Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: N. Anand Venkatesh, J., while addressing the present petition expressed that:

“This is the third occasion, in the last one month, where the notice of this Court has been drawn to the advocates indulging themselves in criminal activities by forming part of an unlawful assembly.”

Bench after taking into consideration the fraud committed by the 5th respondent initiated the proceedings for perjury and directed the Registrar General to file a complaint under Section 340 CrPC.

5th respondent was detained and it was seen that he was able to instigate others to act on his behalf and on his investigation, 6th and 7th respondents herein along with certain persons calling themselves as Advocates, seemed to have made an attempt to break open the lock in the property and take forcible possession of the same.

Petitioner immediately gave a complaint in the above regard and since no FIR was registered, he approached the XVI Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court, by filing an application under Section 156(3) of CrPC and an order came to be passed on 14-12-2020 directing the police to register an FIR and conduct investigation.

The threat exerted by the respondents 5 to 7 continued and it was informed that everyday, a group of persons come to the subject property and create law and order problem. It was also reported that some of the advocates also formed part of this unlawful assembly. Due to the presence of the advocates, respondent police hesitated to give police protection to the property.

Decision

Bench in view of the facts and circumstances of the case stated that the lockdown period has again revived the despicable practice wherein the advocates indulge in illegal activities of grabbing properties.

Hence, it is high time that the Court comes down heavily and stop such activities before it goes out of control.

Therefore, Court directed the 4th respondent to provide necessary police protection to the property of the petitioner and the names of the advocates involved in the said incident to be gathered.

This report will form the basis for this Court to give a complaint before the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry against the concerned advocates.

Matter to be posted on 02-03-2021. [P.S. Kirubakaran v. Commr. of Police, Vepery; 2021 SCC OnLine Mad 508; decided on 08-02-2021]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jammu and Kashmir High Court: Sindhu Sharma, J., while allowing the present petition, issued directions to the police authorities, to ensure that the life and liberty of the petitioner is maintained without undue interference.

The present case has been filed to seek police protection as the petitioners apprehend danger to their lives from respondent 5 to 13, the reason for which is allegedly marriage without the will of respondent 5 to 13. Counsel for the petitioner referred the decision of Supreme Court in the case of Lata Singh v. State of UP, (2006) 5 SCC 475, and submitted that in absence of there being any legal impediment, the petitioners are entitled to marry according to their choice and the respondents are duty-bound to protect the life and liberty of the petitioners.

Court observed, “Any person(s) having attained the age of majority are entitled to marry as per their wishes and the police department is duty bound to protect their life and liberty, if approached. However, it appears that the petitioners have not ever approached the official respondents for their indulgence in the matter for providing protection to them.” Disposing off the matter, Court issued directions saying that, “…respondent Nos. 2 to 4 shall look into the grievance of the petitioners for providing them adequate security and to ensure that nobody interferes in married life of the petitioners, if the petitioners approach them.”[Radha Devi v. UT of J&K, 2021 SCC OnLine J&K 2, decided on 11-01-2021]


Sakshi Shukla, Editorial Assistant put this story together

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: Raja Vijayaraghavan V J., while allowing the present petition, discussed the importance of free and fair elections and further issued necessary directions for the conduct of local self-government elections.

Background

The present petition was heard jointly with WP (c) 27590 of 2020 and WP (c) 27596 of 2020, filed by candidates/election agents raising apprehensions of threats and violence by the rival party workers on the days leading to the election to the Local Self Government Institutions in the State of Kerala. In all these cases, the petitioners assert that their opponents, who owe allegiance to the party in power, would get support from the executive machinery of the State and neither them nor their party workers will be permitted to approach the voters and convince them in a free manner. They contend that there would be violence on polling day and there is a reasonable possibility of their booth agents as well as the voters being threatened and obstructed. According to them, if the atmosphere in and around the polling booth is not peaceful, it would prevent voters from venturing out and casting their vote. In some of the writ petitions, the petitioners contend that their constituency is politically very sensitive and there have been incidents of poll violence during the last elections. According to them, technology has progressed to such an extent that it is perfectly possible for the Election Commission to set up cameras in and around the polling booth and carry out web casting which would dissuade the troublemakers from interfering with the election process. In some of the writ petitions, directions are sought to be issued to the Election Commission to ensure that impersonation of voters and casting of bogus votes are avoided. They also request that enough contingent of law enforcement officers be deployed to maintain peace and calm in and around the polling stations so that the voters can exercise their franchise and elect their person of choice.

 Observations

Court issued directions to specific authorities so to ensure proper conduct of elections, in addition to laying down the Constitutional idea behind creating Part IX and Part IX-A of the Constitution. It said, “The Panchayats and Municipalities are ‘institutions of self-governments’ and their seats are filled up in a democratic manner by direct elections. The local bodies are responsible for the implementation of various centrally-sponsored, State-funded, and externally-aided schemes for poverty alleviation, employment generation, sanitation, capacity building, women’s social and economic empowerment apart from the provision of basic amenities and services. In other words, under the Constitutional scheme, for a more effective development at the grass-root level, vast powers are granted to the local self-government institutions.”

