Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: A Division Bench of Joymalya Bagchi and Ravi Krishan Kapur, JJ. allowed an appeal filed against the order of the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted for committing the offence of criminal conspiracy punishable under Section 120-B IPC, and also under Section 216-A IPC for harbouring robbers or dacoits.

The matter related to the incident of dacoity and rape of a man committed in a convent school in Ranaghat, W.B., on 14-3-2015. The appellant was a relative of one of the accused persons. It was alleged that the accused persons, after committing the ghastly crime of dacoity and rape, stayed at the residence of the appellant. He was, thus, charged with the offence of harbouring the accused dacoits. The appellant was convicted as above mentioned two offences. Aggrieved thereby, he filed the instant petition.

The High Court noted that the accused were staying at the house of the appellant as they were there to attend a marriage. Reliance was placed on State v. Nalini, (1999) 5 SCC 253, wherein the Supreme Court had held that more association with one of the principal offenders or even knowledge about the conspiracy cannot make a person a conspirator. It is the agreement which is the sine qua non of the offence of conspiracy. Considering the evidence in the instant case, the High Court was convinced that the necessary ingredients of crime of conspiracy were not proved against the appellant and, hence, his conviction under Section 120-B IPC was quashed.

Coming to the offence under Section 216-A IPC, the High Court noted that the ingredients of the offence of harbouring robbers or dacoits: i) that the persons in question were about to commit or had recently committed robbery; ii) that the accused knew this; iii) that the accused harboured them or some of them; iv) that the accused did so with the intention of – (a) facilitating the commission of robbery or dacoity, or (b) screening them or some of them from punishment.

It was observed by the Court: “…penal liability would not be attracted if a person harbours dacoits in general and it must be proved that he had harboured such dacoits who intended to commit a ‘particular dacoity’.”

Considering the evidence, it was held: “Knowledge of the appellant with regard to dacoity conducted at the convent does not appear to be proved beyond doubt as evidence of P.W. 11 is too vague to be convincing and the other evidence on record do not inspire confidence to come to such conclusion.”

In such view of the matter, the Court held that the accused was entitled to be acquitted and therefore, the conviction of the appellant as recorded by the trial court was set aside.[Gopal Sarkar v. State of W.B., 2019 SCC OnLine Cal 5112, decided on 20-12-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: Chander Bhusan Barowalia, J., addressed a bail application for release of the petitioner arrested under Sections 420, 467, 468, 471 and 120-B of the penal Code, 1860.

The present application for bail states that the petitioner is innocent and has been falsely implicated. It has also been stated that he is neither in a position to tamper with the evidence nor in a position to flee from justice.

According to the police report, prosecution story which had led to the filing of FIR under the above-mentioned Sections was that,

“Promila Devi, Pradhan, Gram Panchayat Bhadarnu/complainant, got registered a complaint against the petitioner, alleging therein that the Department of NSFDC had imparted training for fruit processing to the women belonging to the Scheduled Caste. As per the said training programme, a sum of Rs. 5,000 towards Kaushal Vikaas Bhatta, per women, was to be paid to them; however, only Rs. 2,000 per women by way of Cheque was paid to them. As per the allegations,  Him. Con. Ltd. was found to have shown another training programme having been organized at Karsog, however, which as a matter of fact, was not at all organized. Consequently, FIR under Sections 420, 467, 468, 471 and 120-B IPC came to be registered against the petitioner.”

Additional Advocate Generals, Shiv Pal Manhans and P.K. Bhatti, contended that the petitioner was found involved in non-cognizable offences and in the case at this stage he is enlarged on bail, he may tamper with the prosecution evidence and may also flee from justice.

High Court on noting the facts and circumstances of the case stated that, petitioner being the resident of the place and joining the investigation is neither in a position to tamper with the prosecution nor to flee from justice.

Thus, the Court held that the present is a fit case where the judicial discretion to admit the petitioner on bail, in the event of arrest, is required to be exercised in his favour. Bail granted subject to conditions. [Bhumi Nand v. State of H.P., 2019 SCC OnLine HP 2167, decided on 16-12-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench of Siddharth Mridul and Anu Malhotra, JJ. dismissed an appeal filed against the Judgment of the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted for murder under Section 302 read with Sections 120-B and 34 IPC.

Sunil Dalal, Devashish Bhadauria and Jaskaran Singh, Advocates representing the appellant, inter alia, raised a challenge to the credibility of the prosecution witnesses who turned hostile. It was contended that the appellant was falsely implicated in the case.Per contra, Radhika Kolluru, Additional Public Prosecutor representing the State, supported the impugned judgment.

The High Court relied on Govindaraju v. State, (2012) 4 SCC 722, for the proposition that evidence of hostile witness ought to stand effected altogether, and that the same can be accepted on careful scrutiny, to the extent found dependable, and duly corroborated by other reliable evidence available on record. Relying further on Mrinal Das v. State of Tripura, (2011) 9 SCC 479, the High Court observed: “The legal position that obtains is that, the evidence of a hostile witness remains admissible, and is available for a Court to rely on the dependable part thereof, as found acceptable and duly corroborated by other reliable evidence, available on record. Whether the testimony of a hostile witness subject to scrutiny may be relied for nullified would depend on the circumstances of each case. It could be used for corroboration or he corroborated and relied upon or nullified for the availability of better evidence.”

