Karnataka High Court Sets Aside Lower Court Order Grants Bail In Murder Conspiracy Case Involving SC/ST Act.


Case no: CRIMINAL APPEAL No. 258 OF 2024

Order on: 27th May, 2024


Fact of the case:

Manikanta @ Mani, the appellant, was accused in a criminal case involving the murder of Sri Renukumar. The incident occurred on May 25, 2023, when the deceased was assaulted by several individuals with long choppers, resulting in his death. The appellant, accused No. 7, was not present at the scene but was alleged to have conspired with other accused to kill the deceased. The charge sheet included serious charges under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (SC/ST Act). The appellant was in judicial custody since his arrest on June 1, 2023, and his initial bail application was rejected by the LXX Additional City Civil and Sessions Judge, Bengaluru.

Legal provisions:

Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860

Section 201: Causing disappearance of evidence of offense, or giving false information to screen offender.

Section 120(B): Punishment for criminal conspiracy.

Section 34: Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention.

Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (SC/ST Act)

Section 3(1)(r): Punishment for intentionally insulting or intimidating with intent to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe in any place within public view.

Section 3(1)(s): Punishment for abusing any member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe by caste name in any place within public view.

Section 3(2)(v): Punishment for committing any offense under the IPC punishable with imprisonment for a term of ten years or more against a person knowing that such person is a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Trib

Contentions of Appellant:

The appellant, Manikanta @ Mani, was not present at the crime scene when the assault and subsequent murder of the deceased occurred. The main accusation against him was of conspiracy, not of directly participating in the murder. The appellant argued for bail based on parity, as another co-accused (accused No. 8) with similar allegations had been granted bail by the court. The appellant contended that he should be treated similarly since his involvement was also limited to the conspiracy. The appellant’s counsel assured the court that the appellant would not tamper with evidence or threaten prosecution witnesses if released on bail.

Contentions of Respondents:

 The respondent, represented by the High Court Government Pleader, highlighted that the appellant was charged with serious offenses, including murder (Section 302 of IPC), which are punishable by death or life imprisonment. The heinous nature of these crimes warranted a denial of bail. The respondent emphasized that the appellant had a criminal background as a rowdy sheeter at Mahadevapura Police Station. There was a substantial risk that he could tamper with evidence or threaten prosecution witnesses if released on bail. The prosecution maintained that there was strong evidence of the appellant’s involvement in the conspiracy to commit murder, which justified his continued detention.

Court Analysis & Judgement:

The court, after considering the arguments, noted that the appellant was not present at the scene of the crime when the assault and murder occurred. The actual assault was carried out by accused Nos. 1 to 3, while the appellant’s role was limited to conspiracy. The court recognized that accused No. 8, who was similarly accused of conspiracy, had already been granted bail. Based on the principle of parity, the court found that the appellant should be treated similarly and be granted bail. The court considered the conditions proposed to mitigate risks, including the execution of a personal bond, ensuring the appellant’s cooperation with the investigation, and his commitment not to tamper with evidence or threaten witnesses.

The court allowed the appeal, setting aside the impugned order dated November 27, 2023, which had denied bail to the appellant. The court ordered release on bail for certain conditions. The appellant must execute a personal bond for Rs. 1,00,000/- with one surety for the like sum to the satisfaction of the jurisdictional court. The appellant must not threaten the complainant or tamper with prosecution witnesses. The appellant must cooperate with the Investigating Officer in any further investigation. The appellant must appear before the Trial Court on all hearing dates unless exempted and cooperate for the speedy disposal of the case. The appellant must not commit any offense during the pendency of the case against him.

By imposing these conditions, the court aimed to ensure that the appellant’s release on bail would not adversely affect the investigation or trial proceedings.

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Judgement Reviewed By- Antara Ghosh

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