26 Aug 2023 3:30 AM GMT
A Division Bench of the Supreme Court, while allowing an appeal challenging the grant of bail to accused in a gang rape case, observed:“The offence alleged in the instant case is heinous and would be onslaught on the dignity of the womanhood and the age old principle of यत ननायर्यस्तत पपूज्यन्तत रमन्तत तत...
A Division Bench of the Supreme Court, while allowing an appeal challenging the grant of bail to accused in a gang rape case, observed:
“The offence alleged in the instant case is heinous and would be onslaught on the dignity of the womanhood and the age old principle of यत ननायर्यस्तत पपूज्यन्तत रमन्तत तत दतवतनाताः (where women are respected Gods live there) would recede to the background and the guilty not being punished by process of law.”
The present appeal was filed by a minor gang-rape survivor challenging the the order passed by the Rajasthan High Court granting bail to the accused. As per the prosecution, prosecutrix, minor girl aged 15 years and six months, was studying in Class-X when she got gang raped on February 24, 2021, by three accused including respondents after being drugged. It was further alleged that the videos of the incident were taken and the accused persons had threatened her not to disclose the said incident as otherwise they would make the video viral. However, after much persuasion on 24th March, 2023, the minor girl had disclosed about the incident. Accordingly, FIR was registered under several sections of the including Section 384 (Punishment for extortion), Section 506 (Punishment for criminal intimidation) of Indian Penal Code, 1860 and provisions of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.
In this backdrop, appellant contended that that offences alleged against the accused are heinous offences punishable with minimum sentence for life and attracts minimum sentence of 20 years. Further, it was also contended that one of the accused (Deepak) is son of a sitting Congress MLA and the chances of tampering with the evidence during the trial if enlarged on bail is writ large.
However, advocates, appearing for the respondent, supported the impugned order passed by the High Court and contended that there has been delay of 13 months in lodging the FIR.
After taking into consideration the arguments of both parties, the Court listed down several parameters which should be kept in mind while deciding applications for grant of bail. Further, the Court relied upon its decision in Daulat Ram and others v. State of Haryana reported (1995) 1 SCC 349, wherein the Court held that supervening circumstances which may develop post the grant of bail and are non-conducive to the fair trial, making it necessary to cancel the bail. It is imperative to mention that the said view has been reiterated in the recent decision of Ms. X v. State of Telangana, (2018) 16 SCC 511.
Moreover, the Apex Court in Vipin Kumar Dhir v. State of Punjab 2021 SCC Online SC 854 has added caveat to the above principles and has held that bail can also be revoked where the Court has considered irrelevant factors or has ignored relevant material available on record which renders the order granting bail legally untenable. The gravity of the offence, conduct of the accused and societal impact of an undue indulgence by Court when the investigation is at the threshold, are some of them.
The Court also relied upon the judgment in Prashanta Kumar Sarkar v. Ashish Chatterjee and another (2010) 14 SCC 496, wherein the Court categorically held:
“We are of the opinion that the impugned order is clearly unsustainable. It is trite that this Court does not, normally, interfere with an order passed by the High Court granting or rejecting bail to the accused. However, it is equally incumbent upon the High Court to exercise its discretion judiciously, cautiously and strictly in compliance with the basic principles laid down in a plethora of decisions of this Court on the point.”
Addressing the facts of the present case, the Court opined:
“High Court seems to have been primarily swayed by the fact that there has been delay in filing the complaint i.e. 13 months for granting bail in favour of accused persons viz, respondents in respective appeals. The allegation made in the complaint relates to gang rape of a minor girl who is aged 15 years six months, studying in Class X. The fact of her father being a police constable who is far below in the hierarchy of service cannot be lost sight of.”
The Court observed that one of the respondents (Deepak) against whom allegations have been made is the son of a sitting Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA). Also, another accused Vivek seemes to have criminal antecedents and the third accused is the Manager of the Hotel where the alleged incident of gang rape had occurred. It recorded:
“The fact that accused Deepak is the son of sitting MLA would disclose the domineering influence he would wield not only in delaying the proceedings but also in pressurizing the witnesses..”
On the issue of delay, the Court remarkably observed that it will have to be seen that the societal circumstances under which minor girl was placed, her tender age, then prevailing circumstances and the purported video depicting her nudity and the constant threat being posed to victim of video of rape which had been recorded being made viral in the event of prosecutrix informing anyone of the incident are factors which cannot be brushed aside which resulted in delay in filing the complaint.
In this context, the Court opined:
“…on the ground of delay in lodging FIR the genuineness of the complaint cannot be viewed with coloured glasses nor it can be held that by itself would be sufficient ground to enlarge the accused on bail”
After examining the relevant documents, the Court observed that it becomes amply clear from the plain reading of the complaint as well as the testimony of the prosecutrix that accused persons had indeed participated in the gang rape. The complainant’s grievance, throughout has been that Deepak had been threatening the prosecutrix and other witnesses.
Based on these observations Court set aside the impugned order of the High Court directed that the accused/ respondents to surrender before the jurisdictional Court within two weeks from today failing which they shall be taken into custody.
Case Title: BHAGWAN SINGH v. DILIP KUMAR @ DEEPU @ DEEPAK & ANR., Special Leave to Appeal (Crl.) No. 6199/2023
Citation : 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 707
Click Here To Read/Download Judgment