Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: Ravindra Maithani, J., decided on a petition which was filed seeking transfer of investigation in the case arising out from FIR No. 261 of 2021, under Section 302 Penal Code, 1860, Police Station Haldwani, District Nainital from Police to Central Bureau of Investigation (“CBI”).

The petitioner, on 03-03-2021, had lodged a report under Sections 323, 504, 345 IPC and Section 9 read with 10 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO) against her husband and pursuant to which he was arrested and lodged at Police Station. He was remanded to judicial custody on 05-03-2021 by the court of Additional District Judge/FTC/Special Judge, POCSO. On 06-03-2021, in the hospital of Sub-Jail, Haldwani, in its OPD register an entry was made that he suddenly fell down on the ground and he was referred to Base Hospital and later it was recorded that he was brought dead. His post mortem report suggested that there were ten injuries on his body which was not the case when he was taken into custody.

The petitioner was informed about the death but the reason for injury was not explained to her.

Petitioner thereafter moved an application to the Secretary, District Legal Services Authority (for short, “DLSA”), Nainital giving details as to how her husband died in judicial custody, who killed him and how the petitioner came to know about it. The Secretary, DLSA forwarded the application to SSP for taking necessary action at the earliest. Instead of lodging an FIR, the SSP, Nainital got an inquiry conducted by Circle Officer Police, Haldwani and thereafter, informed the Secretary, DLSA that since Magisterial inquiry is underway, any further action may be taken only after the perusal of the Magisterial inquiry.

The petitioner again approached the Magistrate of competent jurisdiction under Section 156 (3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and an order was passed, thereafter, FIR under Section 302 IPC at Police Station has been lodged against four named Guards of Sub-Jail, Haldwani. In this case, the petitioner seeks transfer of the investigation to CBI.

Advocate General argues that there is no provision of law that authorizes SSP to get an enquiry conducted by C.O. Haldwani. He further argued that investigation in accordance with law is underway, therefore, the Court should be slow in interfering at this stage and after the outcome of the investigation, if occasion arises, the matter may be considered.

The Court observed that the FIR in the instant case was lodged after directions under Section 156 (3) of the Code on 26.05.2021. More than 45 days after death of a person in judicial custody. How can a fair investigation be ensured?

Fair investigation and fair trial are necessary ingredients of right to life. It is true that a party may not choose investigating agency at the drop of a hat.

The Court in this aspect relied on the Supreme Court rulings of State of M.P. v. Shyamsunder Trivedi, (1995) 4 SCC 262, D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal, (2015) 8 SCC 744, Sube Singh v. State of Haryana, (2006) 3 SCC 178, Lalita Kumari v. Government of Uttar Pradesh, (2014) 2 SCC 1 and Mehboob Batcha v. State, (2011) 7 SCC 45.

The Court stressed that it was needless to say that incidences of custodian violence and deaths have come up again and again for adjudication before the higher Courts.  The Court quoted the part of judgment in the case of Inhuman Conditions in 1382 Prisons, In Re., (2017) 10 SCC 658.

“Like most societies, we are not strangers to custodial violence and unnatural deaths but our vibrant democracy permits us to debate and discuss these issues with rational arguments. However, right sounding noises critical of custodial violence (in any form) cannot achieve any useful purpose unless persons in authority hear the voices of the victims or the silence of the dead and act on them by taking remedial steps. There must be a greater degree of sensitivity among those in authority with regard to persons in custody and it has been the endeavour of the constitutional courts in our country, over several decades, to consistently flag this issue.”

The Court relying on Dr Naresh Kumar Mangla v. Anita Agarwal, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 1031 stated that the power which is vested in the superior court to transfer the investigation to another agency, such as the CBI, must be wielded with caution.

The Court finally opined that the instant case was not an ordinary case. Allegations were of custodial death. Having considered the manner in which police proceeded in the case, the Court found that it is a case in which definitely investigation should be transferred to CBI. The Court further issued some directions:

  • Investigation in FIR No.261 of 2021 under Section 302 IPC, Police Station Haldwani, District Nainital be immediately transferred to S.P., Central Bureau of Investigation, Dehradun.
  • The Investigating Officer shall ensure that all the documents relating to investigation are handed over to S.P., CBI, Dehradun within a period of three days.
  • The named accused Devendra Prasad Yadav – Head Guard, Kriti Nainwal – Guard, Devendra Rawat – Guard, Harish Rawat – Guard, at Sub-Jail Haldwani be immediately transferred from Sub-Jail Haldwani to some place outside the district, so as to ensure fair investigation otherwise within those four walls of Sub-Jail Haldwani perhaps nobody would dare to speak the truth and only witness would be those stone walls which unfortunately cannot speak as to what had happened on 06.03.2021, which resulted in the death of deceased Pravesh Kumar.
  • SSP Nainital and CO Police Haldwani be considered for their transfer immediately from district Nainital.
  • Departmental action, as may be deemed appropriate, be considered to be taken against SSP Nainital who despite under legal obligation to lodge an FIR promptly did not lodge FIR and also without any authority under law directed an enquiry by CO Haldwani in a case of ‘custodial death’.

