Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: The criminal revision was filed before a Bench of Aniruddha Singh, J., against the judgment and order passed by the Sessions Judge, Mathura where revisionist were convicted under Sections 325 read with 34 of the Penal Code.

Facts of the case were that FIR was filed against the revisionist alleging that they committed assault on one Lakshman who received only two injuries which were serious and the rest were simple injuries. The trial court had found the case to have been proved beyond reasonable doubt, thus by the impugned judgment and order, the sentence was awarded and the appeal was dismissed. Hence, this revision was filed. Revisionist submitted that the impugned order passed by the appellate court was illegal, arbitrary and without application of mind. High Court found no illegality or infirmity in the conviction by the appellant court which had given concurrent finding as trial court on the conviction.

High Court while considering the point of sentence observed the age, their belonging to rural areas and social and economic status of the revisionists, held that end of justice would be served if the revisionists are punished for the period of imprisonment already undergone with a fine of Rs 500. Therefore, impugned order passed by session judge was set aside. [Ganeshi v. State, 2018 SCC OnLine All 3365, order dated 01-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Ajay Bhanot, J. dismissed the petition by stating that one illegality cannot be weighed on the illegality of some other individual.

The petitioner through his counsel Awadhesh Prasad has contended that he was not allowed to appear for the examination in the respondent university as his attendance was 38% and not the minimum set by the university which was 80% but that was not the point of his contention. He submits that one Prateek Singh with 30% attendance was permitted to appear in the examination having attendance less than him.

The Court was of the view that one illegality cannot become the basis for another illegality. An individual has to succeed on the footing of his own rights and cannot base his claim on illegality committed by an authority to favour another person. Accordingly, the petition was dismissed. [Prince Namdev v. State Of U.P.,2018 SCC OnLine All 3109, Order dated 18-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Mangesh S. Patil, J., dismissed a criminal revision petition filed against the decision of the Additional Sessions Judge who reversed the judgment of the Judicial Magistrate allowing the application filed by the revisioner under Section 12 of Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

The revisioner belong to Jain Hindu community and was previously married to one Shantaram Mahadu. Subsequently, on separation, she had an affair with Respondent 2, a Muslim by religion. The revisioner converted to Islam and contracted marriage with him. However, dispute arose and the couple separated. The revisioner filed an application under Section 12 which was opposed by Respondent 2 mainly on the ground that marriage between the two was not legally possible as they had prior subsisting marriages. However, the Magistrate allowed the application, which decision was reversed by the Sessions Court in the impugned judgment.

The High Court interpreted the words “relationship in the nature of marriage” appearing in Section 2(f) which defines “domestic relationship”. Noting the interpretation of the words by the Supreme Court in Velusamy v. D. Patchiammal, (2010) 10 SCC 469, as well as Indra Sarma v. V.K.V. Sarma, (2013) 15 SCC 755, the High Court observed that all live in relationships are not in the nature of marriage. Not all live in relationships are covered by Section 2(f). It is only those which qualify to be in the nature of marriage that are governed by the provision. In order to constitute such relationship, a legal marriage between the two must be possible. Since, in the instant case, first marriage of the revisioner was still subsisting, there could not have been a possibility of a legal marriage between her and Respondent 2. Further, a statute should be interpreted in a manner which would not promote illegality. Section 2(f) could not be interpreted in such a way so as to promote adulterous relationships. Thus, it was held that the instant relationship was not covered under “domestic relationship”, and the revisioner was not entitled to any relief under the Act. The revision was, accordingly, dismissed. [Reshma Begum v. State of Maharashtra,2018 SCC OnLine Bom 1827, dated 25-07-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court:

“When the ability to choose is crushed in the name of class honour and the person’s physical frame is treated with absolute indignity, a chilling effect dominates over the brains and bones of the society at large.” – Dipak Misra, CJI

These were the opening words by CJI in the judgment that stated elaborate preventive, remedial and punitive measures to meet the challenges of the agonising effect of honour crime.