With respect to free and fair elections, the Court noted, “It needs no reiteration that it is in the interest of the citizenry that elections to the local body are conducted in a free and fair manner and well-meaning candidates, who are honest and competent, with integrity and good conscience, get elected to the local bodies. It is in order to effectuate the said purpose that an independent Election Commission has been constituted in each of the States in the country for superintendence, direction and control of the electoral rolls. The duty cast upon the Election Commission to conduct and manage the election with the aid of the State Government machinery is onerous.”

Court further gave instructions to the authorities involved in the conduct of elections, in the order as follows;

Police protection to the candidates and their election agents

With respect to the pleadings made by the Government pleader, to accord proper police protection throughout elections, the Court remarked, “From the statistics it appears that about 1.68 lakhs persons have submitted nominations. It would not be possible for the police to extend protection to each and every candidate. However, in those petitions, wherein the candidates or their election agent have submitted complaints complaining of threat before the police, the Superintendent of Police of the area shall take note of the threat perceptions and grant protection to the candidates and their agents.”

Facility for webcasting and video recording of election proceedings

With respect to the prayer made for allowing video recording, the Court noted, “Since the Election Commission has taken the decision to identify the polling booths on the threat perceptions and intelligence reports given by the police, this Court will not be justified in interfering with the discretion of the Election Commission and the high level officers of the State in that regard. Though ideally, videography ought to have been provided in all booths due to the resource limitations it would not be possible to undertake such an activity. However, the Election Commission has identified accredited videographers and the candidates will be at liberty to approach the District Electoral Officer and on payment of necessary fees by the person as authorised by the candidate or his election agent, the Commission shall permit videography to be carried out.”

Maintaining peace and tranquility on Election day

Court permitted zero tolerance policy in hypersensitive constituencies and moreover said, “Even in polling stations which have not been categorised as sensitive and in those cases wherein the candidates or the election agents are before this Court in these writ petitions, enough number of police personnel shall be posted to rule out any incidents of violence or election malpractice.”

Prevent electoral malpractices such as impersonation and bogus voting

Addressing the present issue, the Court observed, “The grievance regarding impersonation and bogus voting though raised by the petitioners, such a possibility would be non existent as the issuance of valid voter IDs and the availability of the photograph of the voter in the voters slip and the provisions of the Act with regard to identification of voters would obliterate such issues.”

Decision

Court disposes the present batch of petitions, issuing directions aforementioned.[Lijina M.V v. State of Kerala, 2020 SCC OnLine Ker 7148, decided on 11-12-2020]


Sakshi Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: A Division Bench of Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud and M.R. Shah, JJ., while rejecting the Editor-in-Chief of Republic TV Arnab Goswami’s  prayer to transfer the investigation into FIR lodged against him to CBI, issued a series of directions which may be summed up as follows:

  • Prayer to transfer the investigation to CBI is rejected.
  • Protection against coercive action granted to Arnab Goswami to continue for a period of 3 weeks to enable him to pursue remedies available in law.
  • FIR which has now been numbered as 164 of 2020 shall be investigated by the NM Joshi Marg Police Station in Mumbai.
  • Prayer for quashing FIR No. 164 of 2020 under Article 32 rejected.
  • The FIR does not cover the offence of defamation under Section 499 IPC, hence will not form subject matter of the investigation.
  • All FIRs except FIR No. 164 of 2020 at NM Joshi Police Station are quashed.
  • No other FIR or, as the case may be, complaint shall be initiated or pursued in any other forum in respect of the same cause of action emanating from the broadcast on 21 April 2020 by the petitioner on R Bharat.
  • Based on the threat perception, CP (Mumbai) may provide police protection to Arnab Goswami if it is considered appropriate and for the period during which the threat perception continues.
  • Nothing in the present judgment to be considered as an expression on merits of the allegations in the FIRs. 

Background

Following the broadcasts on Republic TV dated 16-4-2020 and on R Bharat dated 21-4-2020, multiple FIR’s and criminal complaints were lodged against the petitioner ? Arnab Goswami, Editor-in-Chief of Republic TV and the Managing Director of ARG Outlier Media Asianet News Private Limited which owns and operates R Bharat.

The broadcasts were in regard to an incident that occurred in Palghar District of Maharashtra wherein 3 persons including 2 sadhus were brutally killed by mob, allegedly in the presence of police and forest guard personnel. In the said broadcasts, petitioner had raised issues with regard to the tardy investigation of the incident.

