant/prosecutrix.”

Hence, the Registry was directed to ensure that in sensitive matters like the present one, if the name of the prosecutrix is revealed in the petition, the same is returned to the counsel for redacting the name before the matter is cleared for being placed before the Court for appropriate orders.

[X v. State of Maharashtra, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 279, decided on 17-03-2023]

*Judgment authored by Justice Hima Kohli.

Know Thy Judge | Justice Hima Kohli-An Advocate for Women’s Rights and Empowerment

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For Prosecuterix: Senior Advocate R. Basant;

For Accused: Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde.

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