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Man accused of uploading “obscene photos” of women to Facebook accounts is denied default bail, according to the Orissa High Court.

In the case of Satyananda Sahoo v. State of Odisha & Anr.(Case No.: CRLA No. 53 of 2022), an Orissa High Court Single Judge Bench led by Justice Sanjeeb Kumar Panigrahi recently supported a Special Court’s decision to refuse default bail to a man accused of posting “obscene images” of women by using fictitious Facebook profiles created in their names. It also rejected the accused’s request for regular bail, noting that there were “no reasonable grounds for believing that the appellant is not guilty of the offences alleged or not likely to commit any such offences, which is not possible to record in this record taking into account the nature and gravity of the accusation, character of the evidence appearing against the appellant, the stringent punishment provided and that there are no reasonable grounds for believing that the appellant is not guilty of the offences alleged or not likely to commit any such offence.

Facts: The complaint alleged that one year ago, one Satyananda Sahoo had opened four ‘Facebook accounts’ in her name. In the said Facebook accounts, he had uploaded her obscene photographs and also that of her sisters. Further, it was alleged that he called her from various telephone numbers, used to send messages and intimidated her by saying that if she did not receive his phone call, he would make her photographs viral and kill her. Furthermore, it is alleged that he continuously abused her in obscene languages by naming her caste like ‘Pana’ (a scheduled caste community in Odisha). He also threatened to set her house on fire. In light of this, a complaint was filed against him in accordance with Sections 292, 506, 509, 468, and 469 of the IPC, as well as Sections 66-C, 66-E, 67, and 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 had already made a bail release request to the High Court. He withdrew the bail appeal after learning that a charge-sheet was required to be filed, and the same day he petitioned the Special Court under Section 167(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code for release on default bail in the event that no charge-sheet was filed within 120 days of the date of his arrest.

Judgement: By ruling dated 20.01.2022, the Special Court, however, dismissed the petition after concluding that it lacked merit. As a result, the appellant, who felt wronged by the contested order, appealed to the High Court. The Court took notice that it seems from the decision dated 20.01.2022 issued by the Presiding Officer, Special Court (SC/ST Act), Cuttack that the 120-day statute of limitations expired on 03.01.2022—the date the appellant filed the petition in accordance with Section 167(2) of the Cr.P.C. However, on the specified day, the appellant failed to convince the court below that his appeal had been withdrawn by submitting the High Court order. The court below decided that the appellant’s petition did not protect the inalienable right that had accrued to the UTP-appellant since he was unable to file the High Court’s order. The Bench further noted that a charge-sheet had already been submitted. The submission of the charge sheet does not result in a change in the facts that would allow the court below to examine the subsequent bail petition favourably. Therefore, it was decided that the Special Court’s presiding officer had every authority to deny the appellant’s petition under Section 167(2) of the Cr.P.C. asking for his default bail. As a result, the criminal appeal was rejected because it lacked validity.

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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY SNIGDHA DUBEY.

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