Friday, July 12, 2024

Patna High Court sets aside Trial Court's judgement of 2019 in a 1994 rape case from Muzaffarpur

In Haribabu Vs. State of Bihar, the division bench of Justices Vipul M. Pancholi and Ramesh Chand Malviya, concluded that "the prosecution has failed to prove the case against the appellant/accused beyond reasonable doubt, despite which the Trial Court has recorded the impugned judgment of conviction and order of sentence. As such, the same are required to be quashed and set aside." 

It all began on October 4, 1994, the victim was sleeping on a mat spread on the ground in a hut facing north when Hari Babu, son of Bujhu Lal, came with a pistol in his hand and put it on her neck and asked her to keep quiet, otherwise she would be killed. Thereafter, he gagged her mouth with his hand and after removing her saree and saya, forcefully inserted his penis into her private part. She kept moving her hands and legs. Meanwhile, semen got discharged from his penis, which fell on her private part, thigh and the cloth. After this, she raised alarm and on her alarm, her mother Surji Devi asked as to what happened. She started making a noise that Hari Babu is running away after abusing her. Many people of the village like Anat Paswan, Janak Paswan, Yogendra Paswan, Dukha Paswan etc. also saw him running away after the incident. After filing of the F.I.R., the investigating agency carried out the investigation and, during the course of investigation, the Investigating Officer recorded the statement of the witnesses and collected the relevant documents and thereafter filed the charge-sheet against the accused. As the case was exclusively triable by the Special Court (SC/ST) Act, the case was committed to the Court of Special Judge (SC/ST) Act where it was registered as Trial No. 206 of 2015.

Yogesh Chandra Verma, the appellant's the senior counsel submitted that the case of the prosecution rests on the deposition given by the victim, P.W.1. However, there are major contradictions in the deposition given by her and other witnesses and, therefore, the version given by the victim is not required to be believed. It is also contended that P.W.3, who is the mother of the victim, has stated in her examination-in-chief that she has seen the accused fleeing away from the house in the light of the earthen lamp. She has further deposed that the victim did not inform her anything. Thereafter, on the next day, she went to the police station along with her daughter. There is a delay of two 24 hours in lodging the F.I.R. wherein the present appellant has been falsely implicated. It is submitted that though the victim had identified the accused appellant and other family members and more than 40 persons had gathered immediately at the place after the occurrence and had seen the accused fleeing away from the place of incident. It is apparent that the respondent, the victim was not represented by her own counsel. The version of Manjha Devi, the victim, P.W.1 was submitted by Sadanand Paswan, the Spl. P.P.

The Court observed that "when a conviction can be based on the sole testimony of the prosecutrix, the Courts also have to be extremely careful while examining this sole testimony. If the evidence of the victim inspires confidence, it must be relied upon without seeking corroboration of the aforesaid statement in material particulars. It can further be said that if the version given by the prosecutrix is unsupported by any medical evidence or the whole surrounding circumstances are highly improbable and belie the case set up by the prosecutrix, the Court shall not act on the solitary evidence of the prosecutrix."

It further noted that "if the deposition given by the prosecutrix is carefully examined, we are of the view that the version given by the victim raises doubt and does not inspire confidence. We have already discussed that even medical evidence does not support the version given by the victim. There is a delay of 24 hours in lodging the F.I.R., for which no explanation was given by the prosecution. Thus, we are of the view that simply relying upon the deposition given by the prosecutrix, in the facts and circumstances of the present case, the appellant cannot be convicted or awarded sentence."

Notably, the incident took place in the year 1994. As per the provision prevalent at the relevant point of time with regard to Section-376 of I.P.C., the minimum sentence prescribed for the said offence was 7 years. In the present case, the Trial Court, relying upon the said provision, sentenced the appellant imprisonment for 7 years. However, Section- 3(2)(v) of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 provides that where the punishment prescribed for the offence under I.P.C. is 10 years or more years then life imprisonment can be awarded. The Court observed that "In the present case, sentence provided in I.P.C. under Section-376 at the relevant point of time was 7 years and, therefore also, the Trial Court has committed grave error while imposing sentence of life imprisonment under Section- 3(2)(v) of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989."

The judgement reads: "the impugned judgment of conviction dated 06.02.2019 and order of dated 13.02.2019 passed by learned 11th A.D.J.-cum-Spl. Judge (SC/ST) Act, Muzaffarpur in connection with Trial No.206/2015, G.R. No.1096/1994, arising out of Sahebganj P.S. Case No. 91 of 1994 dated 05.10.1994 are quashed and set aside and the appellant is acquitted of the charges levelled against him by the learned Trial Court. Since the appellant, namely, Haribabu @Hari Babu Prasad is in jail, he is directed to be released from jail custody forthwith, if his presence is not required in any other case." It was authored by Justice Vipul M. Pancholi. 

At para 16 of the judgement, the caste of Manjha Devi, the victim, P.W.1 is recorded. It reads: "She is a Dusadh by case which is called Harijan", unmindful of Supreme Court's instructions.

In its order dated January 10, 2024, Supreme Court has passed an order in Shama Sharma Vs. Kishan Kumar (Transfer Petition (C) No.1957 of 2023) observing that the caste of the parties need not be mentioned in the memo of parties. Its direction reads as as under:
“10. Before parting with this matter, we have noted with surprise that the caste of both the parties has been mentioned in the memo of parties, besides their other details. Learned counsel for the petitioner submits that if the memo of parties as filed before the courts below is changed in any manner, the Registry raises an objection and in the present case as the caste of both the parties was mentioned before the court below, he had no option but to mention their caste in the Transfer Petition.
11. We see no reason for mentioning the caste/religion of any litigant either before this Court or the courts below. Such a practice is to be shunned and must be ceased forthwith. It is therefore deemed appropriate to pass a general order directing that henceforth the caste or religion of parties shall not be mentioned in the memo of parties of a petition/proceeding filed before this Court, irrespective of whether any such details have been furnished before the courts below. A direction is also issued to all the High Courts to ensure that the caste/religion of a litigant does not appear in the memo of parties in any petition/suit/proceeding filed before the High Court or the Subordinate Courts under their respective jurisdictions.
12. The above directions shall be brought to the notice of the members of the Bar as well as the Registry for immediate compliance. A copy of this order shall be placed before the Registrar concerned for perusal and for circulation to the Registrar Generals of all the High Courts for strict compliance.” Supreme Court of India has issued a circular dated February 7, 2024 (F.No. 3/Judl./2024) in this regard. 

Supreme Court grants interim bail to a murder accused, against Patna High Court's grant of conditional bail

Supreme Court's bench of Justices Abhay S Oka and Augustine George Masih granted interim bail on July 12, 2024 after hearing an appeal against a Patna High Court's order dated April 19, 2024 granting conditional bail in Jitendra Paswan Vs State of Bihar (2024). The order of Justice Dr. Anshuman of the High Court stated that the murder accused be released on bail after six months. The appeal against the High Court's order was filed on June 26, 2024 and registered on July 5, 2024. It was verified on July 6, 2024. 

The High Court's order reads: "let the petitioner Jitendra Paswan in Criminal Miscellaneous No. 7478 of 2024 be released on bail, but after six month from today, on furnishing bail bonds of Rs.30,000/- (Rupees Thirty thousand) with two sureties of the like amount each to the satisfaction of ACJM-XIV, Gopalganj in connection with Vijaipur P.S. Case No. 265 of 2021, subject to the conditions as laid down under Section 437(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure with other following conditions:
(i) One of the bailors should be the family member of the petitioners who shall provide an official document to show his bona fide;
(ii) the petitioners shall appear on each and every date before the Trial Court and failure to do so for two consecutive dates without plausible reason will entail cancellation of his bail bonds by the Trial Court itself;
(iii) the petitioners shall appear before the concerned police station every month for one year to mark attendance;
(iv) the petitioners shall in no way try to induce or promise or threaten the witnesses or tamper with the evidence, failing which the State shall be at liberty to take steps for cancellation of the bail bonds; and
(v) the petitioners shall desist from committing any criminal offence again, failing which the State shall be at liberty to take steps for cancellation of the bail bonds." 

The High Court has recorded the submission of the Jitendra Paswan wherein he has submitted that he is innocent and has committed no offence. As per the FIR, he is only an order giver and there is no specific allegation against him. Moreover, the accusation has been levelled in the background of the land dispute. The petitioner is in custody since 26.09.2023 and is accused in 11 more criminal cases, but in all the cases, he has been granted bail

While granting the interim bail, the Supreme Court observed: "This is extremely strange. Some courts are granting bail for 6 months or 1 year and this is new trend now. It is like that I am granting you bail but I will release you after 6 months.". The next date of hearing is September 2, the State is supposed to file its reply before that.


Wednesday, July 10, 2024

NGT constitutes 4-member Committee for inspection of 2620 hectares wide Kabartal Wetland, Begusarai

On July 8, 2024, Eastern Zone Bench, National Green Tribunal (NGT) constituted a 4-member Committee comprising of the Senior Scientist, Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB),  Senior Officer, Bihar State Wetland Authority, Divisional Forest Officer, Begusarai, and District Magistrate, Begusarai, or his representative not below the rank of Additional District Magistrate.  The Committee has been tasked to inspect the site of Kabartal Wetland about 21 Km from the Begusarai town. This Wetland is claimed to be the largest Oxbow Lake in India and in Asia and is the first Ramsar Site of Bihar. 