[Bharti v. State of Uttarakhand, 2021 SCC OnLine Utt 767, decided on 22-07-2021]


Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.


Advocates before the Court:

Advocate for the petitioner: Mr Sanjay Kumar

Advocate for the respondent: Mr S.N. Babulkar, Advocate General

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a case where the Bombay High Court failed to  to evaluate even prima facie of the most basic issue thereby refusing bail to the accused, the bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud* and Indira Banerjee, JJ has reminded the High Courts and District Courts of their duty to ensure human liberty.

In the judgment running into 55-pages, here is what the Court said:

Fair Investigation

The public interest in ensuring the due investigation of crime is protected by ensuring that the inherent power of the High Court is exercised with caution. That indeed is one – and a significant – end of the spectrum. The other end of the spectrum is equally important: the recognition by Section 482 of the power inhering in the High Court to prevent the abuse of process or to secure the ends of justice is a valuable safeguard for protecting liberty.

The need to ensure the fair investigation of crime is undoubtedly important in itself, because it protects at one level the rights of the victim and, at a more fundamental level, the societal interest in ensuring that crime is investigated and dealt with in accordance with law. On the other hand, the misuse of the criminal law is a matter of which the High Court and the lower Courts in this country must be alive.

“Courts should be alive to both ends of the spectrum – the need to ensure the proper enforcement of criminal law on the one hand and the need, on the other, of ensuring that the law does not become a ruse for targeted harassment.”

Procedural hierarchy of Courts

The procedural hierarchy of courts in matters concerning the grant of bail needs to be respected. The High Court has the power to protect the citizen by an interim order in a petition invoking Article 226. Where the High Court has failed to do so, the Supreme Court would be abdicating its role and functions as a constitutional court if it refuses to interfere, despite the parameters for such interference being met.

“The doors of this Court cannot be closed to a citizen who is able to establish prima facie that the instrumentality of the State is being weaponized for using the force of criminal law. Our courts must ensure that they continue to remain the first line of defense against the deprivation of the liberty of citizens. Deprivation of liberty even for a single day is one day too many. We must always be mindful of the deeper systemic implications of our decisions.”

Emphasizing on the role of the district judiciary, which provides the first point of interface to the citizen, the Court said,

“Our district judiciary is wrongly referred to as the “subordinate judiciary‘. It may be subordinate in hierarchy, but it is not subordinate in terms of its importance in the lives of citizens or in terms of the duty to render justice to them.”

High Courts get burdened when courts of first instance decline to grant anticipatory bail or bail in deserving cases. This continues in the Supreme Court as well, when High Courts do not grant bail or anticipatory bail in cases falling within the parameters of the law. The consequence for those who suffer incarceration are serious. Common citizens without the means or resources to move the High Courts or this Court languish as undertrials. Courts must be alive to the situation as it prevails on the ground – in the jails and police stations where human dignity has no protector. As judges, we would do well to remind ourselves that it is through the instrumentality of bail that our criminal justice system’s primordial interest in preserving the presumption of innocence finds its most eloquent expression.

“Tasked as we are with the primary responsibility of preserving the liberty of all citizens, we cannot countenance an approach that has the consequence of applying this basic rule in an inverted form. We have given expression to our anguish in a case where a citizen has approached this court. We have done so in order to reiterate principles which must govern countless other faces whose voices should not go unheard.”

Data reflecting pending Bail applications in High Courts and District Courts across India

Noticing that 15,54,562 bail applications are currently pending in High Courts and District Courts across India, the Court said that

“The Chief Justices of every High Court should in their administrative capacities utilize the ICT tools which are placed at their disposal in ensuring that access to justice is democratized and equitably allocated. Liberty is not a gift for the few. Administrative judges in charge of districts must also use the facility to engage with the District judiciary and monitor pendency.”

