The Uttarakhand High Court on Thursday (03rd September) posed a series of detailed and serious questions for the State Government to answer by way of filing a counter-affidavit and granted interim bail to the applicant until the instant bail application is decided.
The bench of Justice Ravindra Maithani was hearing the plea of one Rajesh Sharma who was seeking bail in FIR No. 265 of 2020, under Section 420, 467, 468, 469, 471, 120-B 124-A IPC, Police Station Nehru Colony, District Dehradun.
The background of the case
Dr. Harendra Rawat, a resident of Dehradun, had filed a case against Journalist Rajesh Sharma (the applicant herein) on July 31 in the Nehru Colony Police Station Dehradun for tarnishing his image and the image of his wife Dr. Savita Rawat by publishing fake news against them (allegedly some allegations were also levelled against them).
The petitioner submitted before the court that he had lifted the said news item/video from the Facebook post of one Umesh Sharma (who had earlier sought protection from the Court, which has been provided).
The said news item/video stated that the wife of Dr Harendra Rawat and the wife of Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, Trivendra Singh Rawat are sisters. In the said news item, some allegations were levelled against the Chief Minister of the state.
Arguments put forth by the Parties
On behalf of the applicant, it was argued that he has not been even named in the FIR; he has been in custody for 35 days now; the allegations in the FIR do not make out a prima-facie case against him; out of two persons named in the FIR one, namely, Umesh Sharma who had earlier sought protection from the Court, which has been provided.
On behalf of the State it was argued that, in fact, the custodial interrogation of the applicant is necessary. It was further argued that this is the 3rd time, an attempt has been made to de-stabilise the Government. There were two FIRs lodged earlier in the year 2018, one in the State of Uttarakhand and another in the State of Jharkhand.
The Observations of the Court
The court observed that the FIR was lodged on 31st July 2020 at 4:20 PM and the applicant was arrested at 11:00 PM the same night. The court further raised some questions:-
"Are there any specific averments in the FIR against the applicant? Are there any specific allegations about forgery against the applicant? And if so, what are those? Which documents were forged? Which forged documents were used as genuine?"
The court further remarked,
"What troubles more is as to how Section 124-A IPC is added? Even if for the sake of arguments, it is admitted that some allegations were levelled against some high functionary, does it per se amount to sedition, which is punishable under Section 124-A IPC? Why was the State in such haste? Is it a cruel hand of the State, which is running over? Many questions would perhaps also require an answer in this bail." (emphasis supplied)
Therefore, the court asked the State to file a counter affidavit within two weeks. It was directed that specifically some following answers should be given in the counter affidavit.
1. Is it true that before the filing of FIR in the instant case, an application was given to the police by the informant? If so, when and where is that application? And under what provision of law, this application is taken?
2. Is it true that on the earlier application of the informant some inquiry was conducted and if so, under what provision of Law and who has conducted it? Where is that enquiry report, let it be filed along with the counter-affidavit.
3. Is it true that the result of that enquiry was given to the informant? If so, when did he apply for it and under what provision of law he was given it?
The court further observed that it is also required to be deliberated as to which one is the FIR in the instant case; the earlier application given by the informant or the instant application which the State has treated as FIR?
The Court granted interim bail to the applicant subject to his furnishing a personal bond of Rs. 10,000/- only. He will remain on interim bail till the instant bail application is decided.
The matter has been listed on the 18th of September, 2020 for further hearing.
Case Title: Rajesh Sharma v. State of Uttarakhand
Case No.: First Bail Application No. 1608 of 2020
Quorum: Justice Ravindra Maithani
Appearance: Advocate Arun Nath Chaudhary (for the Applicant); Advocate P.S. Patwalia, Senior Advocate assisted by Ruchira Gupta and J. S.Virk , learned Deputy Advocate General (for the respondent-state) Advocate Ram Ji Srivastava (for the Complainant)
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