This Ramsar Site spans 2620 hectares of open water and marshes intersperses with plantation and as per the 2019 post monsoon report nearly 82% of the site was a marsh (of which 25% cultivated) and 16% is open water and the rest is plantation or borrow land.

Subhas Datta, the Applicant has sought a direction for taking steps for proper upkeep and preservation of Oxbow Wetland named as ‘Kabartal’ in Bihar as well as the green cover of the Bird Sanctuary and the Water Catchment Zone for Begusarai District of Bihar. 

The site was notified as Bird Sanctuary by the Government of Bihar vide Notification dated June 20, 1989. The Wetland is stated to contain a cluster of 16-17 water bodies in total and is a catchment area for rainwater but the same has been encroached over a period of time and its area has been allowed to be reduced. The Committee has been asked to submit its report within four weeks on affidavit.

The District Magistrate, Begusarai has been made the Nodal Office for all logistic purposes and for filing the Report of the Committee on affidavit. The order has impleaded the District Magistrate, Begusarai, and the Divisional Forest Officer, Begusarai in the present Original Application. The matter is listed for hearing on July 21, 2024. The order was passed by B. Amit Sthalekar, Judicial Member, NGT  and Dr. Arun Kumar Verma, Expert Member, NGT.

Monday, July 1, 2024

19 Chapters and 358 Sections of Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) replaces 23 chapters and 511 Sections of Indian Penal Code

On 11 August 2023, Minister of Home Affairs, introduced the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) Bill, 2023 in the Lok Sabha. It was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs on August 24, 2023, which suggested revisions and recommendations. The report of the parliamentary committee was prepared after 12 meetings amidst criticism from the opposition. The report had three dissenting notes. The 405 page long report was presented to the Parliament on December 4, 2023. The report contains Note of Dissent from pages 55-199 (64-208). 

In his note on dissent, Digvijay Singh, Member of the Parliamentary Committee on Home Affairs pointed out that BNS Bill, "Enhances the Union Government's policing powers without any checks and balances - The changes that have been made to the existing laws also enhance the coercive powers of State and its instrumentalities which allow for the exercise of its powers at a hitherto unknown scale at which these powers can be exercised by the State. For example, the laws in general have expanded the scope of police's power without introducing measures to keep its activities in check. From the data of the Government, provided as a response to Unstarred Question No. 1459 for 26.07.2022 raised in parliament, one can see that 4484 persons were victims of Custodial Deaths in India between 2020-2022 . While the Bill seeks to enhance the time for which a person can be kept in police custody, there exists no protective measures to provide safety to the accused persons under police custody which is bound to adversely affect the safety of detainees."

In his note on dissent, N. R. Elango, Member of the Parliamentary Committee on Home Affairs wrote: "The necessity of repealing The Indian Penal Code, 1860 is not made clear." He wrote: In "the statement of objects and reasons of the bill at paragraph 4, it is stated that the Indian Penal Code, 1860 is being repealed to streamline provisions relating to offences and penalties and to deal effectively with the offences of organized crime and terrorist activities. It is also stated that the fines and punishments for various offences have been suitably enhanced. It is also stated at para 5 that the “notes on clauses explain the various provisions of the bill”. But none of the notes on clauses is explaining anything, but they are mere repetition of the clauses. It is not made clear why punishment of several sections was increased, the reasons behind such increased punishment and the rational of it are not explained in the notes on clauses. It seems randomly punishments are increased for few offences without assigning any reason. But for rearranging the sections, enhancing punishments without reasons and omitting sections 124A, 377 and 497 IPC, no new definition, explanation is given in the new bill. Such an exercise of merely rearranging the section will lead to lot of confusion to understand what is the new section for the offences vis-a-vis Indian Penal Code, 1860. This will take at least 5 – 10 years for the lawyers and the judges to correlate them. The difficulties of the investigating agency will be much more and we cannot expect every constable to carry a comparative chart of Indian Penal Code and The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita. Hence, I suggest that the arrangement of sections should be maintained as in IPC,1860 and the amendments can be brought to the
sections wherever it is required, instead of repealing the entire Indian Penal Code, 1860 and enacting The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023."

He further wrote: "I find no new clause that imbibe Indian thought process and the Indian soul. This bill is also not having any citizen centric approach. I am of the view that there is no provision introduced, no new definition of the offences is given except adding or deleting some words in the existing provisions, adding new offences, which are already punishable under special enactments, enhancing the punishment of few offences without any rationale. This bill achieves nothing."

He asserted: "I state that in most of the definition clauses the word ‘denotes’ is sought to be amended as ‘means’. The word ‘denotes’ is having wider meaning than that of ‘means’. Lot of confusion will prevail if the word ‘denotes’ is replaced with ‘means’. In a penal statute while defining the words it is always better to have a wider meaning than that of a narrower meaning. Hence, in all those definitions where the word ‘denotes’ is replaced with ‘means’, the word ‘denotes’ shall be retained."

Elango referred to the Judgement of the Supreme Court in Mithu Vs. State of Punjab to the effect that there is no intelligible differentia in sentencing a person only with death sentence under section 303 of IPC. The BNS attempts an alternate sentence to the death is provided, namely imprisonment for life which means imprisonment for the remainder of the person’s life. This will fall foul of the judgement in Mithu vs State of Punjab. He opined that this clause should be omitted.

He wrote that certain offences defined under BNS are already defined and punishable under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967. UAPA, 1967 is a Special Enactment, it is having a special procedure with regard to investigation, bail etc. If the same provisions are incorporated in the BNS, it will cause lot of confusion in the matter of registration of a case, investigation, inquiry and trial of a particular offence. I apprehend that the offenders who fall under both the enactments will attempt to escape the rigor of UAPA, 1967. There is an overlapping between UAPA and BNS and such overlapping will cause confusions. How a Police officer, though he is a senior officer can decide under which enactment a person is to be prosecuted. This is to be decided by the court.

In his note on dissent, Derek. O' Brien, Member of the Parliamentary Committee on Home Affairs wrote: "The fact that approximately 93% of the existing Criminal Law remains unaltered, 18 out of 22 chapters have been copy pasted in these new bills implies that the pre-existing legislation could have been effortlessly modified to incorporate these specific changes. It appears that there was no requirement for an entirely new legislative framework, mostly for the purpose of renumbering and reorganizing the existing legal provisions....Suspicion is generated whether the effort is in vain and malafide." 

He pointed out that "In 2020, the Ministry of Home Affairs established a committee led by Prof. Ranbir Singh, the former Vice Chancellor of the National Law University, Delhi, to undertake a comprehensive review of the three codes of criminal law. However, it is essential to note that this committee was marked by a striking lack of diversity. All its members were male, and what's more, they shared not only a common gender but also a similar social identity, professional background, and experience. Regrettably, the committee lacked representation from various marginalized groups, including women, Dalits, religious minorities, adivasis, LGBTQ individuals, and those with disabilities. The absence of such diverse perspectives is a significant concern, particularly when addressing matters of such magnitude and societal impact. In a country as diverse as India, where a wide range of perspectives, interests, and concerns need to be addressed, diverse and extensive stakeholder consultation is essential to ensure that laws are fair, effective, and capable of addressing the complex and multifaceted challenges facing the nation. It not only enhances the quality of legislation but also promotes a more inclusive and accountable democratic process....Lakhs of stakeholders including judges, lawyers, students, paralegals, will have to relearn the laws. Relearning new laws can disrupt established legal practices and procedures, potentially causing confusion and delays in the legal system. Significant resources may be required to update educational materials, provide training, and ensure stakeholders are adequately prepared to work with the new laws. Relearning new laws can be a complex and resource-intensive process that has a significant impact on the legal community, potentially affecting the delivery of legal services and the consistency of legal decisions.
In any case, the government has only sought inputs after the introduction of this bill. By seeking input before introducing a bill, the government can involve a broader range of perspectives, including those of experts, affected communities, and the general public. This would have ensured that diverse voices are considered in the lawmaking process, promoting inclusivity and democratic values." 

With regard to the provision in the BNS on the "Commutation of a sentence", he wrote: "The clause gives the executive the powers to commute an offender’s sentence punishment for any other punishment. Allowing the executive to commute sentences can blur the separation of powers in a government. It gives the executive branch, which is responsible for enforcing the law, a role in altering or mitigating the legal punishments determined by the judiciary. This could potentially lead to an imbalance of power and an infringement on the judiciary's independence. Executive decisions might be swayed by electoral or popularity concerns rather than solely focusing on justice and the merits of individual cases. Commutations can be seen as undermining the authority and decisions of the judiciary. It may give the impression that the executive branch can override or second-guess the judiciary's determinations, eroding trust in the legal system."

With regard to the provision in the BNS on the "Solitary Confinement", he wrote:"This clause should be reconsidered as solitary confinement is inhumane. Research has shown that solitary confinement is not an effective tool for deterrence or rehabilitation. It does not reduce recidivism or promote positive behaviour change; instead, it can increase aggression and antisocial behaviour. It has been shown to have serious detrimental effects on individuals' mental and physical well-being, and it raises ethical and human rights concerns. The characterization of solitary confinement as a brutal type of incarceration by the Supreme Court of India in the case of Kishore Singh Ravinder Dev v. State of Rajasthan highlights the court's recognition of the severe and adverse effects of solitary confinement on individuals."

