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Denial Of Default Bail To Man Accused Of Uploading ‘Obscene Photos’ Of Women On Facebook Accounts: Orissa High Court

In Satyananda Sahoo v. State of Odisha & Anr. (CRLA No. 53 of 2022), Justice Sanjeeb Kumar Panigrahi of the Orissa High Court upheld a Special Court’s order denying default bail under Section 167(2), Cr.P.C. to a person accused of uploading ‘obscene photographs’ of women by creating fake Facebook accounts in their names.

Brief Facts Of The Case: A year ago, Satyananda Sahoo allegedly made four Facebook profiles in the complainant’s name. He shared her and her sisters’ indecent photos to Facebook. He allegedly contacted her from various numbers, sent her messages, and threatened to make her photos public and murder her if she didn’t answer his calls. He allegedly called her caste ‘Pana’ in vulgar phrases (a scheduled caste community in Odisha). He also threatened to burn her house on fire. Accordingly, he was charged under Sections 292, 506, 509, 468, 469 of the IPC, Sections 66-C, 66-E, 67, 67-A of the Information Technology Act, and Section 3(2)(va) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

The appellant has sought bail before, a s he learned that the charge-sheet was meant to be filed, he withdrew the bail appeal and filed a plea before the Special Court under Section 167(2) of the Cr.P.C. requesting release on default bail in the absence of a charge-sheet within 120 days of his detention. The Special Court rejected the petition on 20.01.2022. The appellant, dissatisfied with the impugned ruling, filed this appeal. Mr. Ajaya Kumar Moharana, representing the appellant, said he was wrongfully implicated. Appellant and the informant were in love for a long time, he said. The appellant and the informant’s family argued because he wouldn’t marry her. The informant submitted a bogus complaint to frame the appellant. Family members stole the appellant’s phone and made naked photos of her and her sister widespread on Facebook.

The counsel for respondent argued that the lower court failed to inform it that the petition submitted by the appellant was not for release on regular bail, but on default bail, where the appellant’s entitlement to bail had accrued since no charge-sheet had been issued. He further claimed that an inquiry and charge sheet have been submitted. If the appellant was granted bail, there is no potential of interfering with prosecution witnesses. Additional State Counsel G.R. Mohapatra opposed the appellant’s bail request, citing clinching evidence against him. Considering the nature, seriousness, and facts of the case, the Court should not release him on bail.

Judgement: The court noted that the statutory limit of 120 days elapsed on 03.01.2022, when the appellant filed the petition under Section 167(2) of the Cr.P.C. On that day, however, the appellant neglected to file the High Court’s ruling withdrawing his appeal. Due to his incapacity to submit the High Court order, the court below decided that the appellant’s petition did not safeguard the UTP-indefeasible appellant’s right.

The Bench noted that the charge-sheet was filed. Filing the charge sheet does not change the conditions to favourably examine the bail petition that was already denied. It decided that the Presiding Officer, Special Court (SC/ST Act) correctly dismissed the appellant’s Section 167(2) Cr.P.C. plea for default bail. So, the criminal appeal was dismissed as without merit.

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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY PRAKIRTI JENA

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