[Arnab Manoranjan Goswami v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 964, decided on 27.11.2020]


*Justice Dr. DY Chandrachud has penned this judgment. Read more about him here

Also read: Anvay Naik Suicide|High Court abdicated it’s duty by failing to make prima facie evaluation of FIR. Here’s why SC granted interim bail to the accused

SC grants interim bail to 3 accused in Anvay Naik suicide case. Calls Bombay HC order erroneous

Case BriefsSupreme Court

“Liberty across human eras is as tenuous as tenuous can be. Liberty survives by the vigilance of her citizens, on the cacophony of the media and in the dusty corridors of courts alive to the rule of (and not by) law. Yet, much too often, liberty is a casualty when one of these components is found wanting.”

Supreme Court: After Feroz Mohammad Shaikh, Arnab Goswami and Neetish Sarda were granted interim bail on November 11, 2020 in relation to the alleged suicide of Anvay Naik and his mother Kumud Naik, the bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud* and Indira Banerjee, JJ has in it’s detailed judgment held that the Bombay High Court, in it’s 56-pages-long verdict, failed to evaluate even prima facie of the most basic issue.

“The High Court having failed to evaluate prima facie whether the allegations in the FIR, taken as they stand, bring the case within the fold of Section 306 read with Section 34 of the IPC, this Court is now called upon to perform the task.”

The Court had, in order dated 11.11.2020 said that

“… the High Court was in error in rejecting the applications for the grant of interim bail.”


Background


The matter relates to the alleged suicide committed by Anvay Naik and his mother Kumud Naik who were Directors of an interior design company ‘Concorde Design Pvt. Ltd.’ The deceased had allegedly left behind a note wherein it was stated that they were committing suicide on account of the non-payment of CDPL’s dues. Arnab Goswami was arrested on 4 November 2020 under Sections 306 and 34 of the IPC. It was alleged that Goswami, the owner of ARG, had not paid an amount of Rs. 83 lacs and there was an outstanding amount of Rs. 4 crores from Feroz Shaikh and Rs. 55 lacs from Nitesh Sarda.

The Bombay High Court had, on November 9, held that no case for release of accused was made out.

It was Goswami’s case before the Supreme Court that his arrest was rooted in malice in fact, which was evident from the manner in which he has been targeted for his news broadcasts criticizing the Maharashtra government and the Maharashtra police. Several incidents leading up to the arrest were highlighted including FIRs lodged against him for alleged defamatory news show telecast on April 21 in connection with the Palghar mob-lynching case where he attacked Sonia Gandhi for orchestrating the incident; issuance of a letter by the ―Shiv Cable Sena to cable operators across Maharashtra asking them to ban the telecast of Republic TV; TRP Scam case, etc.


Analysis


Jurisdiction of the High Court under Article 226 and Section 482 CrPC

Bombay High Court, relying on decision in State of Telangana vs Habib Abdullah Jeelani, (2017) 2 SCC 779, had declined to even prima facie enquire into whether the allegations contained in the FIR, read as they stand, attract the provisions of Section 306 read with Section 34 of the IPC, stating that since the petition was being posted for hearing on 10 December 2020, it was not inclined to enquire into this aspect of the case and the appellant would be at liberty to apply for regular bail under Section 439.

The Court, hence, discussed the true import of Habib Jilani decision and said that the said decision arose in a situation where the High Court had declined to entertain a petition for quashing an FIR under Section 482 CrPC. However, it nonetheless directed the investigating agency not to arrest the accused during the pendency of the investigation. This was held to be impermissible by this Court. On the other hand, this Court clarified that the High Court if it thinks fit, having regard to the parameters for quashing and the self-restraint imposed by law, has the jurisdiction to quash the investigation ―and may pass appropriate interim orders as thought apposite in law.

“Clearly therefore, the High Court in the present case has misdirected itself in declining to enquire prima facie on a petition for quashing whether the parameters in the exercise of that jurisdiction have been duly established and if so whether a case for the grant of interim bail has been made out.”

Prima Facie evaluation of the FIR and the grant of bail

While considering an application for the grant of bail under Article 226 in a suitable case, the High Court must consider the settled factors which emerge from the precedents of this Court.

(i) The nature of the alleged offence, the nature of the accusation and the severity of the punishment in the case of a conviction;

(ii) Whether there exists a reasonable apprehension of the accused tampering with the witnesses or being a threat to the complainant or the witnesses;

(iii) The possibility of securing the presence of the accused at the trial or the likelihood of the accused fleeing from justice;

(iv) The antecedents of and circumstances which are peculiar to the accused;

(v) Whether prima facie the ingredients of the offence are made out, on the basis of the allegations as they stand, in the FIR; and

(vi) The significant interests of the public or the State and other similar considerations

Applying the factors to the case at hand, the Court noticed that a prima facie evaluation of the FIR does not establish the ingredients of the offence of abetment of suicide under Section 306 of the IPC. The appellants are residents of India and do not pose a flight risk during the investigation or the trial. There is no apprehension of tampering of evidence or witnesses.