With regard to the provision in the BNS on the "Promise to Marry", he wrote:"Relationships and decisions about marriage are deeply personal matters that should be left to the individuals involved, subject to only some basic safeguards that may be consensually instituted by the society Criminalizing a Promise to Marry can be seen as an undue intrusion into individuals' Right to Privacy and autonomy. Determining whether a promise to marry has been made can be subjective and challenging to prove. Intentions can change over time, and proving that a promise was genuinely made with the intention to marry can be difficult. Defining what constitutes a legally binding Promise to Marry can be vague and open to interpretation. This lack of clarity can lead to inconsistencies in enforcement and judgments. Criminalizing a Promise to Marry can be viewed as an unwarranted intrusion into the fundamental Right to Privacy and personal autonomy, which are cherished principles in a democratic society. In this context, a more nuanced and rights-based approach to addressing matters related to promises to marry would be both pragmatic and respectful of individual freedoms and choices."

With regard to the provision in the BNS on "Kidnapping and begging", he wrote: "The clause should exclude the exception of lawful guardian of such child. Even guardians who wrongfully push children into begging should be rigorously punished. Excluding the exception of lawful guardians in a clause punishing those who wrongfully push children into begging is essential to safeguard the rights and well-being of vulnerable children. It sends a strong message that all individuals, regardless of their legal relationship with the child, will be held accountable for such harmful actions, acting as a powerful deterrent against child exploitation. This approach prioritizes the child's best interests, prevents potential legal loopholes, and aligns with international human rights standards, fostering a child-centered and protective legal framework that leaves no room for evading responsibility in cases of child exploitation."

With reference to the provision in the BNS on "Sedition law", he wrote: "I would like to include a passage from the report. 'The Committee compliments the Government in deleting the term ‘sedition’ from criminal law by rephrasing it without compromising the security of the state. The Committee finds it as a very progressive development.' The Report acknowledges the fact that the Sedition law has just been paraphrased and retained. The 22nd Law Commission suggested that sedition should be well defined. The Union government decided to do the opposite of that. The provision in the new bill gives it such a broad definition that it can encompass any act in the name of endangering the unity and integrity of India. It leaves a lot of room for discretion which is the opposite of what was advised by the law commission. Clause 150 talks about Acts endangering sovereignty, unity and integrity of India. Sedition gets a sinister backfoot entry in the proposed legal regime. This broad definition could potentially infringe on individuals' rights to free expression and peaceful dissent. The broad and vaguely worded sedition provisions can create a chilling effect on free speech and peaceful protest. Individuals may self-censor their opinions and criticisms, fearing legal consequences, which can undermine democratic values and civil liberties. Our concerns are rooted in the potential for misuse and abuse of the redefined sedition law. Such broad and discretionary provisions can be employed to stifle legitimate dissent and criticism, limiting freedom of expression and potentially infringing on individuals' rights."

Derek wrote with regard to "definition of life sentence". He wrote: The current definition of "imprisonment for life" within the BNS is not explicitly clear. It appears to be using the term "imprisonment for the remainder of a person's natural life." However, in the Indian Penal Code (IPC), Section 53, the term "imprisonment for life" is used without specifying whether it means "imprisonment for the remainder of a person's natural life" or if it is equivalent to a "whole life sentence." There needs to be clarity about whether the convicts are expected to remain in prison for the entirety of their natural life or are eligible for release. The proposed definition of "imprisonment for life" in the BNS is not explicitly
clear, and it differs from how "imprisonment for life" is generally understood in the context of the Indian Penal Code. To avoid confusion and ensure legal clarity, the definition in the BNS be aligned with the understanding that "imprisonment for life" means a "whole life sentence" unless otherwise specified. This would help in harmonizing the definitions and interpretations across different legal contexts in India. 

With regard to "Offences Relating to Elections", he wrote: "One of the general patterns in contemporary India’s criminal law is that offences that are particularly difficult to regulate and especially elaborate in
their organisation internally while having a large-scale impact on society are addressed by ‘special statutes’. These special statutes while being harsh in punishment are rigorous in the procedural safeguards, they offer the accused. The emphasis being that there are checks and balances present in the quest of
the state to prosecute and the efforts of the accused to defend herself. Any detraction from the procedural protections that general criminal law offers, will have checks in place in these special statutes. Offences related to elections should be on Representation of People Act. Similarly with UAPA, the special legislation should remain and amended if need be. But it should not be subsumed in the IPC."

With regard to clause on "Defamation", he wrote: There should be a limitation on filing cases for defamation. Imposing a time limitation on defamation claims helps protect the fundamental principle of
free speech. Without such limitations, individuals or organizations could potentially bring defamation claims many years after an alleged defamatory statement was made. This could have a chilling effect on free expression and public discourse, as people may become reluctant to express their opinions or
engage in critical discussions for fear of facing legal action at any time in the future."

With regard to clause on "Conveying person by water for hire in unsafe or overloaded vessel", he wrote: Looking at the gravity of the offence, punishment should be increased that from 6 months to 3 years." 

With regard to clauses on "Fouling water of public spring or reservoir" and "Sale of adulterated drugs", he wrote: "Looking at the gravity of the offence, punishment should be increased." In medical negligence cases, the standard of care expected of healthcare professionals is crucial. Punishment should be based on whether the healthcare provider's actions or decisions deviated from the accepted standard of care within the medical community. Not all adverse outcomes in medicine are the result of negligence. Hence the punishment should be reduced from 7 years to 5 years. With regard to clause on "Refusing to sign statement", he wrote: Requiring individuals to sign statements under the threat of imprisonment or fines can be seen as coercive and may result in individuals signing statements against their will. This can undermine the voluntariness of the statement and potentially lead to false or coerced confessions. Hence this provision should be reconsidered."

On 12 December 2023, the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, 2023 was withdrawn.

On 12 December 2023, the Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita Bill, 2023 was introduced in Lok Sabha without complying with the Pre-Legislative Consultation Policy, 2014 which required justification for its enactment, financial implications and the estimation of the laws’ impact. On 20 December 2023, the Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita Bill, 2023 was passed by the Lok Sabha. On 21 December 2023, the Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita bill, 2023 was passed by the Rajya Sabha. On 25 December 2023, the Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita Bill, 2023 received the assent of the President of India. BNS and the the two other criminal laws were passed in the winter session of the Parliament in 2023 in the face of opposition’s bitter protest over the suspension of 146 legislators from both Houses. This 102 page long law is to come into force from July 1, 2024.

People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), several state governments and lawyers organisations including State Bar Councils have sought postponement of the implementation of the BNS and two other criminal laws. PUCL pointed out that Clause 104(2) of the BNS violates Article 20(3) of the Indian Constitution which says “no person accused of an offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself”.

Indira Jaising, a noted jurist wrote to the Union minister of law and justice seeking postponement of the implementation of the new criminal laws to factor in inputs from all the stakeholders including the judiciary at all levels and investigation agencies. She drew the attention of the minister towards the pendency of cases drawing on the data from the National Judicial Data Grid, 34,180,141 criminal cases at the district and taluka courts are pending in India. 1,755,946 criminal cases are pending in the high courts. At the Supreme Court 18,049 (less than one year old) cases are pending. The new criminal laws will result 30 percent increase in criminal litigation. It is all set to create two parallel sets of laws since the criminal justice system is a combination of both substantive and procedural laws. 

There are several provisions in these laws which consolidate powers introduced by the colonial powers. For instance, Section 113 (terrorist acts) of the BNS unmindful of the fact that the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967 already deals with it. It is intriguing as to why create a general law provision when UAPA, a special law already exists in this regard.

The BNS retains the marital rape exception. It retains the value laden phrase ‘outraging the modesty of women’ instead of replacing it with the gender-neutral term ‘sexual assault’. It provides inadequate protection to victims of non-consensual intimate imagery. It does not include any provision for offences involving rape of males or of transgender individuals. The provision for offence for acts endangering ‘sovereignty or unity and integrity of India’, is ambiguous, with the potential to curtail freedom of speech or to stifle dissent. It is noteworthy that 20 new offences have been added and 19 provisions in the repealed IPC have been dropped. The punishment of imprisonment has been increased for 33 offences, and fines have been increased for 83 offences. A mandatory minimum punishment has been introduced for 23 offences. A sentence of community service has been introduced for six offences.

In general, like IPC, BNS deals with offences against the body. It has retained the provisions of the IPC on murder, abetment of suicide, assault and causing grievous hurt. It has added new offences such as organised crime, terrorism, and murder or grievous hurt by a group on certain grounds.

Like IPC, it deals with sexual offences against women. It has retained the provisions of the IPC on rape, voyeurism, stalking and insulting the modesty of a woman. It has increased the threshold for the victim to be classified as a major, in the case of gang rape, from 16 to 18 years of age.

Like IPC, it deals with offences against property. It has retained the provisions of the IPC on theft, robbery, burglary and cheating. It has added new offences such as cybercrime and financial fraud. The fact is that it was already incorporated in the IPC through amendment. 