In light of above principle, the Court perused the evidence of the hostile witnesses and held that their testimonies could have relied on the instant case to the extent to which they were dependable and corroborated by the evidence.

Similarly, appellant’s contentions regarding lack of proof of motive and discrepancy in evidence were also rejected, and it was held that no interference was warranted in the impugned judgment. Accordingly, the conviction and sentence awarded by the trial court was upheld and the appeal was dismissed.[Ashok v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2019 SCC OnLine Del 10192, decided on 20-09-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: Sanjay K. Agarwal, J. allowed a petition filed by an advocate against the order of Judicial Magistrate (First Class) whereby cognizance was taken against him, along with other accused persons, for the offences punishable under Section 420 read with Section 120-B IPC.

The petitioner was working as a Notary, and while discharging his duties under the provisions of the Notaries Act, 1952 and the Rules made thereunder, he authenticated an Agreement in presence of two witnesses. Thereafter, the complainant filed a complaint against accused persons including the petitioner, alleging the commission of the abovesaid offences. Subsequently, the Judicial Magistrate passed the impugned order.

Abhishek Sinha, Advocate for the petitioner contended that such a cognizance taken was expressly barred by the provisions contained in Section 13(1) of the Notaries Act which are mandatory in nature.

The High Court was of the view that the use of negative form provides a mandatory character to the provisions of Section 13(1). Section 13(1) clearly bars the act of taking cognizance of any offence against the Notary in exercise or purported exercise of his function under the Act except upon a complaint in writing made by an officer authorised by Central Government or State Government by general or special order. In the present case, the petitioner, while authenticating the said Agreement was performing his statutory duty within the provisions of Section 8(1)(a). Therefore the Court was of the view that the bar under Section 13(1) would squarely be attracted. In the absence of a complaint as provided for under Section 13(1), it was held that order of the Judicial Magistrate was unsustainable and was thereby set aside to the extent applicable on the petitioner. The petition was thus allowed. [Rajkumar Mishra v. Gurjeet Kaur Bajwa, 2019 SCC OnLine Chh 48, decided on 13-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gauhati High Court: Reiterating that mere likelihood of suspicion cannot be a reason to charge someone for an offence, Rumi Kumari Phukan, J. allowed a criminal petition and quashed the FIR registered against the petitioners under Section 120-B, 32 and 307 IPC.

The matter related to a long pending land dispute between the petitioners on one hand and the injured and the informant on the other hand. The injured was shot from the backside while riding his motorcycle. The informant, the wife of the injured, lodged an FIR against the petitioners on suspicion that the attack was committed by them in response to their land dispute.

J.J. Borbhuiya, I., Mohan, R. Ali and K.H. Choudhary, Advocates, representing the petitioners vehemently submitted that the criminal proceeding could not stand and continue on sheer suspicion. Per contra, T. Sarma and H.K. Sarma, Advocates, for the informant asserted that the proceedings should continue till the end. However, D. Das, Additional Public Prosecutor, submitted that the injured himself could not identify the assailants.

 Perusing the record, the High Court noted that the informant tried to project the case only on suspicion and there was no supporting evidence to suggest the complicity of the petitioners. It was observed: “Criminal prosecution cannot be permitted to continue on the whims and pleasure of the litigants unless cogent, clear and convicting evidence collected in course investigation.” Holding that the same was very much lacking in the present case, the Court was of the view that continuance of the criminal proceeding against the petitioners would cause a miscarriage of justice. Thus, the prayer made by the petitioners was allowed and the impugned FIR was quashed. [Anuradha Gogoi v. State of Assam, 2019 SCC OnLine Gau 2296, decided on 14-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Vibhu Bhakru, J., set aside an order whereby the petitioner’s passport was impounded and gave him liberty to travel abroad subject to compliance with the conditions imposed.

The petitioner was facing criminal charges under Section 120-B read with Section 420 IPC along with Section 13(2) and 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. A charge-sheet was filed by the CBI and cognizance was taken by the Special Judge, after which the petitioner applied for regular bail. The bail was granted and the petitioner was called upon to surrender his passport to the Court concerned. Complying with the same, the petitioner deposited his passport with the Special Judge. Subsequently, he filed an application to travel abroad which was allowed subject to conditions imposed. Meanwhile, the Regional Passport Officer, vide the impugned order, impounded his passport under Section 10(3)(e) of the Passports Act, 1967. The petitioner preferred an appeal under Section 11 against the said order, however, it was dismissed by Chief Passport Officer. Aggrieved thereby, the petitioner filed the present petition.

After discussing its earlier decision in Manish Kumar Mittal v. Chief Passport Officer, 2013 SCC OnLine Del 3007, the High Court was of the view that: in the given facts of the present case, impounding the passport is not warranted considering that the petitioner had already been called upon to deposit the same with the concerned Court. Further, the permission has already been granted  to the petitioner to travel overseas.” In such a view, the Court set aside the order whereby the petitioner’s passport was impounded. He was given liberty to travel abroad, subject to compliance with the conditions imposed.[Vinod Kumar Asthana v. Chief Passport Officer, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 8138, dated 16-04-2019]