Petitioner claimed that the Indian National Congress had after the said broadcast launched a “well coordinated, widespread, vindictive and malicious campaign” against him.

The said campaign by the INC was carried out through various news reports, tweets and multiple complaints against the petitioner seeking investigation into offences alleged to have been committed by him under Sections 153, 153-A, 153-B, 295-A, 500, 504, 506 and 120-B of the Penal Code, 1860. Campaign on social media using the hashtag ? #ArrestAntiIndiaArnab was also doing rounds.

To affirm his claim, the petitioner also stated that the FIRs and complaints were lodged in the State where the Governments were formed owing allegiance to the INC. 

Petitioner refused any propagation of communal views being broadcasted by him on the news channel that gave rise to the numerous complaints. Asserting his fundamental right to the Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India, the petitioner approached the Court seeking protection.

Another petition was filed which was occasioned by registration of an FIR against the petitioner on 2nd May 2020 wherein it was stated that the petitioner had on 29th April 2020 made certain statements on his broadcast on R Bharat that “people belonging to Muslim religion are responsible for COVID-19 spread.”

Challenging the said FIR, the petitioner sought to invoke the jurisdiction of Court for quashing the said FIR and directing that no cognizance should be taken on any complaint or FIR on the same cause of action.

Submissions

Senior Counsel Harish Salve, on behalf of the petitioner, submitted that the petition raises “wider issues” implicating the freedom of speech and expression of a journalist to air view which fall with the protective ambit of Article 19(1)(a). Further adding to his submission, Mr Salve also stated that this Court should necessarily lay down safeguards which protect the democratic interest in fearless and independent journalism.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that the investigation be handed over to CBI as the conduct of police in the present case has been disturbing.

Senior Counsel Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi, on behalf of the investigating agency of the Maharashtra Police, submitted that: 

  • Facts of the present case clearly demonstrate that in the garb of an arc of protection, the accused is attempting to browbeat the police;
  • Interference in the course of an investigation is impermissible.
  • Though the petitioner is entitled to the fundamental rights under Article 19(1)(a), their exercise is subject to the limitations stipulated in Article 19(2).
  • Transfer of an ongoing investigation to the CBI has been held to be an extraordinary power which must be sparingly exercised in exceptional circumstances

Senior Counsel Kapil Sibal stated that in the exercise of the jurisdiction under Article 32, the Supreme Court may well quash all the other FIRs and allow the investigation into the FIR which has been transferred to the NM Joshi Marg Police Station in Mumbai to proceed in accordance with law.

Analysis

Multiplicity of FIRs

The Bench analysed that the law concerning multiple criminal proceedings on the same cause of action has been analysed in a Supreme Court decision in TT Anthony v. State of Kerala, (2001) 6 SCC 181, and held that there can be no second FIR where the information concerns the same cognisable offence alleged in the first FIR or the same occurrence or incident which gives rise to one or more cognisable offences.

Further analysing the present matter, the Court held that barring situations in which a counter-case is filed, a fresh investigation or a second FIR on the basis of same or connected cognizable offence would constitute an “abuse of the statutory power of investigation”.

The Court on perusal of the various complaints and FIRs observed that they were worded in identical terms and thus in no manner leave a doubt that an identity of cause of action underlies the allegations levelled against the petitioner. Moreover, the language, content and sequencing of paragraphs and their numbering was identical.

Further with regard to numerous proceedings Court went on to say that, subjecting an individual to numerous proceedings arising in different jurisdictions on the basis of the same cause of action cannot be accepted as the least restrictive and effective method of achieving the legitimate state aim in prosecuting crime.

Journalistic Freedom

India’s freedoms will rest safe as long as journalists can speak truth to power without being chilled by a threat of reprisal.

The Court stated that “the exercise of journalistic freedom lies at the core of speech and expression protected by Article 19(1)(a).” However, it was also stated that the right of journalists under Article 19(1)(a) is no higher than the right of the citizen to seek and express.

Free citizens cannot exist when the news media is chained to adhere to one position.

Considering all the aspects, in the present case, the Court thought necessary to intervene to protect the rights of the petitioner as a citizen and as a journalist to fair treatment and liberty to conduct an independent portrayal of views.

Transfer of investigation to CBI

It was noted that the precedents of the Supreme Court emphasise that transferring of investigation to CBI is an “extraordinary power” to be used “sparingly” and “in exceptional circumstances”.

Further the Bench opined that one factor that courts may consider is that such transfer is “imperative” to retain “public confidence in the impartial working of the State agencies”.

Reiterating the principle laid down in the decision of Romila Thapar v. Union of India, (2018) 10 SCC 753, the Court opined that accused does not have a say in the matter of appointment of investigating agency. Reliance was placed on a number of Supreme Court’s earlier decisions.

The Court held that so long as the investigation does not violate any provision of law, the investigation agency is vested with the discretion in directing the course of investigation, which includes determining the nature of the questions and the manner of interrogation.