Like IPC, it deals with the offences against the state. The BNS creates an impression about removal of sedition as an offence. The fact is that it was been brought in as a new offence for acts endangering India's sovereignty, unity and integrity. 

Like IPC, it deals with offences against the public.

The BNS has 19 Chapters and 358 Sections. 174 Sections of IPC have been changed, 8 new Sections added and 22 Sections repealed.

Chapter 1 has Sections 1 to 3 which deals with the Preliminary including definitions (2) and General explanations (3).
Chapter 2  has Sections 4 to 13 which deals with Punishments.
Chapter 3  has Sections 14 to 44 which deals with General Exceptions (14-33) and the Right to Private Defence (34 to 44).
Chapter 4
has Sections 45 to 62 which deals with Abetment, Criminal Conspiracy and Attempt.
Chapter 5
has Sections 63 to 99 which deals with Offences against Women and Children including Sexual Offences (63 to 79), Criminal Force and Assault against Women (74 to 79), Offences relating to Marriage (80 to 92) and Causing of Miscarriage and including offences against child (93-99) like Exposure and abandonment of child under twelve years, of age, by parent or person having care of it Concealment of birth by secret disposal of dead body, Hiring, employing or engaging a child to commit an offence, Procuration of child, Kidnapping or abducting child under ten years of age with intent to steal from its person, Selling child for purposes of prostitution, Buying child for purposes of prostitution.
Chapter 6 has Sections 100 to 146 which deals with Offences Affecting the Human Body including Offences Affecting Life (100 to 113), Hurt (114 to 127), Criminal Force and Assault (128 to 136), Kidnapping, Abduction, Slavery and Forced Labour (137 to 146).
Chapter 7 has Sections 147 to 158 which deals with Offences Against the State.
Chapter 8 has Sections 159 to 168 which deals with Offences Relating to the Army, Navy and Air Force
Chapter 9 has Sections 169 to 177 which deals with Offences Relating to Elections
Chapter 10 has Sections 178 to 188 which deals with Offences Relating to Coins, Bank Notes, Currency Notes and Government Stamps
Chapter 11 has Sections 189 to 197 which deals with Offences Against the Public Tranquility
Chapter 12 has Sections 198 to 205 which deals with Offences by Or Relating to Public Servants
Chapter 13
has Sections 206 to 226 which deals with Contempt of Lawful Authority of Public Servants
Chapter 14 has Sections 227 to 269 which deals with False Evidence and Offences against Public Justice.
Chapter 15  has Sections 270 to 297 which deals with Offences affecting the Public Health, Safety, Convince, Decency and Morals
Chapter 16  has Sections 298 to 302 which deals with Offences Relating to Religion
Chapter 17 has Sections 303 to 334  which deals with Offences against Property including Theft (303), Extortion (304), Theft in a dwelling house, or means of transportation or place of worship (305), Theft by clerk or servant of property in possession of master(306), Theft after preparation made for causing death,
hurt or restraint in order to committing of theft (307), Extortion (308), Robbery and Dacoity (309 to 313), Criminal Misappropriation of Property (314 and 315), Criminal Breach of Trust (316), Receiving of Stolen Property (317), Cheating (318 and 319), Fraudulent Deeds and Dispositions of Property (320 to 323), Mischief (324 to 328) and Criminal Trespass (329 to 334).
Chapter 18 has Sections 335 to 350 which deals with Offences Relating to Documents and to Property Marks.
Chapter 19 has Sections 351 to 358 which deals with Criminal Intimidation, Insult, Annoyance, Defamation, etc including Intimidation, Insult and Annoyance (349 to 353), Breach of peace (352) Public Mischief (353) Defamation (356), breach of contract to attend on and supply wants of the helpless person (357) and Repeal and Savings (358).

Section 358 reads: "(1) The Indian Penal Code is hereby repealed. (2) Notwithstanding the repeal of the Code referred to in sub-section (1), it shall not affect,—(a) the previous operation of the Code so repealed or anything duly done or suffered thereunder; or (b) any right, privilege, obligation or liability acquired, accrued or incurred under the Code so repealed; or (c) any penalty, or punishment incurred in respect of any offences committed against the Code so repealed; or (d) any investigation or remedy in respect of any such penalty, or punishment; or (e) any proceeding, investigation or remedy in respect of any such penalty or punishment as aforesaid, and any such proceeding or remedy may be instituted, continued or enforced, and any such penalty may be imposed as if that Code had not been repealed. (3) Notwithstanding such repeal, anything done or any action taken under the said Code shall be deemed to have been done or taken under the corresponding provisions of this Sanhita. (4) The mention of particular matters in sub-section (2) shall not be held to prejudice or affect the general application of section 6 of the General Clauses Act, 1897 with regard to the effect of the repeal."

The Indian Penal Code (IPC) has 23 chapters and 511 sections. The 119 page long IPC came into operation on 1 January 1, 1862. It stated that "it is expedient to provide a General Penal Code for British India. It is enacted as follows :—1. This Act shall be called The Indian Penal Code, and shall take effect on Ist day of [January 1862] throughout the whole of the Territories which are or may become vested in her Majesty by the Statute 21 and 22 Victoria, chapter 106, entitled "An Act for the better Government of

India"* except the Settlement of Prince of Wales Island, Singapore and Malacca. Every person shall be liable to punishment under this Code and not otherwise foe every act or omission contrary to the provisions thereof, of which he shall be guilty within the said Territories on or after the said 1st day of [Jan, 1862]."

It also stated that  "within and throughout'' British India, the Penal Code is applicable to all persons thus made subject to tills authority of the Goveror-General of India in Council. Whether such persons are the subjects of Her Majesty or the subjects of a foreign stale, they all owe obedience to the law. A foreigner who enters the British territories and thus accepts the protection of our laws, virtually gives an assurance of his fidelity and obedience to them and submits himself to their operation. All existing penal laws whatsoever, except such as are referred to in the last section of this chapter, are superseded by the Code to this extent, that persons liable to punishment under any of the provisions of the Code cannot be punished by any other law. The words ''and not otherwise'* seem virtually to repeal all former laws for the punishment of any offence which is made punishable by this law. But if there are acts or omissions made penal by any existing law, and no provision of this Code is found to reach them, that law will continue at present in force. Offences committed prior to the 1st of January, 1862, will not come under the Code, at whatever time the offender may be arrested or tried. Any person liable, by any law passed by the Governor General of India in Council, to be tried for an offence committed beyond the limits of the said Territories, shall be dealt with according to the provisions of this Code for any act committed beyond the said Territories, in the same manner as if such act had been committed within the said Territories.

Chapter I has Sections 1 to 5 which provides Introduction including definitions
Chapter II has Sections 6 to 52 which deals with  General Explanations
Chapter III has Sections 53 to 75 which deals with Punishments
Chapter IV has Sections 76 to 106 which deals with General Exceptions and of the Right of Private Defence (Sections 96 to 106)
Chapter V has Sections 107 to 120  which deals with Abetment
Chapter VA has Sections 120A to 120B which deals with Criminal Conspiracy
Chapter VI  has Sections 121 to 130 which deals with Offences against the State
Chapter VII has Sections 131 to 140  which deals with Offences relating to the Army, Navy and Air Force
Chapter VIII  has Sections 141 to 160 which deals with Offences against the Public Tranquillity
Chapter IX has Sections 161 to 171 which deals with Offences by or relating to Public Servants
Chapter IXA has Sections 171A to 171 which deals with Offences Relating to Elections
Chapter X has Sections 172 to 190 which deals with Contempts of Lawful Authority of Public Servants
Chapter XI has Sections 191 to 229 which deals with False Evidence and Offences against Public Justice
Chapter XII has Sections 230 to 263 which deals with Offences relating to coin and Government Stamps
Chapter XIII has Sections 264 to 267 which deals with Offences relating to Weight and Measures
Chapter XIV has Sections 268 to 294 which deals with Offences affecting the Public Health, Safety, Convenience, Decency and Morals.
Chapter XV has Sections 295 to 298 which deals with Offences relating to Religion
Chapter XVI has Sections 299 to 377 which deals with Offences affecting the Human Body including Offences Affecting Life including murder, culpable homicide (Sections 299 to 311), Causing of Miscarriage, of Injuries to Unborn Children, of the Exposure of Infants, and of the Concealment of Births (Sections 312 to 318), Hurt (Sections 319 to 338), Wrongful Restraint and Wrongful Confinement (Sections 339 to 348), Criminal Force and Assault (Sections 349 to 358), Kidnapping, Abduction, Slavery and Forced Labour (Sections 359 to 374) and Sexual Offences including rape and Sodomy (Sections 375 to 377)
Chapter XVII has Sections 378 to 462 which deals with Offences Against Property including Theft (Sections 378 to 382), Extortion (Sections 383 to 389), Robbery and Dacoity (Sections 390 to 402),  Criminal Misappropriation of Property (Sections 403 to 404), Criminal Breach of Trust (Sections 405 to 409), Receiving of Stolen Property (Sections 410 to 414), Cheating (Section 415 to 420), Fraudulent Deeds and Disposition of Property (Sections 421 to 424), Mischief (Sections 425 to 440) and Criminal Trespass (Sections 441 to 462)
Chapter XVIII has Section 463 to 489 -E which deals with Offences relating to Documents and Property Marks including Offences relating to Documents (Section 463 to 477-A), Offences relating to Property and Other Marks (Sections 478 to 489) and Offences relating to Currency Notes and Bank Notes (Sections 489A to 489E)
Chapter XIX has Sections 490 to 492 which deals with Criminal Breach of Contracts of Service
Chapter XX has Sections 493 to 498 which deals with Offences related to marriage
Chapter XXA has Sections 498A which deals with Cruelty by Husband or Relatives of Husband
Chapter XXI has Sections 499 to 502 which deals with Defamation
Chapter XXII has Sections 503 to 510 which deals with Criminal intimidation, Insult and Annoyance
Chapter XXIII  has Section 511 which deals with Attempts to Commit Offences 


