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In-Flight Protest Against Chief Minister: Kerala High Court Grants Pre-Arrest Bail To 3rd Accused

Hannah M Varghese
23 Jun 2022 1:00 PM GMT
Accused, Surrender, Anticipatory Bail, Kerala High Court, Justice R. Narayana Pisharadi, Direction to surrender, Investigating officer, Jurisdictional court,
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The Kerala High Court on Thursday granted pre-arrest bail to a Youth Congress worker Sujith Narayanan who has been accused of conspiring to protest against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on a flight at the Thiruvananthapuram airport.

Justice Viju Abraham granted anticipatory bail to the petitioner observing that while the first two accused allegedly involved in the incident were arrested, there was no attempt at all to arrest him.

"While two other accused who are alleged to have been involved in the incident were arrested there was no attempt to arrest the petitioner and the petitioner went out of the aircraft like any other passenger. In so far as there is no case that the motive for the alleged incident is of any personal enmity and it was a part of an agitation, there is no reason to believe that the petitioner will repeat the alleged offence."

Therefore, it was held that custodial interrogation of the petitioner did not seem necessary in the case. However, considering the contentions raised by the prosecution that the investigation is only in the initial stage and further investigation is to be done to unearth any conspiracy involving other persons, the Court directed the petitioner to co-operate with the investigation.

The Court has also granted regular bail to the first two accused in the case.

The prosecution case was that the petitioners who were on the same flight on which the Chief Minister also travelling, flouted the directions of the aircraft crew, shouted threats, and rushed toward the Chief Minister, thereby posing a threat to his safety and security. It was also alleged that the petitioners injured the security staff of the Chief Minister and prevented him from discharging his public duty.

Advocate V.S. Chandrasekharan appearing for the petitioner argued that the allegations made against him were false and that he was a bonafide passenger. It was submitted that when the flight landed, two passengers shouted some political slogans and that he was not involved in any way with the alleged incident. He argued that he was falsely implicated in an attempt to prevent him from becoming a witness to the incident and spoke about the assault committed by former minister E.P Jayarajan on accused 1 and 2, which he recorded on his mobile phone.

On the other hand, Director General of Prosecution T.A.Shaji submitted that the acts alleged to be committed by the petitioner are part of a conspiracy to attack and murder the Chief Minister and to fulfil their common object. It was submitted that all the accused were named in the FIR and the call data showed that they were in constant touch for several days and that the tickets were purchased at the same time, booked using 1st accused's phone and collected by the 2nd accused.

However, the Court noted that there was no case for the prosecution that the petitioner was carrying any weapon and admittedly being inside an aircraft, which is a high-security zone, there was no possibility for him to carry any weapon either. It was also found that accused 1 and 2 were arrested on 14.06.2022 and the Sessions Court had also granted their custody to the investigating agency.

Moreover, there was no case that any further recovery was to be effected and that if at all it was required, it was always open for the investigating officer to do that even when the petitioner is on bail.

Further, the report of the Airport Manager to the Station House Officer only says that they were informed that an alleged altercation took place on board the flight between three passengers who were seated on Seat No. 8A, 8C and 7D. It was in the subsequent report by the Airport Manager that it was revealed that after landing as soon as the seat belt sign went off, the said passengers immediately stood up from their respective seats and rushed toward the Chief Minister, shouting slogans in the vernacular language and upon seeing this one of the passengers travelling with the Chief Minister intervened.

Incidentally, the Court noted that at the time of the incident as referred to by the airport manager, the aircraft had several passengers including the personal security officers of the Chief Minister.

"Though at this stage of the case, I cannot express my opinion either way as regards the merits of the case, the above stated facts cannot be lost sight of while considering the request of the petitioner for pre-arrest bail. As regards the contention of the learned Director General of Prosecution that custodial interrogation of the petitioner is required to unravel the larger conspiracy, I am not persuaded to think that custodial interrogation of the petitioner is required for that purpose, also considering the fact that two other accused is already in judicial/police custody and are thoroughly interrogated."

Although the petitioner is alleged to have been involved in 2 cases, these did not appear to be very serious. Regarding the rigour of Section 6A of the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Civil Aviation Act, 1982 the Court held that it will not be applicable in the matter of consideration of pre-arrest bail.

Nevertheless, it was made clear that it is within the power of the police to investigate the matter and if necessary, effect recoveries on the information if any given by the petitioner, even when the petitioner is on bail.

Therefore, pre-arrest bail was granted on the following stringent conditions.

A. The petitioner shall surrender before the investigating officer on 28.06.2022 at 10 a.m. for interrogation. In case the interrogation is not complete by then, it is open to the investigating officer to direct the presence of the petitioner on any other day/days and time with which the petitioner shall comply.

B. The petitioner shall co-operate with the investigation of the case.

It was directed that if the petitioner is arrested in connection with the above crime, he shall be produced before the jurisdictional court on the very same day and be released on bail on the following conditions:

(i) Petitioner shall be released on bail on 24.06.2022 on executing a bond of Rs.50,000/- with two solvent sureties for the like sum to the satisfaction of the jurisdictional court.

(ii) Petitioner shall appear before the investigating officer as and when required and shall co-operate with the investigation.

(iii) Petitioner shall surrender their passport. If he does not have a passport, he shall file an affidavit to that effect before the jurisdictional court, within one week from the date of release.

(iv) The petitioner shall not attempt to interfere with the investigation or to influence or intimidate any witness in the case.

(v) Petitioner shall not enter Thiruvanthapuram District till the filing of the charge sheet except to comply with condition No.(ii) or to attend any court proceedings.

(vi) The petitioner shall not involve in any other crime while on bail.

Case Title: Sujith Narayanan v. State of Kerala & Anr.

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Ker) 300

Click Here To Read/Download The Order

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