“If the High Court were to carry out a prima facie evaluation, it would have been impossible for it not to notice the disconnect between the FIR and the provisions of Section 306 of the IPC. The failure of the High Court to do so has led it to adopting a position where it left the appellant to pursue his remedies for regular bail under Section 439. The High Court was clearly in error in failing to perform a duty which is entrusted to it while evaluating a petition under Section 482 albeit at the interim stage.”

Human liberty and the role of Courts

“In the present case, the High Court could not but have been cognizant of the specific ground which was raised before it by the appellant that he was being made a target as a part of a series of occurrences which have been taking place since April 2020. The specific case of the appellant is that he has been targeted because his opinions on his television channel are unpalatable to authority. Whether the appellant has established a case for quashing the FIR is something on which the High Court will take a final view when the proceedings are listed before it but we are clearly of the view that in failing to make even a prima facie evaluation of the FIR, the High Court abdicated its constitutional duty and function as a protector of liberty.”

Fair Investigation

The public interest in ensuring the due investigation of crime is protected by ensuring that the inherent power of the High Court is exercised with caution. That indeed is one – and a significant – end of the spectrum. The other end of the spectrum is equally important: the recognition by Section 482 of the power inhering in the High Court to prevent the abuse of process or to secure the ends of justice is a valuable safeguard for protecting liberty.

The need to ensure the fair investigation of crime is undoubtedly important in itself, because it protects at one level the rights of the victim and, at a more fundamental level, the societal interest in ensuring that crime is investigated and dealt with in accordance with law. On the other hand, the misuse of the criminal law is a matter of which the High Court and the lower Courts in this country must be alive.

“Courts should be alive to both ends of the spectrum – the need to ensure the proper enforcement of criminal law on the one hand and the need, on the other, of ensuring that the law does not become a ruse for targeted harassment.”

Procedural hierarchy of Courts

The procedural hierarchy of courts in matters concerning the grant of bail needs to be respected. The High Court has the power to protect the citizen by an interim order in a petition invoking Article 226. Where the High Court has failed to do so, the Supreme Court would be abdicating its role and functions as a constitutional court if it refuses to interfere, despite the parameters for such interference being met.

“The doors of this Court cannot be closed to a citizen who is able to establish prima facie that the instrumentality of the State is being weaponized for using the force of criminal law. Our courts must ensure that they continue to remain the first line of defense against the deprivation of the liberty of citizens. Deprivation of liberty even for a single day is one day too many. We must always be mindful of the deeper systemic implications of our decisions.”

Emphasizing on the role of the district judiciary, which provides the first point of interface to the citizen, the Court said,

“Our district judiciary is wrongly referred to as the “subordinate judiciary‘. It may be subordinate in hierarchy, but it is not subordinate in terms of its importance in the lives of citizens or in terms of the duty to render justice to them.”

High Courts get burdened when courts of first instance decline to grant anticipatory bail or bail in deserving cases. This continues in the Supreme Court as well, when High Courts do not grant bail or anticipatory bail in cases falling within the parameters of the law. The consequence for those who suffer incarceration are serious. Common citizens without the means or resources to move the High Courts or this Court languish as undertrials. Courts must be alive to the situation as it prevails on the ground – in the jails and police stations where human dignity has no protector. As judges, we would do well to remind ourselves that it is through the instrumentality of bail that our criminal justice system’s primordial interest in preserving the presumption of innocence finds its most eloquent expression.

“Tasked as we are with the primary responsibility of preserving the liberty of all citizens, we cannot countenance an approach that has the consequence of applying this basic rule in an inverted form. We have given expression to our anguish in a case where a citizen has approached this court. We have done so in order to reiterate principles which must govern countless other faces whose voices should not go unheard.”

Data reflecting pending Bail applications in High Courts and District Courts across India

Noticing that 15,54,562 bail applications are currently pending in High Courts and District Courts across India, the Court said that

“The Chief Justices of every High Court should in their administrative capacities utilize the ICT tools which are placed at their disposal in ensuring that access to justice is democratized and equitably allocated. Liberty is not a gift for the few. Administrative judges in charge of districts must also use the facility to engage with the District judiciary and monitor pendency.”