Having analysed all the aspects, the Court issued the directions as mentioned above.[Arnab Ranjan Goswami v. Union of India,  2020 SCC OnLine SC 462 , decided 19-05-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: A Division Bench of Alok Singh and N.S. Dhanik, JJ. dismissed a writ petition filed by the 66-year-old petitioner, who sought mandamus against respondent authority to provide police protection to her as respondents threatened her.

The petitioner contended that her estranged son and daughter-in-law were disowned by the husband of the petitioner from all the movable and immovable properties by way of public notice. She further alleged that she had an apprehension of being killed by the respondents.

The Deputy Advocate General for the State argued that the present petition was not maintainable before this Court, in as much as the petitioner had efficacious and alternative remedy; and in view of the law laid down by the Supreme Court in Sakiri Vasu v. State of U.P., (2008) 2 SCC 409 and Lata Singh v. State of U.P., (2006) 5 SCC 475, the petitioner cannot be granted police protection because she had an efficacious and alternative remedy. It was further contended that the petitioner should have registered an FIR if she apprehended any sort of threat to her life. The counsel submitted that the petitioner may approach the Superintendent of Police under Section 154(3) CrPC by an application in writing; even if that did not give any satisfactory result in the sense that either the FIR was not registered, or that even after registering it no proper investigation was held, it was open to the petitioner to file an application under Section 156 (3) CrPC before the Magistrate concerned. If an application under Section 156(3) CrPC was filed before the Magistrate, the Magistrate would direct the FIR to be registered and also a proper investigation to be made, in a case where, according to the aggrieved person, no proper investigation was made.

The Court held that, it was not a case where the Senior Superintendent of Police concerned had to be directed to provide necessary protection to the petitioner and the petitioner was not permitted to abandon or bypass that remedy and invoke the jurisdiction of the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, when she had an efficacious and adequate remedy open to her.[Sahjahan Begum v. State of Uttarakhand, 2019 SCC OnLine Utt 567, decided on 08-07-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: In a case of inter-caste marriage, the Court directed the  Senior Superintendent of Police concerned to provide necessary and immediate protection to the couple if anyone disturbs their peaceful living.

The petitioners approached the Court seeking a writ of Mandamus in order to prevent the respondents from interfering in their peaceful married life. The petitioners are adults and married each other of their own free will but they have been harassed for that.

The Court accepted the precedent set in previous cases and observed that if the persons getting married are major and are marrying of their own free will then the parents of such persons can only cut them off socially. They have no right to harass or commit violence. There is no ‘honour’ to be found in ‘honour killing’. Therefore any person involved in such acts shall be sternly prosecuted. The Court further directed the petitioners to register their marriage under the Special Marriage Act, 1954. [Amna Begum v. State of U.P., 2017 SCC OnLine All 1798, decided on 02.08.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the petition preferred under Article 32 of the Constitution of India, where the petitioner, a hapless and helpless widow of a senior reporter of a news daily, i.e., ‘Dainik Hindustan’ had asserted that her husband, Rajdev Ranjan, was brutally murdered on 13.05.2016 by a group of persons, the bench of Dipak Misra and C. Nagappan, JJ directed the CBI to proceed with the investigation but not finalize it and to file the status report before this Court on the next date of hearing i.e. 17.10.2016. The Court also directed the Superintendent of Police, Siwan District to provide police protection to the petitioner and her family.

Petitioner’s counsel argued that the case at hand depicts a disturbing affair in regard to criminilization of politics, as the people holding party position and position in the political executive do not even think for a moment before associating themselves with such kind of anti-social elements and, in fact, sometimes render assistance. He argued that if the investigation and trial takes place in the Siwan District in the State of Bihar, the respondent nos. 3 and 4 and the other accused persons will terrorise the witnesses as a consequence of which the petitioner would not get any justice and remain a constant victim searching for solace.

Considering the aforementioned arguments, the Court said that it is prima facie discernible that the petitioner who lives with two small children, after losing her husband and the developments that have taken place in the District Siwan, is in a state of continuous fear. It was further said that even though courage is the mother of all virtues and a man with courage can always sustain his or her dignity, but, sometimes, situations are created by certain powerful protagonists which instill fear in the mind of a citizen and that fear has the potentiality to usher in atrophy to the sense of dignity.

Out of the 2 principal accused persons, namely, Mohammad Kaif and Mohammad Javed, who were declared proclaimed offenders by the Court, Mohammad Kaif, after being spotted with Mohammad Shahabuddin and Tej Pratap Yadav, surrendered to custody on 21.09.2016.

The Court issued notice to all the respondents and placed the matter to be listed on 17.10.2016.  [Asha Ranjan v. State of Bihar, 2016 SCC Online SC 988, decided on 23.09.2016]