When the 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and AM Khanwilkar and Dr. DY Chandrachud, JJ sat for answering the question as to whether the elders of the family or clan can ever be allowed to proclaim a verdict guided by some notion of passion and eliminate the life of the young who have exercised their choice to get married against the wishes of their elders or contrary to the customary practice of the clan, it held that the answer has to be an emphatic “No” and recommended the legislature to bring law appositely covering the field of honour killing. It further said:

“Class honour, howsoever perceived, cannot smother the choice of an individual which he or she is entitled to enjoy under our compassionate Constitution. And this right of enjoyment of liberty deserves to be continually and zealously guarded so that it can thrive with strength and flourish with resplendence.”

Stating that no authority has been conferred upon Khap Panchayats or any such assemblies under any law, the Bench explained:

“when a crime under IPC is committed, an assembly of people cannot impose the punishment. They have no authority. They are entitled to lodge an FIR or inform the police. They may also facilitate so that the accused is dealt with in accordance with law. But, by putting forth a stand that they are spreading awareness, they really can neither affect others’ fundamental rights nor cover up their own illegal acts. It is simply not permissible. In fact, it has to be condemned as an act abhorrent to law and, therefore, it has to stop. Their activities are to be stopped in entirety. There is no other alternative. What is illegal cannot commend recognition or acceptance.”

It was, however, made clear that an assembly or Panchayat committed to engage in any constructive work that does not offend the fundamental rights of an individual will not stand on the same footing of Khap Phanchayat.

Directing the State Governments to implement it’s directions within 6 weeks, the Bench enumerated the following steps to check the menace of honour killings ordered by the Khap Panchayats:

Preventive Steps:

  • The State Governments should identify Districts, Sub-Divisions and/or Villages where instances of honour killing or assembly of Khap Panchayats have been reported in the recent past, e.g., in the last five years.
  • If information about any proposed gathering of a Khap Panchayat comes to the knowledge of any police officer or any officer of the District Administration, he shall inform his immediate superior officer and also simultaneously intimate the jurisdictional Deputy Superintendent of Police and Superintendent of Police.
  • The Deputy Superintendent of Police shall then immediately interact with the members of the Khap Panchayat and impress upon them that convening of such meeting/gathering is not permissible in law and to eschew from going ahead with such a meeting.
  • Despite taking such measures, if the meeting is conducted, the Deputy Superintendent of Police shall personally remain present during the meeting and impress upon the assembly that no decision can be taken to cause any harm to the couple or the family members of the couple, failing which each one participating in the meeting besides the organisers would be personally liable for criminal prosecution.
  • If the Deputy Superintendent of Police, after interaction with the members of the Khap Panchayat, has reason to believe that the gathering cannot be prevented and/or is likely to cause harm to the couple or members of their family, he shall forthwith submit a proposal to the District Magistrate/Sub-Divisional Magistrate of the District/ Competent Authority of the concerned area for issuing orders to take preventive steps under the Cr.P.C., including by invoking prohibitory orders under Section 144 Cr.P.C. and also by causing arrest of the participants in the assembly under Section 151 Cr.P.C.

Remedial Steps:

  • Despite the preventive measures taken by the State Police, if it comes to the notice of the local police that the Khap Panchayat has taken place and it has passed any diktat, the jurisdictional police official shall cause to immediately lodge an F.I.R. under the appropriate provisions of the Penal Code including Sections 141, 143, 503 read with 506 of IPC.
  • Additionally, immediate steps should be taken to provide security to the couple/family and, if necessary, to remove them to a safe house within the same district or elsewhere keeping in mind their safety and threat perception. The State Government may consider of establishing a safe house at each District Headquarter for that purpose.
  • The District Magistrate/Superintendent of Police must deal with the complaint regarding threat administered to such couple/family with utmost sensitivity. It should be first ascertained whether the bachelor-bachelorette are capable adults. Thereafter, if necessary, they may be provided logistical support for solemnising their marriage and/or for being duly registered under police protection, if they so desire. After the marriage, if the couple so desire, they can be provided accommodation on payment of nominal charges in the safe house initially for a period of one month to be extended on monthly basis but not exceeding one year in aggregate, depending on their threat assessment on case to case basis.
  • The initial inquiry regarding the complaint received from the couple (bachelor-bachelorette or a young married couple) or upon receiving information from an independent source that the relationship/marriage of such couple is opposed by their family members/local community/Khaps shall be entrusted by the District Magistrate/ Superintendent of Police to an officer of the rank of Additional Superintendent of Police. He shall conduct a preliminary inquiry and ascertain the authenticity, nature and gravity of threat perception. On being satisfied as to the authenticity of such threats, he shall immediately submit a report to the Superintendent of Police in not later than one week.
  • The District Superintendent of Police, upon receipt of such report, shall direct the Deputy Superintendent of Police incharge of the concerned sub-division to cause to register an F.I.R. against the persons threatening the couple(s) and, if necessary, invoke Section 151 of Cr.P.C.
  • In the course of investigation, the concerned persons shall be booked without any exception including the members who have participated in the assembly. If the involvement of the members of Khap Panchayat comes to the fore, they shall also be charged for the offence of conspiracy or abetment, as the case may be.