Sunday, June 30, 2024

Persons of criminal background inducted as members of Ad hoc committee under Chairman, Bihar State Board of Religious Trust, Petitioner asked to to approach District Judge for relief

Ram Janki Siya Bihari Kunj Thakurbari, Patna Vs. Bihar State Board of Religious Trusts (2024), Justice Rajesh Kumar Verma of Patna High Court directed the petitioner to avail the remedy prescribed under Section 32(3) Bihar Hindu Religious Trust Act, 1950. If he files an application before the District Judge, then the District Judge shall pass an appropriate order after considering all the aspects in accordance with law. If any injunction application is filed by the petitioner, then it shall be decided in accordance with law expeditiously. The judgement was passed on June 19, 2024.

The present writ petition was filed for the issuance of an appropriate direction to the respondents for quashing Memo No. 2081 dated September 5, 2023 whereby Chairman, Bihar State Board of Religious Trust constituted an Ad hoc committee in exercise of power given under Section 32 of Bihar State Board of Religious Trusts Act and selected 11 persons in the committee to look after affairs of Shri Ram Janki Siya Bihari Kunj Thakurbari in complete violation of Guru-Shishya Parampara under which the Thakurbari is run by Mahanh. It sought issuance of a appropriate direction to 14 respondents to annul the constitution of Ad hoc committee vide Notification dated September 3, 2023 wherein even persons having criminal background have been inducted as members in the Ad hoc committee which is in violation of statutory provisions of Bihar State Board of Religious Trust Act, and for which the petitioner mahanth has filed written complaint before authorities on January 10, 2023 where after complaint was filed with regard to mismanagement of Thakurbari. It also sought issuance of direction to the Chairman to not interfere in the functioning of Shri Ram Janki Siya Bihari Kunj Thakurbari which is run by Mahanth on the basis of Guru-Shishya Parampra and it does not require any interference by the Board.

The counsel for the petitioner submitted that the committee was constituted by the Board without considering the application of the petitioner which suggests that the some of the members of the present committee have criminal background and without considering the same the Board constituted an ad hoc committee. 

The counsel appearing on behalf of the Bihar State Board of Religious Trust submitted that the Board had constituted the ad hoc committee in accordance with law after considering all the aspects including the application of the petitioner. He also submitted that the petitioner is also a part and parcel of the committee. Apart from that, if the petitioner has any grievance against the committee then he may approach under Section 32(3) of the Bihar Hindu Religious Trust Act, 1950 before the District Judge.


e-Initiatives of Patna High Court: Supreme Court's archives

e-Initiatives of the High Court

Video Conference Hearings

  • Hearing of cases by way of Studio Based Video Conference was started on March 19, 2020, making Patna High Court the first High Court to do so.
  • On April 11, 2020, a Special Help Line Service was started on for technical assistance to lawyers in joining court proceedings through Video Conference.
  • From May 12, 2020 onwards, all the Courts of Patna High Court started virtual hearing of cases making Patna High Court the first High Court of India to do so.
  • Since March 24, 2020 till 18.04.2022, 1,66,278 cases were instituted, 2,48,482 cases have been heard and 1,21,513 cases have been disposed of in High Court. The data has also been reflected on the official website of Patna High Court. Similarly, District Courts of Bihar have heard 9,29,293 Remand Cases and 8,27,117 Regular Cases during the pandemic period mostly through Virtual mode.
  • “Microsoft Teams” Video Conferencing Software has been provided to all the Judicial Officers of the Bihar for e-hearing of proceedings through Video Conferencing in view of Covid-19 Pandemic situation.
  • “Microsoft Teams” and “Cisco Web-ex” Software have been provided to all the Judges of this High Court for e-hearing of proceedings through Video Conferencing in view of Covid-19 Pandemic situation.
  • On October 8, 2020 “Studio Based e-Courts” were made functional in Patna High Court. The facility extended to District Courts as well, with two “Studio Based e-Courts” in each District and one in each Sub-Division of the State of Bihar to facilitate the Virtual Court proceedings and narrow down the Digital Divide.

eFiling

  • E-Filing of cases started for the first time in Patna High Court on May 29, 2020. E-filing of 1,69,108 cases have been done on fling portal of Patna High Court including Test and Live Server. The total number of Ld. advocates registered on filing portal is 3510.
  • Temporary AOR numbers were provided to facilitate e-filing of cases by non-AOR’s whereby, 1,458 Advocates registered themselves.

Digitization

  • About 22,000 files containing more than 17 Lakh pages of pending cases have been digitized to facilitate Virtual Court hearings during the Pandemic period. Also 1,66,278 Cases have been efiled upto 18-04-2022 which are available in digitized form. The digitised files of pending cases are uploaded on the special portal available on the website and each Court and Court Master attached with the Court has been provided credentials to access such documents online. The Technical Assistants attached with the Court Masters have been trained to prepare a master e-Document to facilitate the functioning of the eCourts.

E-Lok Adalat

  • On 12th December 2020 – E-Lok Adalat organized in the District Courts of Bihar in which 40655 Pre-Litigation Cases and 4605 pending cases disposed.
  • On 10th July 2021 – 31,091 Pre-Litigation Cases and 8,593 pending cases of District Courts disposed in e-National Lok Adalat.

Live-streaming

  • Live streaming of the Court Proceedings has started on10/12/2021 without spending a single penny utilising the Hardware and expertise of Technical Team under the guidance of Hon’ble the Chief Justice. The Court Proceedings of 4 Courts, including three Division Benches have been live streamed on daily basis on YouTube channel of Patna High Court.

Integrated Criminal Justice System (ICJS)

  • In June, 2020, ICJS (Integrated Criminal Justice System) has been implemented in all Districts and we have consumed FIRs and Charge Sheet data in CIS application of all 894 Police Stations. All 59 prisons and 3 FSLs are also integrated with ICJS.

Juvenile Justice Webinar

  • On 11th July, 2020, a National level e-Webinar has been organised by the Juvenile Justice Secretariat, Patna High Court which covered important topics related with subject.
  • Several Online sensitisation programme have been organised thereafter by the Juvenile Justice Secretariat, Patna High Court for the stakeholders of POCSO and Children Court.

National Judicial Data Grid

  • 11,86,118 Judgements and Orders of Court uploaded on the National Judicial Data Grid site (NJDG) and the same are also available on https://judgments.ecourts.gov.in/pdfsearch/index.php.
  • Delay reason in pending cases (more than 2 year) has been completed about 94% on the NJDG site and a mechanism for monitoring on regular basis has also been initiated by involving the Nodal Officers in each District.
  • On 01-12-2021, on the basis of initiative taken by Chief Justice, a Live online demonstration of NJDG has been done by Ashish J Shiradhonkar, HOD(eCourts), NIC Pune, where all Judges of this Court and more than 1360 members of District Judiciary participated. This has spread the working knowledge regarding the functionality of NJDG.

e-Payment

  • On June 2, 2021, ePayment facility for online Courts Fee payment has been enabled for High Court and the District Courts with successful integration with OGRAS. 3772 e-transactions have already taken place amounting to Rupees 5,97,931/- as on 18.04.2022.

NSTEP

  • On August, 2020, the facility of NSTEP has been enabled in District Courts to enable real time tracking of service of notices and summons by Courts. 340 Smart phones for Process Servers/Bailiffs have been procured and total 77,138 NSTEP Summons have been Consumed and 41,007 have been delivered in various Judgeships of Bihar.

Website

  • Websites of Juvenile Justice Secretariat (JJS), Bihar Judicial Academy (BJA), High Court Legal Services Committee, Patna (HCLSC) and Bihar State Legal Services Authority (BSLSA) have been developed and hosted on their respective Urls. The special tabs are also available on the website to access the same.
  • Website of Patna High Court made transparent and user friendly by providing special links accessible to all, for –
      • Judicial orders passed during pandemic
      • Status of Criminal Stamp Reporting and Civil Stamp Reporting.
      • Status regarding Covid 19 testing in High Court.
      • Status of Mentioning Slips filed.
      • Status of total e-filing, hearing and disposal.

