9 March 2022 9:30 AM GMT
Madras High Court has quashed an FIR registered against some office bearers and members of 'Campus Front of India' who organised a protest in front of IIT-Madras seeking justice for a suicide victim. Admittedly, the members assembled and protested for arresting the faculty implicated in the suicide note of Fathima Latheef, a first-year Humanities student who hung herself in a ceiling fan in...
Madras High Court has quashed an FIR registered against some office bearers and members of 'Campus Front of India' who organised a protest in front of IIT-Madras seeking justice for a suicide victim.
Admittedly, the members assembled and protested for arresting the faculty implicated in the suicide note of Fathima Latheef, a first-year Humanities student who hung herself in a ceiling fan in her hostel room in November 2019.
The single bench of Justice A.D Jagadish Chandira observed that no act of violence has occurred during the protest and no untoward incident has taken place, which warrants the quashing of the FIR registered against the protesters.
While allowing the criminal original petition, the court noted as below:
"...admittedly, no violation is reported in this case and the protest has also not ended in any violence. Therefore, this Court, is of the considered view that further proceedings against the petitioners in C.C.No.2962 of 2020 pending on the file of the learned IX Metropolitan Magistrate Court, Saidapet, Chennai is liable to be quashed".
The bench relied on the Madurai Bench judgment in Ananthasamy @ Anandasamy, Sneka @ Snega v. The State (2021) to point out that when there is no untoward or criminal act that has occurred in the protest, the continuation of FIR is not warranted. In the said case, the court had also observed that even if the protest was done without proper permission, identification of persons involved in the demonstration is important for the registration of FIR.
In the FIR, 96 unknown persons and four named office-bearers belonging to Campus Front of India were named. The FIR has also stated that the petitioners were arrested as a preventive step and taken to the Kotturpuram Police Station. However, the court found that when these petitioners were let out in station bail, the respondent police implicated the petitioners and booked them for offences under Sections 143 [unlawful assembly],145 [joining or continuing in unlawful assembly when it has been commanded to be dispersed] and 341 IPC [wrongful restraint].
"A perusal of the FIR, shows that the petitioners had protested seeking arrest of the Faculty, who are alleged to be responsible for the death of the victim girl and as a preventive measure, the petitioners were arrested by the respondent. However, the statement of witnesses recorded under Section 161 Cr.P.C shows that there is no proper investigation with regard to identity of the persons. Other than the two persons, who were office bearers of the said organisation, no investigation has been done with regard to identity of other accused", the court concluded.
The protest happened in the IIT Campus in November 2019 following the death of the first-year student in the hostel room. While doing rounds, the respondent police inspector directed the protesters to disperse without forming an illegal assembly since they hadn't obtained permission from the authority. However, those assembled continued protesting by raising slogans against the IIT Management.
According to the respondent police official who is also the defacto complainant, the petitioners also created issues by preventing the free flow of traffic. As a result, the Inspector initiated suo motu proceedings, registered the FIR against petitioners, and filed the final report before the IX Metropolitan Magistrate Court, Saidapet.
The petitioners submitted that they are law-abiding citizens who are also social activists, exercising their fundamental right of freedom to assemble peacefully and without arms for a public cause. They also submitted that even the FIR or the Chargesheet filed does not reveal the commission of any of the offences that they were booked for. On the date of protest, there was no prohibitory order in existence, they added.
They also argued that the de facto complainant and the investigation officer is the same which violated the principles of fair investigation and natural justice. it was also averred that none of the persons from the public has raised any grievance before the police regarding the protest that happened in 2019 and no independent witnesses have been brought in by the Prosecution.
Case Title: Ashraf & Ors. v. State Represented by Inspector of Police
Case No: Crl. O.P.No.3163 of 2022 and Crl.M.P.Nos. 1419 & 1422 of 2022
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Mad) 92
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