Punitive Steps:

  • Any failure by either the police or district officer/officials to comply with the aforesaid directions shall be considered as an act of deliberate negligence and/or misconduct for which departmental action must be taken under the service rules. The departmental action shall be initiated and taken to its logical end, preferably not exceeding six months, by the authority of the first instance.
  • The States must take disciplinary action against the concerned officials if it is found that (i) such official(s) did not prevent the incident, despite having prior knowledge of it, or (ii) where the incident had already occurred, such official(s) did not promptly apprehend and institute criminal proceedings against the culprits.
  • The State Governments shall create Special Cells in every District comprising of the Superintendent of Police, the District Social Welfare Officer and District Adi-Dravidar Welfare Officer to receive petitions/complaints of harassment of and threat to couples of inter-caste marriage.
  • These Special Cells shall create a 24-hour helpline to receive and register such complaints and to provide necessary assistance/advice and protection to the couple.
  • The criminal cases pertaining to honour killing or violence to the couple(s) shall be tried before the designated Court/Fast Track Court earmarked for that purpose. The trial must proceed on day to day basis to be concluded preferably within six months from the date of taking cognizance of the offence. This direction shall apply even to pending cases.

[Shakti Vahini v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 275, decided on 27.03.2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of RK Agarwal and AM Sapre, JJ dismissed the plea challenging appointment of senior Gujarat cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana as a special director of the CBI.

Refusing to interfere with the unanimous decision taken by the Selection Committee, the Court said:

“before taking the decision, the Director, CBI, had participated in the discussions and it is based on relevant materials and considerations. Further, even in the FIR filed by the CBI, the name of Shri Rakesh Asthana has not been mentioned at all. Thus, lodging of FIR will not come in the way of considering Shri Rakesh Asthana for the post of Special Director, after taking into consideration his service record and work and experience.”

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO Common Cause, had argued before the Court that Rakesh Asthana’s appointment was illegal as his name had surfaced in a diary recovered during a raid conducted by the Income Tax department. He argued that the diary showed the name of Rakesh Asthana as having received an illegal gratification from a company and CBI has recently registered an FIR for money laundering against the accused firm and some public servants. Demanding quashing of Rakesh Asthana’s appointment, the petitioner has also sought a direction to the Centre to transfer him out of the agency during the pendency of investigation.

Attorney General KK Venugopal, on the other hand, argued that Rakesh Asthana had an outstanding career and was looking after eleven zones and supervising high- profile scams including that of AgustaWestland, Kingfisher, Moin Qureshi and Hassan Ali.

Going through the minutes of the meeting of the Selection Committee, the Court noticed that though the secret/confidential letter dated 21.10.2017, furnished by the Director, CBI, enclosing an unsigned note on M/s Sterling Biotech Ltd. and related entities had referred to one Rakesh Asthana, there were no findings in the papers that the person mentioned therein is the same person under consideration for appointment and there is nothing about the veracity of the contents of the document. No further verified material was brought on record and the Committee decided to recommend the name of Rakesh Asthana for appointment as Special Director, CBI.

The Court hence held that the news items reported in the print and electronic media that no decision was taken with respect to the appointment on the post of Special Director, CBI in the meeting of the Selection Committee held on 21.10.2017 were factually incorrect. Also, the statement of the Professor of the University of London reported in the Indian Express appears to be based on the newspaper reports which have been found to be factually incorrect, and therefore, it has no substance. It was, hence, held that the appointment of Rakesh Asthana to post of Special Director, CBI does not suffer from any illegality. [Common Cause v. Union of India,  2017 SCC OnLine SC 1374, decided on 28.11.2017]