Other e-Initiatives

  • Online Token Generation for filing of cases was started on November 27, 2019.
  • On August 1, 2020- SECLAN 2.0 was made operational, which provides 2.04 GBPS internet speed to the users in the Patna High Court premises along with Wi-Fi facility.
  • Facility of Online e-Pass Generation has also been initiated for the entry of the Ld. Advocates, Litigants and Staff in order to follow the Covid-19 Guidelines. The same has been synchronised with the Cause List Data so that necessary stakeholders can generate the e-Passes.
  • Web Based VC: MPLS connectivity with Broadband facility has been provided by BSNL as primary connection and by Airtel as secondary connection. MPLS connectivity with speed of 8 MBPS to 34 MBPS has been provided to the each court of the Districts and Taluka to improve the Digital infrastructure.
  • During the pandemic period the Administrative meetings of various Committees of High Court Patna has been conducted through online mode. The Registrars have also been provided with Cisco Webex Licenses. The Full Court references have also been conducted Online through Virtual mode.
  • In October’21 Biometric Attendance System has been initiated and Officers & Staff Management Information System has been inaugurated for effective administration.

e-Sewa Kendra

  • In March, 2021- e-Sewa Kendras have been established at Patna High Court, Patna Civil Court, Bettiah (West Champaran) and Bedauli, Lakhnaur Panchayat (Masaurhi). Further, e-Sewa Kendra has also been made functional at Vaishali, Siwan and Nalanda Districts. A Virtual Display Wall has also been installed in the eSewa Kendra for the digital Display of Case Status in all the Court Rooms of the Hon’ble High Court Patna.

Rules

  • The following Rules related with the eCourts Project and allied activities have been formulated and notified to strengthen IT infrastructure including IT Manpower in the State of Bihar:
  • “Rules for Electronic Filing (e-filing), 2021”.
  • “Rules for Video Conferencing for Courts, 2020”.
  • “Patna High Court I.T. Technical Cadre Rules, 2021”.
  • “Patna High Court Officers and Staff (Recruitment, Appointment, Promotion and Other Conditions of Service and Conduct) Rules 2021”.

Artificial Intelligence & Software

  • On October 7, 2021, Artificial Intelligence Committee was constituted in Patna High Court and the Translation Department started working through SUVAS software on regular basis.
  • On November 1, 2021, Officers and Staff Management Information system (OSMIS) has been developed and inaugurated under the guidance of the Chief Justice for effective and efficient e-Administration of High Court. This software contains details of all the Staff and Officers of the Patna High Court including their age, gender, educational qualification and posting history.
  • OnDecember 1, 2021“District Information, Report & Communication Tracker” (Direct), has been inaugurated by the Chief Justice, which will prove another mile stone in achieving the goal of paperless, transparent and efficient administration of Justice. This software solves the problem of physical data management and has been developed to facilitate tracking of the relevant information by the Judicial Officers. It is very helpful as all the relevant data/report related with the Monitoring Cell of Judgeships as well as that of individual Judicial Officers will be available in electronic form. The Judicial Officers can also raise issues related with High Court Administration and track the progress on line.
  • Apart from the aforementioned, 55 other Softwares have been developed in-house, for various Judicial and administrative need in the march towards paperless Court. The brief details and functionality of these Softwares are as follows:
  1. File Movement & Tracking System (e-Karyalay):- This software aims to achieve the target of Paperless Courts. In this software each and every file along with the notes and orders are moving digitally. The highlights are as under:-

All the “Noting” will move digitally.

