Thursday, March 14, 2024

Supreme Court upholds the order of Justice Prabhat Kumar Singh, Patna High Court

Upon hearing the criminal appeal of five petitioners, namely, Srikant padhayay, Shashikant Upadhayay, Srina Upadhayay, Ashutosh Kumar and Asim Priyanshu, Supreme Court's bench of  Justices C.T. Ravikumar and Sanjay Kumar concluded that "there is no ground for interfering with the order of the High Court rejecting the application for anticipatory bail rather not considering application on merits. Since their action is nothing short of defying the lawful orders of the Court and attempting to delay the proceedings, this appeal must fail. Consequently, it is dismissed." The case arose out of PS. Case No.-79 Year-2020 Thana- Govindganj, East Champaran.

The 33 page long judgement authored by Justice Ravikumar was delivered on March 14 , 2024. The Court relied on Court's decisions in Prem Shankar Prasad v. State of Bihar (2022), State of Madhya Pradesh v. Pradeep Sharma (2014) and Lavesh v. NCT of Delhi (2012).

It all began with a pre-arrest bail application which was moved in connection with FIR No.79 of 2020, registered against him and co-accused at Govidganj, Police Station, District East Champaran, Bihar, under Sections 341, 323, 354, 354 (B), 379, 504, 506 and 149 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) and Section 3/4 of Prevention of Witch (Daain) Practices Act, 1999. The Court refused to interfere with the order of Justice Prabhat Kumar Singh of Patna High Court. In this case, FIR was registered pursuant to the directions of the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, East Champaran, Motihari on complaint No.395 of 2020 filed by Ashutosh Kumar, Respondent No.4 under Section 156 (3), Cr. PC. 

The allegations in the complaint is as follows: On February 22, 2020, at about 8.00 am, when Jagmati Kunwar, the grandmother of respondent No.4 reached in front of the house of appellant No.2, Shashikant Upadhyay, he said that she is the witch who made his child sick and shall not be spared. Then, the appellants and eight other family members gathered around her and the 4th appellant caught hold of her hair and asked the others to bring dung. Thereupon, accused Paritosh Kumar brought dung and accused Rishu put dung into the mouth of Jagmati Kunwar. Consequently, she vomited and fell down. When respondent No.2/complainant and other witnesses went for her help, the second appellant Shashikant Upadhayay assaulted and abused respondent No.2. Co-accused Paritosh Kumar and Jishu Kumar tore the blouse of Kiran Devi and she was disrobed. Another co-accused Soni Devi snatched a gold chain from the complainant. The co-accused Ravikant and appellant No.5 tore the clothes of Jagmati Kunwar and made her half-naked.

In this backdrop, the five petitioners who apprehend arrest in registered for the offences punishable under Sections 379/354B and other sections of the IPC had filed a petition for pre-arrest bail in Patna High Court on November 22, 2022. It was registered on  December 1, 2022. 

Section 379 deals with "Punishment for theft". It reads: "Whoever commits theft shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both." Section 354B deals with "Assault or use of criminal force to woman with intent to disrobe". It reads: "Any man who assaults or uses criminal force to any woman or abets such act with the intention of disrobing or compelling her to be naked, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than three years but which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine."

Justice Prabhat Kumar Singh of the High Court heard the matter and dismissed petition for pre-arrest bail of these five petitioners and dismissed it as not maintainable. 

The 2-page long High Court's order dated April 4, 2023 reads: "It is submitted on behalf of the State and the informant that petitioners have been declared absconder and processes of sections 82 and 83 have been initiated against them to ensure their appearance in the Court. Considering the aforesaid development, petition for pre-arrest bail of the petitioners is dismissed as not maintainable."

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