25 July 2023 6:57 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed fresh proceedings against Kerala transport minister Antony Raju in the case for alleged tampering of an underwear evidence in a drugs case conducted by him as a junior lawyer in 1990.The Court passed this interim order while issuing notice on two special leave petitions challenging the Kerala High Court's order quashing the criminal case against...
The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed fresh proceedings against Kerala transport minister Antony Raju in the case for alleged tampering of an underwear evidence in a drugs case conducted by him as a junior lawyer in 1990.
The Court passed this interim order while issuing notice on two special leave petitions challenging the Kerala High Court's order quashing the criminal case against Kerala transport minister Antony Raju over
On March 10, 2023, a single judge of the Kerala High Court had quashed the criminal case on the technical reason that as per Section 195(1)(b) CrPC, cognisance cannot be taken on a police chargesheet in a case relating to fabrication of evidence in a court proceeding. At the same time, observing that the offence was of a serious nature interfering with the administration of justice, the High Court directed the Registry of the Court to take appropriate action to pursue the complaint under the relevant provisions of the CrPC.
Challenging the High Court order quashing the criminal case against the Minister, a third party named MR Ajayan approached the Supreme Court. Minister Raju also filed another petition challenging the High Court order to the extent it allowed fresh proceedings to be initiated against him. Both the petitions were listed before a bench comprising Justices CT Ravikumar and Sanjay Kumar.
Senior Advocate R Basant, appearing for Raju, questioned the locus standi of Ajayan in filing the Special Leave Petition, contending that only the accused, State or a defacto complainant can approach the Court. He contended that Ajayan was a "stranger" and an "interloper" to the proceedings and pointed out that the High Court had rejected his impleadment application. When the bench pointed out that the High Court had nevertheless allowed the senior advocates of the intervenors to place their arguments, Basant replied that they were allowed to do as amicus and not in any other capacity.
Senior Advocate S Nagamuthu, appearing for Ajayan, submitted that the special leave petition is filed along with an application seeking to leave to file as a third party. He added that the offences are of a serious nature relating to the administration of justice and therefore, the matter should not be thrown out on technical reasons alone.
The bench agreed to issue notice on both the petitions but reserved the right of Raju to question the locus standi of Ajayan. The bench also observed that since the issue was under the consideration of the Supreme Court, no further proceedings should be initiated in pursuance of the High Court's order. The matter will be heard after six weeks.
Allegations in the case
The issue relates to a drug seizure case of 1990 against an Australian national, who was found to be in possession of charas in the pocket of his underwear. Raju was then a junior of the lawyer who was representing the Australian accused. The underwear worn by the Australian was seized as a material object. Later, the Court allowed the return of the personal belongings of the Australian accused. However, the underwear, which was a material object in the case, was also returned, which was collected by Raju. This was later returned to the Court.
Though the sessions court convicted the Australian under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, in appeal, the Kerala High Court acquitted him. The acquittal by the High Court was on the ground that the underwear was not fitting the accused. A practical test was conducted before the Court to test the defence argument that the underwear was too small for the accused.
Even though the High Court acquitted the accused, it observed that the possibility of tampering of evidence cannot be ruled out and a vigilance inquiry was ordered. Following the inquiry, FIR was registered in 1994 and a final report was filed in the same year arraying Raju and a court staff as accused in the case for the offences punishable under sections 120B,420,201,193 and 217 read with 34 of the Indian Penal Code. However, the trial in the case remained pending for several years. In 2022, certain media reports highlighted the pendency of the case, following which Raju approached the High Court.
Case : MR Ajayan vs State of Kerala Diary No. 18482-2023, Antony Raju vs State of Kerala SLP(Crl) No. 7896/2023
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