  • Each and every Administrative file is computer traceable.
  • Keeps track of time elapsed by every individual in performing the work.
  • Contains a digital seal of each and every user, thus making the signature legible and identifying the Person who has prepared/made notes/minutes.
  • Obviated the need of digitization of administrative files wherever same has been implemented.
  • Contains dashboard for Registry Officers which shows which employee has done how much work on dailybasis.
  • Helps enormously in efficient use of resource & manpower management.
  1. Judicial File Tracking System: – Many times, it happens that the dealing assistant is full day busy in search of a particular file and is very tough to locate. This software can keep track of every movement of Judicial Files. It also maintains the history of when and where the file has actually moved. Hence, any Judicial File can be located on a single button click, thus, saving time and manpower.
  1. e-Dakiya: – This is an android based application meant for Process Serving. This application is directly connected with GPS. Major features are as following:-
  • Process server can take the digital (computerized) signature on the hand held device / mobile.
  • Can take Photograph of the person being served.
  • GPS position i.e. Latitude & Longitude are automatically captured in the back end.
  • Data could be saved easily on the server.
  • Concerned authority can know as to when and where the Process Server has actually delivered/visited for Process Serving.
  1. e-Meeting: – All the meetings of various committees of Patna High Court can be traced from anywhere inside the premises. Provision for digital storage of all the Agenda and its compliance as well printing of Minutes has also been made to keep a digital copy of the all the meetings held in High Court. The features of the software are as following:-
  • Centralized booking of meeting, hence, minimizing the possibility of multiple meetings being fixed for same member, time and location.
  • Paperless meetings can be held where the respective Sections can upload Agenda, additional Agenda if any and Minutes for any specific meetings.
  • Progress of steps being taken by registry in respect of specific minutes can be monitored.
  • Search for Agenda or Minutes possible by single click.
  1. Patna High Court Employee Management System:- This is a web based application, which contains the details of all the employees of Patna High Court viz. Their:-
  • Personal Details
  • Professional background
  • Family details
  • Leave details
  • Annual Career Progression
  • Increment details
  • Pay slips
  • Annual confidential reports
  • Permanent confidential reports
  • Allegations & proceedings if any
  • Promotion Details
  • Transfer & Postings
  • Chronological memo issued
  • Terminal benefits etc.
  1. e-HR: – This application is hosted on LAN network of Patna High Court, which provides many facilities as mentioned below:-
  • All the employees can mark their attendance online.
  • Keeps track of time elapsed by an employee in Patna High Court premises.
  • Can mark their auto generated application for leave request online.
  • Auto forwarding / rejection of leave applications at different hierarchy levels.
  • Auto generation of Daily, Weekly and Monthly working hours report of each and every employee.
  • Dashboard for Registry Officers by which sitting in their Chambers, they can see which employee is present in which department and the time of marking attendance and can analyse the working hours of them which may assist them to a great level in maintaining discipline at work of employees with regard to timely presence in office and working hours.
  • Eliminated the use of manual attendance registers and leave applications. Hence, an effort towards paperless Courts.
  1. Comprehensive Budget Management & Information System: – This software is one stop solution of all the budget related information of Patna High Court. This software has various features like:-
  • Auto generated centralized bill number generation.
  • High Court expenses Passbook which contains all the details of expenses, head details, money credited for High Court budget, etc. in Patna High Court just as in banks.
  • Auto pay bill generation for pay expenses. Travelling allowance details claimed by various officials.
  • Conveyance allowance details.
  • GPF details.
  • LTC details.
  • Leave Salary.
  • Office expenses.
  • Liveries expenses.
  • Gratuity
  • GIS
  • Electric charges expenses.
  • Sumptuary expenses etc.
  1. Comprehensive Section Management & Information System: – This software provides inter-departmental communication system with various other features to cater the needs of various departments of Patna High Court:-
  • Inter department mailing facility
  • Centralized Index Register
  • Roaster details of all the employees
  • Duty Chart of employees
  • Ongoing works/projects, etc.
  1. Vigilance Automation System:- We were facing many problems as to many complains/allegations are received of same type against same officer out of which some are exactly the same and due to this our manpower had to take extra and multiple efforts for the same complaint/allegation. We made a software which keeps track of all the pending and disposed allegations against a particular officer and reflects whether any similar allegation has been filed against the said officer or not and if yes then its current status. Hence, saving time and efforts of manpower. It also helps in instant generation of vigilance report against a particular officer as and when required.
  1. Online Grievance Redressal System: – This software logs the grievances and the same is directly reflected on the dash board of respective department / officer who in-turn takes necessary step towards redressal of the grievance and replies back within the stipulated time.
  1. District Court Infrastructure Management System:- This is a software which keeps track of all the relevant details of District Court Infrastructure:-
  • Condition of Court buildings
  • Condition of Court Rooms
  • Condition of Toilets
  • Condition of Drinking Water Facility
  • Condition of Litigant Shed
  • Franking Machine
  • Server Room
  • Information Centre
  • Filing Centre.
  • Ramp for Handicapped
  • Lifts/Canteen, etc.
  • Availability of Land
  • Availability of Canteen
  • Condition of Quarters, etc.
  1. Automated Quarter allocation system: – This software contains the details of each and every quarter under High Court Pool viz. its occupancy details. This also reflects unoccupied quarters as well as the quarters which are going to get vacated in near future. Also, contains complete waitlist for the candidates and the wait listed applicants may tentatively know the prospective quarter which may be assigned to them.
  1. Protocol Automation: – Protocol department deals with the travelling of all the Judges and Registry members. This software helps maintain the log and all particular travelling details. This software contains the features of auto generation of letters to be communicated to various authorities with respect to travelling of Judges and Registry members. Also, capable of tracking complete history of travel itinerary incurred in the same.
  1. E-Statistics: – This is a web based software having facilities of auto generation of graphical statistics of High Court. Various kinds of report generation viz. filing, pendency, disposal, old cases, etc. on various parameters viz. Nature wise, Subject wise, Time Period wise, Judge wise, etc.
  1. Online display board: – This software helps people know especially sitting in the outside world to know which case is currently being taken up in which Court.
  1. Android Application for Online Display Board:- Using this software, the Court’s Progress, Cause list and case status can be viewed on mobile phone itself.
  1. Online Cause Title:- Facility for filing Online Cause Title has been provided to Lawyers and the said data being fed by the A.G. (Advocate General) Office is also being fetched in the system directly hence reducing work pressure of data entry operators involved.
  1. Advocate & their Clerks MIS: – This software contains all the particulars of the Advocates including their mobile number and e-mail address via which various communications are made and the registered clerks associated to them. Also, with the help of this software, Identity cards are issued to the registered advocate clerks and it automatically flashes the list of advocates without clerks and the details of the clerks whose registration has expired or is going to expire in near future.
  1. Patna High Court Online Recruitment Management System: – This is a comprehensive recruitment management system whereby the recruitment process is completely automated. Each and every stage of recruitment is fully computerized:-
  • Publication of Advertisement.
  • Online filling up of forms.
  • Online Payment of application fees.
  • Online Scrutiny of applications.
  • Auto generation of selected and rejected list after scrutiny.
  • SMS & E-mail of every step to respective candidate.
  • Auto generation of Admit Card.
  • Auto & Random generation of Roll Numbers.
  • Auto allocation of Examination Centers.
  • Auto generation of attendance sheets.
  • Final Publication of Result.
  1. Online Typing Test: – This is a web based application and by using this, we have successfully conducted many examinations. This application not only logs the data typed by the candidate, but also gets locked itself at the end of time line provided and generates instant result on the screen of the candidate so that he/she gets to know his performance as soon as he ends the examination bringing complete transparency in the recruitment system. Also, we are using this software to give training to our already recruited stenographers and data entry operators.
  1. Online Objective Test: – This is web based software. We have successfully conducted examinations through this software. Examination containing objective type questions can be conducted. The questions get randomly generated on each Computer Screen. After the end of examination, the software is capable of auto generation of Results, Merit List, etc.
  1. KOHA (Provided by E-Committee, New Delhi): – This software as recommended by E-Committee, New Delhi is in use in Patna High Court for the Integrated Library Management System. All the cataloguing of books is being currently done in the software. Soon we are going to implement the same full-fledged i.e. for all kinds of library related activity like requisition of book, issue of book, etc.
  1. E-Court Monitoring System for E-Committee, New Delhi: – E-Committee Supreme Court of India requires quarterly data of the progress of E-Court Project in the state of Bihar. For that they have provided a format which consist of 55 Columns in the excel Sheet. That Excel Sheet is communicated to each and every district and every district send their report and at High Court the excel sheet is again consolidated and sent to E-Committee, Supreme Court of India. To save time and manpower and having records, we developed a software via which the district courts can feed the data online which will be consolidated automatically and can be downloaded in the specified format. We can also share the view only right with E-Committee for viewing the same online.
  1. SMS Log System:- This is the module via which we can keep track of the number of SMSs sent from different District Courts of Bihar which will help us in payment of the said SMSs.
  1. Quarterly Transmission to Supreme Court: – This is a software which keeps track of all the relevant details of District Court Infrastructure:-
  • Details of Owned Court Halls
  • Details of Owned Court Halls on Rent
  • Details of Owned Court Halls under Construction
  • Details of owned Court Complexes
  • Details of Court Complexes on Rent
  • Details of Court Complexes under Construction
  • Details regarding up gradation of Court Complexes
  • Details of Owned Residential Accommodation for Judicial Officers
  • Details of Residential Accommodation on Rent
  • Details of Residential Accommodation under Construction.
  • Details of Funds Allocated for Infrastructure
  • Details Regarding Monitoring of Infrastructure Creation.
  1. Vacancy Monitoring in Subordinate Courts: – This is a software to keep track of all the relevant vacancy details of District Court.
  1. Judicial Officers Database Management System: – This application keeps comprehensive details of all the Judicial Officers of the state Judiciary. Following information are available for all the Judicial Officers:-
  • Judicial Officers of Bihar Judiciary
  • Personal Details
  • Professional background
  • Trainings Undergone
  • Transfer & Posting History
  • Allegations if any
  • Proceedings if any
  • Awards & Recognitions if any
  • Leave details
  • Auto generated list of Judicial Officers due for transfer.
  1. Patna High Court Payroll Management System: – Payroll software facilitates generation of salary slips for Judges, Officers of registry and employees of Patna High Court. It incorporates all the 6th Pay Commission guidelines into Payroll software for employees of Patna High Court. The features of the software are as following :-
  • Auto generated computerized pay slips.
  • Auto calculation of Arrears.
  • Complete details of loans or advance of employees.
  • Auto deduction of taxes.
  • Auto calculation of income tax etc.
  1. Centralized Letter Receiving System: – This is a single window portal for all the communications for instance, letter, case diary, etc. to Patna High Court by any means, viz. Post, Fax, E-mail, Special Messenger, etc. Each any every communication to and from the Court is traceable electronically. This has helped enormously in reducing the delay especially in Judicial departments as any judicial communication like lower court record, case diary, etc. is immediately flashed on the dashboard of dealing assistant and is reflected on the websites as well for information to lawyers and litigants as and when it is received in the High Court.
  1. On Window Automated Certified Copying System: – This software instantly delivers the certified copies of all the judgements and orders since computerization, on window on a nominal payment on per page basis. This software automatically calculates the amount to be paid for each judgement or order, hence, eliminating manual calculation. This has got a great response and has enormously saved the time and effort of Courts manpower and litigants.
  1. Computerized Decree Management System:- All the decree prepared in Patna High Court are now computerized and are easily available on LAN and can well be integrated on public portal for public viewing.
  1. Automated file allocation system for Stamp Reporting: – This is an application which runs in the back end and allocates the files randomly to stamp reporters, hence bringing the transparency in the Court’s work.
  1. E-mail of Judgement & Order: – All the Judgement & Orders are communicated to lower courts with the help of automated software. As soon as the Order is uploaded, with a single button click it is communicated to lower courts via e-mail with computerized signature of attesting authorities, thus eliminating the delay in communication and saving the time and manpower effort.
  1. Auto generated Computerized Order Sheets: – Initially there was a traditional practice whereby the Order-sheets were printed and then the case particulars were written in hand. We eliminated this manual intervention and now the Order-sheet is directly printed containing all the relevant case particulars with the notes, seal and computerized signature of the dealing assistant.
  1. Auto generated Computerized Case File Stickers:- As per traditional practice, files were printed and on the top of the file case particulars are written in hand. We eliminated this manual intervention by introduction of stickers and a module which prints all the relevant particulars and same gets pasted on the case file top.
  1. Centralized Memo Management System: – With the help of this software, all the memos/letters issued are electronically generated with a unique centralized number to them. Hence, any issued memo or letter can be viewed any time with a single click and the same is displayed on the dashboard of Issue section who delivers the same as per the generated particulars as well as is visible on the dashboard of respective departments.
  1. Fax Section Information Management System :- The special features of this module are
  • Capturing of fee receipt details
  • Capturing of additional fee receipt details (if any)
  • Generation of list for additional fax fee holders
  • Ready List of cases ( to be sent through fax)
  • Defective List of cases (fee + disposal date /order date mismatch etc.)
  • Printing of Judgements / Orders ( to be sent through fax)
  • Acknowledgement of ready cases sent through fax
  • Generation of List of Judgements / Orders already sent through fax
  • Defective List of cases (Non pronounced judgements / orders etc.)
  • Update facility for fee receipt information
  • Query Facility
  • Message to Concerned Secretaries / PA’s for pronounce of Judgements/ Orders which are yet to be pronounced.
  1. Online Requisition of Stationary Items: – This is software hosted on LAN of Patna High Court. It facilitates all the Hon’ble Judges, Officers of Registry and Staffs of Patna High Court to make requisition for stationary items online and the same is reflected on the dashboard of Purchase Cell which in turn against the requisition made provides the Stationary to all the concerned.
  1. Automated Visitor Pass System: – All the litigants who come to court for hearing of their cases now get photograph included visitor pass for entering into the court.
  1. E-mail of respective Cause list to AOR’s:- This software is used to send daily cause list to respective A.O.R.’s of this Court only for there respective case listed.
  1. E-mail of Reminders to District Courts:- This software automatically generates reminders and express reminders in the prescribed format and sends through e-mail to respective District Courts for non-receipt of various documents. Recently, e-mail ids of ADC, DM and SP has also been incorporated in the said software.
  1. Computer and Peripheral Inventory Management Software for High Court & District Courts:- This software can keep track of all the computer hardware and peripheral purchased in Patna High Court or supplied to the district courts with details such as date of issue, to whom issued, serial number, date of return if any, availability of stock, etc.
  1. Judgement Writing and Information System:- This software mainly aims to enable PA’s / Stenographers to write the Judgements and orders dictated to them by Judges to type the judgements and orders so dictated in the prescribed format as specified by the Court, mail it to respective district court and upload the same on the website of Patna High Court.
  1. Case Indexing and File Movement: – This software enables the departments to index the Judicial Files and keeps track of the files which are being sent to the Digitization department from Record rooms so that the files can’t get misplaced and a proper record can be maintained.
  1. Writ Disposal Automated System: – This software is designed to ease work of the staffs of Writ Disposal Department to eliminate manual redundant work and save their time.
  1. Software to assist Standing Committee: – A unique and one of its kind software which has been developed to assist Standing Committee in evaluation and Transfer Posting of Judicial Officers which has brought a great transparency in the whole procedure and is currently in its phase of implementation.
  1. E-Court Project Monitoring System:- This is a software developed for pin pointed monitoring of E-Courts project viz. software that contains the details of each and every aspect of E-Courts implementation, issues arising and its resolution thereof with graphical analysis of the overall progress.
  1. Issue tracker: – A comprehensive software to keep track of the ongoing projects, current developments and future steps to be taken with accountability.
  1. Library Information System: – This is software developed which makes ready available data of the books, journals, etc. in the district courts. Challenges and Bottlenecks:- Although Patna High Court has marched ahead a long way in terms of computerization but still, it is necessary to keep motivating staffs of Patna High Court to continue with the pace and usage of computerization and motivating the older generation for the usage of computerization.
  1. POCSO Module:- This software has been developed to facilitate Juvenile Justice Boards across the State to submit online data related to pendency, disposal, etc. for submitting before Patna High Court.
  1. Interactive Digitized Register:-This software was developed to facilitate maintenance of digital Register in the district courts for data regarding details of accused against whom warrants have been issued or who are absconding.
  1. Online Questionnaire module: – Many times, it happens that we need to seek different types of data from Judicial Officers of the State. This software enables online data fetching from judicial officers to reflect onto the dashboard of respective department.
  1. Criminal Appeal Module: –Earlier various types of forms were sent manually to the district Courts relating to release from jail, etc. This software enables auto generation of various forms related to criminal appeal department for needful.
  1. Online JWIMS: –With the outbreak of global pandemic, it was getting difficult for PA’s / Secretaries to come to the Court premises and upload Judgements and Orders. Therefore, we developed a system through which PA’s / Secretaries are uploading the Judgements and Orders directly from their home on to the website of Patna High Court.
  1. Patna High Court Official Mobile Application: –With the growing usage of mobile phones and need for mobile app, a dedicated mobile app exclusively for Patna High Court has been developed with limited features for advocates and litigants so that they are not be required to go over again and again on the website for information but can get it from a resident app in their own mobile phones.