Direction


The interim protection which has been granted to the above accused by the order dated 11 November 2020 shall continue to remain in operation pending the disposal of the proceedings before the High Court and thereafter for a period of four weeks from the date of the judgment of the High Court, should it become necessary for all or any of them to take further recourse to their remedies in accordance with law.

[Arnab Manoranjan Goswami v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 964, decided on 27.11.2020]


*Justice Dr. DY Chandrachud has penned this judgment 

For Arnab Goswami: Senior Advocate Harish N. Salve

For Respondents: Senior Advocates Kapil SIbal, Amit Desai and CU Singh

For Feroz Shaikh: Senior Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan

For Neetish Sarda : Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: This petition was filed before a Single Judge Bench of Daya Chaudhary, J., under Section 482 CrPC for transfer of investigation of an FIR registered under Section 306 IPC.

Facts of the case were such that petitioner was the mother of deceased who filed an FIR for the murder of deceased but the same was registered under Section 306 IPC. Petitioner was aggrieved by the fact that the case was not being investigated. Thus, petitioner prayed for the investigation to get a transfer to an officer of the rank of Superintendent of Police outside the jurisdiction where it was earlier being investigated or hand over of the investigation to an independent agency. Whereas respondent contended that investigation was being done fairly with continuous status report filed by the investigating officer.

High Court observed that according to the status report the investigation was complete and allegations alleged was not proved as a consequence of which cancellation report was also prepared. Court noticed the fact that the FIR was registered under Section 306 IPC without taking into consideration the outcome of FSL examination. Therefore, Court said that it is in the interest of justice to transfer the investigation of the case to the Special Investigating Team (SIT) under the supervision of the Superintendent of Police. [Neelam v. State of Haryana,2018 SCC OnLine P&H 2044, decided on 29-11-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In furtherance of the orders issued by the court in the Bulandshahar rape case on 28.09.2016 in the light of the statements made by Azam Khan in which he termed the entire incident as a “political conspiracy only and nothing else”, Fali S. Nariman, the  Amicus Curiae submitted that this Court is constitutionally obliged to evolve new tools to enhance the cause of justice.

The bench of Dipak Misra and C. Nagappan, JJ had asked Mr. Nariman to assist the Court on what should be the action when a person comments on a crime when he has nothing to do with it. He also gave submissions on

  • public confidence in the fairness of trial,
  • Circumstances interfering with the police investigation of the case and principle of law stated thereon,
  • necessity to abide by the principle of non-interference with the investigation or the investigating agency, and
  • in the absence of any opinion of this Court, what is to be done in a case if the court is satisfied that there are comments on the investigation or on the victim by a public personality or a public servant

He also submitted that that the electronic and print media namely, Zee News, NDTV, The Indian Express, The Hindustan Times, The Times of India and News18, that have published the press conference report of Azam Khan should be added as party respondents in the instant case and their stand should be taken into consideration and eventually necessary directions can be issued.

The Court had earlier taken note of the prayer of the father of the victim girl that the case be transferred to another State, upon been disillusioned about the process of fair investigation in the State of Uttar Pradesh because of various developments, had stayed the investigations.

The Court will consider the aforementioned submissions on the next date of hearing i.e. 17.11.2016. [Kaushal Kishor v. State of Uttar Pradesh, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1249 , order dated 08.11.2016]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the Bulandshahar rape case where the father of the victim girl had prayed that the case be transferred to another State, upon been disillusioned about the process of fair investigation in the State of Uttar Pradesh because of various developments and, more so, with regard to the public addresses made by Azam Khan in which he termed the entire incident as a “political conspiracy only and nothing else”, the Court stayed the investigations and asked Fali S. Nariman to assist the Court on the below mentioned issues:

  • When a victim files an FIR alleging rape, gang rape or murder or such other heinous offences against another person or group of persons, whether any individual holding a public office or a person in authority or in-charge of governance, should be allowed to comment on the crime stating that “it is an outcome of political controversy”, more so, when as an individual, he has nothing to do with the offences in question?
  • Should the “State”, the protector of citizens and responsible for law and order situation, allow these comments as they have the effect potentiality to create a distrust in the mind of the victim as regards the fair investigation and, in a way, the entire system?
  • Whether the statements do come within the ambit and sweep of freedom of speech and expression or exceed the boundary that is not permissible?
  • Whether such comments (which are not meant for self-protection) defeat the concept of constitutional compassion and also conception of constitutional sensitivity?

The Bench of Dipak Misra and C. Nagappan, JJ has listed the matter to be taken up on 27.09.2016. [Kaushal Kishor v. State of U.P., 2016 SCC OnLine SC 876, order dated 29.08.2016]