The Gujarat High Court on Monday refused to drop criminal charge of Dacoity against Satish Pravinbhai Vansola, who was arrested in connection to anti-CAA protests in December 2019.
The charge of Dacoity was added in the FIR against Vansola subsequent to a request made by the Deputy Superintendent of Police. It was alleged that the Petitioner had forcibly taken away the keys of a State Transport Bus that was plying on the route at the time of the unlawful protest.
"It appears from the record that during the course of committing theft of the keys of the State Transport Bus, the petitioner had placed the driver of the said Bus under the fear of instant death. In that process, the petitioner had also restrained the driver of the said Bus from proceeding to its destination," the court observed.
In the backdrop, Vasola and three others had obtained permission for holding an anti-CAA protest from the relevant authorities. A day prior to the day of protest however, the permission was cancelled and Vasola and others were detained.
Allegedly, the news of cancellation of permission to protest could not reach all the protestors, leading to a huge gathering that turned violent.
Subsequently, a FIR was registered against Vasola and others under Sections 143, 147, 149, 308, 152, 153, 120B, 336, 353, 427, 506(2), 341 and 395 of IPC and Section 3 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Properties Act, 1984.
Proceedings for quashing of this FIR were dismissed by the coordinate Bench of the High Court on January 15, 2020.
In the present case, Vasola had challenged addition of the new charge of Dacoity on the ground that his presence at the scene of offence at the said time was impossible as he was taken into Police custody a day prior.
Presence of accused at scene of incident established
Dismissing this submission however, the single bench of Justice Gita Gopi said that his presence at the site of incident was "evident" from observations made by the coordinate Bench in its January order,
"Due to the insistence of the mob that had gathered at the meeting place, the original accused (petitioners therein) were released and were brought at the scene of offence since the mob had started to damage public property and were pelting stones at passenger buses. Such facts are also reflected in the impugned complaint. The coordinate Bench also recorded that at that time two of the accused, original petitioners in that writ petition, addressed the gathered and uttered slogans despite the fact that permission had been cancelled, which fact was well within the knowledge of the accused persons. Thus, the presence of the accused at the scene of incident becomes evident."
Application for quashing not maintainable
Referring to the January order of the coordinate bench, the court proceeded to hold that the present proceedings under Section 482 of CrPC were "non-maintainable" as the Petitioner had already challenged the FIR once, in its entirety, before the High Court.
Justice Gopi observed that the Petitioner could have agitated the issue of indictment of section 395 IPC in the earlier proceedings before the High Court. "However, for reasons best known to the petitioner, the said point was never agitated in the earlier proceedings otherwise the same would have found mention in the order passed by the learned single Judge," the court observed.
Having not agitated the indictment of section 395 IPC in the earlier proceedings, the bench held, it is now not open to the petitioner to agitate the same by way of the present proceedings.
"The contents in the first information report could not be agitated in piecemeal. The accused could not plead that an offence under a particular section in the first information report was not pleaded at the initial stage and that he may be afforded opportunity to plead again. Such permission could never be granted and hence, in my opinion, the present petition seeking quashment of a particular section in the form of section 395 of IPC is not maintainable," the bench said.
Law in context of Section 395 (Dacoity) of IPC
Notwithstanding non-maintainability of the petition, the bench proceeded to discuss the law in the context of Section 395 of IPC.
It established a link from the combined act of "theft" and "wrongful restrain" to "Robbery", which if committed by more than five persons, amounts to "Dacoity".
The court iterated the ingredients of Theft provided in Section 378 of IPC- "whoever, intending to take dishonestly any moveable property out of the possession of any person without that person's consent, moves that property in order to such taking, is said to commit theft"; and ingredients of Wrongful Restraint provided in Section 339 of IPC - "whoever voluntarily obstructs any person so as to prevent that person from proceeding in any direction in which that person has a right to proceed, is said wrongfully to restrain that person."
In the present case, taking the allegations at "face value", the court observed, "during the course of "committing theft" of the keys of the State Transport Bus, the petitioner had placed the driver of the said Bus under the "fear of instant death"."
This act, it concluded in reference to Venu v. State of Karnataka, (2008) 3 SCC 94, constitute a Robbery under Section 390 of IPC.
"The words "for that end" in section 390 clearly mean that the hurt caused must be with the object of facilitating the committing of the theft or must be caused while the offender is committing theft or is carrying away or is attempting to carry away property obtained by the theft," it was held in Venu (supra)
In the present case, about 3000 persons had gathered at the place, the court recorded from the charge-sheet and concluded that all the ingredients for the offence of Dacoity were prima facie made out.
"Considering the facts and circumstances of the case and the law on the subject, this Court does not deem this to be a fit case wherein the inherent powers under section 482 Cr.P.C could be exercised in favour of the petitioner. In the result, the petition is dismissed. Rule is discharged," the court thus held.
Case Title: Satish Pravinbhai Vansola v. State of Gujarat
Case No.: R/Spcl Crl Application No. 2414/2020
Quorum: Justice Gita Gopi
Appearance: Advocates Utkarsh J Dave and Rahul Sharma (for Petitioner) Public Prosecutor Mitesh Amin with Addl. Public Prosecutor Pranav Trivedi (for State)
Click Here To Download Order