Supreme Court Vidhik Anuvaad Software (SUVAS)

Supreme Court Vidhik Anuvaad Software (SUVAS) SUVAS has been developed at the initiative of the Supreme Court of India in collaboration and with technical support from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India aided by experts from IIT and IIIT. It is a machine assisted translation tool trained by Artificial Intelligence (AI). This Tool is especially designed for Judicial Domain and at present, has the capacity and capability of translating English Judicial documents, Orders or Judgments into nine vernacular languages scripts and vice versa. This is the first step towards introduction of Artificial Intelligence in Judicial Domain. SUVAS was presented to the President of India, on the occasion of Constitution Day on November 26, 2019 at a programme organised by Supreme Court of India to mark the celebration of the momentous event. 

The work covers translating judgments related to cases arising under the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India in relation to the following subject categories:
1.Labour matters;
2.Rent Act matters;
3.Land Acquisition and Requisition matters;
4.Service matters;
5.Compensation matters;
6.Criminal matters;
7.Family Law matters;
8.Ordinary Civil matters;
9.Personal Law matters;
10.Religious and Charitable Endowments matters;
11.Simple money and Mortgage matters;
12.Eviction under the Public Premises(Eviction) Act matters;
13.Land Laws and Agriculture Tenancies; and
14.Matters relating to Consumer Protection.

The translation is functional from English language into Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil and Telugu languages. It has been rolled out in the relevant High Courts.
(b)    The Official Multilingual Mobile App of Supreme Court of India, provides updates about the legal proceedings in six languages i.e. English, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil and Telugu.
(c)     At present the Official Mobile App of Supreme Court is not separately equipped with accessibility of information to visually impaired.
(d)     Through computerization of 16,845 District and Subordinate Courts and ICT use under the eCourts Project Phase-II, several services have been provided to litigants, lawyers and Judiciary which facilitate expeditious delivery of judicial services. eCourts services such as details of case registration, cause list, case status, daily orders and final judgments are available to litigants and advocates through eCourts web portal, Judicial Service Centers (JSC) in all computerized courts, eCourts Mobile App, email service, SMS push and pull services. Integration of eCourts Services through Common Service Centers (CSCs) has been successfully completed. eCourt CNR Service has been enabled through Digital Seva Portal in all CSC locations across the country. National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG) for District and Subordinate Courts, created as an online platform under the Project, provides information relating to judicial proceedings/decisions of computerized district and subordinate courts of the country. Currently, all stakeholders including Judicial Officers can access case status information in respect of over 12.97 crore pending and disposed cases and more than 11.15 crore orders / judgments pertaining to these computerized courts. Video Conferencing facility has been enabled between 3240 court complexes and 1272 corresponding jails.

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Judgement of Additional Sessions Judge, Araria set aside, the appellants accused of the offence of attempt to rape, acquitted

In Laxhmi Yadav Vs. State of Bihar (2024), the appeal was preferred by the appellants on being aggrieved and dissatisfied with the judgment of conviction passed by the Additional Sessions Judge, Araria, whereby and whereunder the appellants/ convicts were convicted under Sections 376/511 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).  

Section 376 of IPC elaborates the punishment for rape . The word "rape" is defined under Section 375 of IPC. The punishment for committing rape is rigorous imprisonment for ten years which may extend to life imprisonment. Section 376 elaborates three sub-sections and five sub-parts. Section 376 (1) mentions the punishment for rape. Section 376 (2) states that if the persons in authority commit rape, they will also be liable to the same punishment. Section 376 (3) states that if any person rapes a woman under the age of 16 years , he will be liable to be punished for twenty years. The offence under Section 376 is a non-bailable and cognisable offence, which means that the accused can't avail bail as a matter of right. The bail to the accused would be granted at the court's discretion. 

Section 511 of the IPC deals with the punishment for attempting to commit offences that are not specifically covered under other sections. Section 511 reads: “Whoever attempts to commit an offence punishable by this Code with imprisonment for life or imprisonment, or to cause such an offence to be committed, and in such attempt does any act towards the commission of the offence, shall, where no express provision is made by this Code for the punishment of such attempt, be punished with imprisonment of any description provided for the offence, for a term which may extend to one-half of the imprisonment for life or, as the case may be, one-half of the longest term of imprisonment provided for that offence, or with such fine as is provided for the offence, or with both.”

This section underscores the principle that an attempt to commit a crime is, in itself, a punishable act. It highlights the importance of intent and action towards the commission of a crime, even if the crime is not completed. By penalizing attempts, Section 511 aims to curb criminal activities at their inception, thereby enhancing the overall safety and security of society.

The counsel for the appellants, Vipul Sinha, the Amicus Curiae submitted that admittedly, all the material prosecution witnesses are closely related to the informant and are highly interested. During the course of investigation, not a single independent witness has come forward to claim himself/herself to be the eye witness to the occurrence of attempt to rape on September 15, 2000 at 6 A.M. but a complaint was filed on the next day. This created doubt over the authenticy of the prosecution version. The parties were on litigating terms from before as the proceedings under Sections 107 and 144 Cr.P.C were also initiated against them from before. Hence, to settle the personal vendetta with the accused appellants, this false case was registered against them. He pointed out that the recovered clothes were not sent for any chemical examination neither from bare perusal of the records, it appears that the victim/complainant was medically examined. 

The Court's order noted that "all the prosecution witnesses are highly interested witnesses. The offence relates to attempt of rape which comes within the purview of cognizable offence and for the cognizable offence, it is prerequisites that F.I.R should be registered. But in the instant case, instead of registering an F.I.R, a complaint was filed by taking a plea that Officer-in-charge had not the registered the F.I.R. Section 154(3) of the Cr.P.C facilitates that any person aggrieved by a refusal on the part of an officer in charge of a police station to record the information under cognizable offence, he/she may send the substance of such information, in writing and by post, to the Superintendent of Police concerned who, if satisfied that such information discloses the commission of a cognizable offence, shall either investigate the case himself or direct an investigation to be made by any police officer subordinate to him, in the manner provided by this Code, and such officer shall have all the powers of an officer in charge of the police station in relation to that offence. Hence, this Court finds lacuna for not lodging the F.I.R in this case."

The Court's judgement records that according to the evidence of the victim, the appellants Laxmi Yadav and Bidhyanand Yadav caught hold her and torn her blouse but the said blouse has not been exhibited as material exhibit. From perusal of the prosecution evidence, it is also apparent that the victim sustained injuries on her person at the time of occurrence but there is no medical evidence on record to support and corroborate the prosecution case in respect of the fact that the victim has sustained injuries on her person.

The judgement concluded that there was an inordinate delay of one day in registering a case without explaining the delay. The prosecution has failed to establish its case beyond the shadow of all reasonable doubts with respect to the manner and motive of the occurrence. There is contradiction in the evidences of the prosecution witnesses and most of the witnesses are highly interested witnesses. Hence, the appellants are entitled to get the benefits of doubt.

In his judgment dated June 19, 2024, Justice Sunil Kumar Panwar set aside the judgement of conviction dated August 24, 2006 and order of sentence dated August 25, 2006 passed by the 1st Additional Sessions Judge, Araria, in Sessions Trial No. 643/2001 and 92/2001 and acquitted all the appellants of all the charges after getting the benefits of doubt.