Supreme Court: In case related to the alleged gang-rape of a 15-year-old girl, followed by threat to make the video of the incident viral and threat and extortion by the accused (including a son of a sitting MLA), the bench of S. Ravindra Bhat and Aravind Kumar, JJ has held that delay in filing a case by itself would not be fatal for all times to come and the criminality attached to the incident would not evaporate into thin air or get extinguished by virtue of such delay.
On 24.02.2021, a 15-year-old girl, studying in Class X, was seduced by a boy, who took her to a hotel where he and his two friends gang raped after drugging her and recorded the incident. They threatened her not to tell anyone or they would eliminate her father and brother and make the video viral. They also took her mother’s gold ornaments and continued to extract money from her. The girl did not reveal anything until 24.03.2022. Next day, the complaint was filed by the girl’s uncle seeking strict action against the accused and consequently, a case came to be registered for the offences punishable under Section 376D, 384 and 506 of the IPC read with Section
It was argued before the Court that one of the accused (D) is the son of a sitting MLA and there is a high chance of evidence tampering if he is released on bail. The investigation showed that entries in the hotel register on the date of the incident are missing, CCTV footage has been deleted, school records of the victim have been manipulated, the telephone number of D obtained by the police is incorrect, and his name was removed from the charge-sheet despite being mentioned in the FIR and by the victim in all her statements to the investigating officer. Further, there has been threat posed to the father of the girl, who is an ordinary police constable to withdraw the complaint and other witnesses are also being threatened. It was, hence, contended before the Supreme Court that the Rajasthan High Court did not consider any of these aspects and granted bail to D.
D on the hand, argued that fact of the complaint having been lodged after a lapse of one year after the date of alleged incident was a glaring defect in the prosecution theory. Further, the investigation showed that D was 40 to 80 Kilometers away from the place of the incident on the date of the incident and had no connection with the victim or the offence.
Supreme Court's Analysis and Ruling
Grant of Bail — Factors to be considered
While observing that the grant of bail is dependant upon contextual facts of the matter being dealt with by the Court and may vary from case to case and that there cannot be any exhaustive parameters set out for considering the application for grant of bail, the Supreme Court summarised the following factors:
While granting bail the court has to keep in mind factors such as the nature of accusations, severity of the punishment, if the accusations entails a conviction and the nature of evidence in support of the accusations;
reasonable apprehensions of the witnesses being tempered with or the apprehension of there being a threat for the complainant should also weight with the Court in the matter of grant of bail.
While it is not accepted to have the entire evidence establishing the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt but there ought to be always a prima facie satisfaction of the Court in support of the charge.
Frivility of prosecution should always be considered and it is only the element of genuineness that shall have to be considered in the matter of grant of bail and in the event of there being some doubt as to the genuineness of the prosecution, in the normal course of events, the accused is entitled to have an order of bail.
Why Supreme Court stepped in to undo the damage caused by the High Court
The Court observed that the offence of gang rape is heinous and,
“Would be a onslaught on the dignity of the womanhood and the age old principle of यतननायर्यस्तत पपूज्यन्ततरमन्तततत दतवतनाताः (where women are respected Gods live there) would recede to the background and the guilty not being punished by process of law or accused persons are allowed to move around freely in the society or in spite of there being prima facie material being present they are allowed to move around freely in the society before guilt is proved and are likely to indulge in either threatening the prosecution witnesses or inducing them in any manner to jettison the criminal justice system, then the superior court will have to necessarily step in to undo the damage occasioned due to erroneous orders being passed by courts below.”
Taking note of the case at hand, the Court was of the opinion that the High Court seemed to have been primarily swayed by the fact that there has been delay in filing the complaint i.e. 13 months for granting bail in favour of accused persons viz, respondents in respective appeals.
The Court highlighted the following facts:
The allegation made in the complaint relates to gang rape of a minor girl who is aged 15 years six months, studying in Class X.
Her father is a police constable who is far below in the hierarchy of service.
One of the respondents against whom allegations have been made is the son of a sitting Member of Legislative Assembly — MLA. Yet another accused seems to have criminal antecedents and the third accused is the Manager of the Hotel where the alleged incident of gang rape had occurred.
On investigation, the charge-sheet came to be filed against two accused only, though in the complaint a specific allegation of rape has been made against D, he was dropped.
Keeping this background in mind, the Court held the fact of delay in the instant case prima facie cannot be held against the prosecution or in other words on the ground of delay in lodging FIR the genuineness of the complaint cannot be viewed with coloured glasses nor it can be held that by itself would be sufficient ground to enlarge the accused on bail.
The Court noted that though the Courts have placed the liberty of an individual at a high pedestal and extended the protection to such rights whenever and wherever required, in the same breadth, it requires to be noticed that emphasis has also been laid on furnishing reasons for granting while balancing it with the requirement of a fair trial bail even though such reasoning may be brief.
The Court, hence, set aside the bail granted by the High Court.
[Bhagwan Singh v. Dilip Singh, CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION, decided on 3.08.2023]
Judgment Authored by Justice Aravind Kumar
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For Petitioner(s): Mr. Anuj Bhandari, AOR Mr. Gaurav Jain, Adv. Mr. Rajat Gupta, Adv.
For Respondent(s): Ms. Meenakshi Arora, Sr.Adv. Mr. S.K. Sinha, AOR Ms. Seema Kashyap, Adv. Mr. Shubham Kashyap, Adv. Mr. Vivek Jain,AOR Mr. Bhrigu Sharma, Adv. Mr. Puneet Parihar, Adv. Ms. Honey Kumbhat, Adv. Mr. Abhinav Jain, Adv. Mr. Rajat Jain,Adv. Mr. Vishal Meghwal, Adv. Mr. Milind Kumar, AOR Mr. Jagdish Chand Solanki, Adv. Ms. Yashika Bum, Adv.