The Bombay High Court has quashed the criminal proceedingsd against investor Mahesh Murthy on allegations of outraging the modesty of a woman 14 years ago on the grounds of limitation, noting that continuance of the said proceedings would be an abuse of process of law.
A division bench of Justice Ranjit More and Justice NJ Jamadar heard the petition filed by Murthy for quashing.
The FIR was registered for offences punishable under Sections 354 and 509 of the Indian Penal Code at Bandra Police Station on March 16, 2018. The complainant alleged that in February 2004, when Murthy and the complainant were sitting in a coffee shop and the petitioner misbehaved with her by putting his hands on her thigh and by kissing her against her will.
Dr.Yug Chudhary appeared on behalf of the petitioner and the complainant was represented by Vandana Shah.
Dr.Chaudhary submitted that he is not disputing the allegation in the FIR for the purpose of quashing. He argued that even if the allegations made in the FIR are taken on face value, the same are barred by limitation and, therefore, cognizance could not have been taken. He relied upon the decision of the Apex Court in the case of State of Haryana and ors. versus Bhajanlal and ors.
On the other hand, Vandana Shah vehemently opposed the petition. She submitted that the petitioner is a serial sexual offender and charge-sheet being filed after the completion of an investigation into the subject FIR, this Court should not entertain the. She also submitted that the limitation provided under Section 468 of the CrPC does not apply to sexual offences. Lastly, Shah submitted that the petitioner should face the trial and there in no question of the quashing the proceedings of the subject criminal case, at this stage.
Court examined the bar of limitation as contemplated under Section 468 of CrPC and observed-
"If the punishment provided under offences under Sections 354 and 509 of the IPC is considered along with limitation provided under Section 468 of the CrPC then, it is clear that for the offences punishable under Section 509 of the IPC, the limitation provided is of one year and for offences punishable under Section 354 of the IPC is concerned, the limitation provided is of three years."
Thereafter, the bench noted that under the provisions of Section 473 of the CrPC extension of period of limitation is possible in certain cases. In such cases, Court may take cognizance of an offence after the expiry of the period of limitation, provided it is satisfied on the facts and circumstances of the case that the delay has been properly explained or it is necessary to do so in the interests of justice.
"However, the said FIR came to be filed 14 years after the occurrence of the incident in question and 11 years after the period of expiration of limitation.
We have perused the order taking cognizance by the concerned Magistrate and, we find that neither there is an application by the prosecutions for extension of limitation or condonation of delay nor there are reasons for condoning such delay by the Magistrate. In other words, neither delay is properly explained nor there are reasons by Magistrate for condoning the same in the interests of justice. In our opinion, the Magistrate, after expiry of the period of limitation, could not have taken cognizance especially in the absence of explanation under Section 473 of the CrPC."
Referring to Shah's submission that the petitioner is a serial sexual offender, Court said-
"We are unable to accept the said argument in the absence of any supporting material. Section 468 of Cr.PC. is applicable to every offence under IPC and offences under Sections 354 and 509 as alleged against the petitioner are under IPC. The allegations against the petitioner that he is a serial sexual offender would not be relevant to examine the validity and legality of subject criminal proceedings pending before the learned Magistrate."
Thus the criminal proceedings were quashed and petition was allowed.
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