Monday, November 2, 2020

Supreme Court asks Bihar DGP, High Court Registrar General reasons behind 21 year delay

Supreme Court's Bench of Justices NV Ramana, Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose heard an appeal on October 15, 2020 filed by the accused husband in a dowry death case in Bachcha Pandey v State of Bihar [Special Leave to Appeal (Criminal) No.4769/2020].The appeal arose out of impugned final judgment and order dated July 6, ­2020 in Criminal Miscellaneous No.21680/2020 passed by Justice Madhuresh Prasad of the Patna High Court. It upheld High Court's order. 

In its order, the Supreme Court observed: "The materials placed on record indicate a shocking state of affairs." The order records the sequence of events. In this case a First Information Report was registered as far back as on February 2, 1999 against Bachcha Pandey, the petitioner and some of his relatives under Sections 304B, 201 and 34, IPC based on a complaint made  by the brother of  the  deceased (wife  of  the  Petitioner). A perusal of the records suggest that the petitioner got married to the   deceased in 1993. The deceased was allegedly  harassed continuously by the petitioner and his family for dowry, and was even thrown out by the petitioner and his family, after they took her jewellery. The deceased apparently started living with the petitioner and his family again, consequent to an agreement prepared  by the petitioner in court. It was alleged by the complainant that he was informed by unknown persons about the death of his sister, whose funeral ceremonies were being completed by the petitioner and his family without informing the deceased’s side of the family.   

The court's order records that after nearly 10 years, a final report/charge­sheet was filed in the case against all the accused named in the FIR, including the petitioner, on September 30, 2009. The final report notes that “sufficient evidence has been made available for charge­sheet against all the accused  named in the FIR”.   

Besides this, the order dated February 14, 2020, passed by the Patna High Court while dismissing the petitioner’s anticipatory bail application, being Criminal Miscellaneous No. 64116 of 2019, noted that as per the case diary a “very highly poisonous substance was detected in the viscera examination of the deceased”. 

The court observed that despite the seriousness of the allegations, it is quite alarming that no actions  were taken by the police against the petitioner. After the elapse of more than 20 years since the incident  and the registration of the FIR, the petitioner was arrested in relation to the case only on June 7, 2020. Thereafter, the petitioner filed a bail application before the Additional District and Sessions Judge  which was rejected on June 12, 06.2020. Being aggrieved, the petitioner filed a bail application before the High Court, being Criminal Miscellaneous No. 21680 of 2020, which was dismissed vide  impugned order dated July 6, 2020. 

The court's order reads: "The flagrant delay in conducting the investigation and prosecution of the accused  in connection with the serious crime involving the death of a young married woman is extremely troubling, and the reasons for the same are unclear. In the above facts and circumstances, we are not inclined to interfere with the impugned order of the High Court, or to extend the benefit of bail to the petitioner. His plea is therefore dismissed at this stage." The petitioner from Vaishali had challenged the aforementioned order before the Supreme Court  by way of the present Special Leave Petition.  

The court issued notice to the Director General of Police, Bihar as well as the Registrar General of the Patna High Court with a direction to them to place before us a report about the particulars of the present case, particularly with respect to the reasons behind such inordinate delay. The matter is likely to be listed before the court on November 11-12 after four weeks. 

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