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Resiling from Reconciliation: Supreme Court’s Firm Stand on Mediated Agreements.

Case Name: Trisha Singh v. Anurag Kumar

Case No.: 1008/2023.

Dated: 15th May 2024.

Court: Supreme Court of India, Civil Original Jurisdiction.

Coram: Hon’ble J. B.R. Gavai, J. S.V.N Bhatti, J. Sandeep Mehta.

FACTS OF THE CASE

The said petition was a transfer petition filed by the petitioner (wife) before the family court in Pune, seeking a transfer of the petition on a matrimonial case filed by the respondent (husband) pending before the family court in Varanasi. After initial dismissal and subsequent restoration, the matter was referred to the Supreme Court Mediation Centre for settlement. The parties arrived at a compromise, and both parties signed the relevant terms and conditions of the settlement agreement.

The settled terms for their mutual consent divorce are as follows:

  •  The husband voluntarily paid Rs. 20 lakhs to the wife’s bank account for their child from March 2020 to October 2023, even during their separation.
  •  The husband agrees to pay a total alimony of Rs. 1.15 crore to the wife. Rs. 50 lakh was paid on 22.02.2024. The remaining amounts will be paid as follows:
    • Rs. 50 lakhs by 31.08.2024
    • Rs. 15 lakhs by 31.12.2024
  •  The wife will retrieve her gold and jewellery from a locker at the Bank of India in Varanasi between the 14th and 20th of March 2024. She will also collect silver items given at the time of marriage from the husband.

The appellant agreed not to claim further maintenance and withdraw all criminal and civil cases filed against her husband and his family. The respondent withdrew the matrimonial case, acting on the terms of the settlement.

However, the appellant did not withdraw the said cases and seemed to have resiled from the agreement.

LEGAL ISSUES

  1. Whether Trisha Singh could resile from the mediated settlement agreement without justification, after having accepted a significant portion of the alimony and benefited from the withdrawal of Anurag Kumar’s matrimonial case?
  2. Whether the criminal proceedings could continue in light of the compromise agreement and subsequent events?

LEGAL PROVISIONS

The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

  • Section 9 – Restitution of Conjugal Rights, which allows a spouse to seek the court’s intervention to restore the marital relationship when the other spouse has withdrawn from their society without reasonable cause.
  • Section 13B allows for divorce by mutual consent.

The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961

  • Section 3 prescribes the penalty for giving or taking dowry.
  • Section 4 prescribes the penalty for demanding dowry.

The Indian Penal Code, 1860

  • Section 498A deals with the cruelty done by a husband or relative of the husband of a woman to her.
  • Section 323 prescribes the punishment for voluntarily causing hurt.
  • Section 506 deals with the offense of criminal intimidation.

The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

  • Section 125 provides for the maintenance of the wife, child, and parents.

The Constitution of India

  • Article 142 grants the Supreme Court to pass any decree or order to do complete justice.

CONTENTIONS OF PETITONERS

The counsel for the petitioner informed the court that the petitioner (wife) had stopped communicating with him about how to proceed with the case. The husband who is also the respondent has already withdrawn the matrimonial case as per the settlement agreement. The council agreed that the wife has resiled from the settlement without any justification and disregarded the terms of conditions of the agreement.

CONTENTIONS OF RESPONDENTS

The counsel for respondent argued that their client faithfully fulfilled the obligations outlined in the settlement agreement. This was demonstrated by taking specific actions such as dismissing the matrimonial lawsuit and processing the initial payment of alimony. Furthermore, the respondent committed to continuing these payments, adhering to the schedule outlined in the agreement, contingent upon the legal dissolution of the marriage. The counsel further argued that these actions by the petitioner positioned the husband at a disadvantage. This disadvantage arose because the respondent, relying on her actions, ceased pursuing the matrimonial case and had already disbursed a portion of the alimony to the petitioner, actions that were taken in the belief of and reliance on the settlement agreement’s terms being honoured by all parties involved.

ANALYSIS OF JUDGEMENT

The court referred to a similar case titled Ruchi Agarwal v. Amit Kumar Agrawal and others to conclude the case at hand. The court emphasized the importance of upholding the sanctity of settlement agreements arrived through mediation. These agreements are the result of the extensive efforts by the parties and skilled mediators to find a solution, and their integrity must be preserved.

The court scrutinized the conduct of Trisha Singh, the petitioner, who had accepted a portion of the alimony, Rs. 50 lakhs. They stated that the petitioner had taken advantage of the settlement by securing the withdrawal of the matrimonial case. Her subsequent attempt to resign from the agreement without justification was deemed ‘recalcitrant’ and a disregard for the terms agreed upon before the mediator.

The court noted that Anurag Kumar, the respondent, had been put at a grave disadvantage due to the petitioner’s conduct. The respondent had acted in good faith by withdrawing his matrimonial case and paying a substantial portion of the alimony in compliance with the settlement, which the petitioner breached.

The Supreme Court observed that the marital relationship had irretrievably broken down and thus invoked its power under Article 142 of the Constitution of India; the Supreme Court granted a decree of divorce, thereby dissolving the marriage between the petitioner and the respondent. However, the Court made it clear that the respondent is still obligated to make the remaining alimony payments, as per the terms of the settlement agreement. The Court further instructed the disposal of pending applications.

CONCLUSION

The Supreme Court’s judgment in Trisha Singh v. Anurag Kumar reinforced the sanctity of mediation and settled agreements. It enables the parties entering into mediated settlements to have confidence in the enforceability of such agreements, fostering a favourable environment for resolving disputes amicably. It serves as a deterrent against parties attempting to refrain from such agreements without justifiable cause. It emphasizes the credibility and enforceability of mediated settlements. Thus, setting a precedent against the misuse of criminal proceedings and settled agreements for personal vendettas in disputes.

Judgement reviewed by Maria Therese Syriac.

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delhi high court

Justice, not law, is, what we have given to ourselves in our constitutional scheme- Delhi High Court

Case title: Dr. Sri Kiruba Nandini M v. National Board of Examination and Anr.

Case no: W.P.(C) 5633/2024

Dated on: May 10

Quorum: Hon’ble Mr. Justice C. Hari Shankar

Facts of the case:

The petitioner has approached this Court, through Writ Petition, seeking an appropriate writ, order or direction, to set aside the letter dated 12-15 March 2024 whereby the Petitioner’s DNB candidature was cancelled. The petitioner completed her MBBS from Annapoorana Medical College and thereafter she appeared for NEET and was admitted to the DNB post-MBBS in Obstetrics and Gynaecology by the Respondent 1 – National Board of Examinations (NBE) where she was to undergo training in Apollo Hospital. In the third year of her training, the petitioner was diagnosed as suffering from Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). Chemotherapeutic treatment of the petitioner started on 30 September 2022. Due to Covid-19 pandemic her condition worsened and was placed on ventilator support. On 15 November 2022 she was discharged from the hospital after having undergone 50 days continuous treatment. On 18 January 2023, the petitioner was again admitted to Apollo Hospital where she underwent allogenic stem cell transplant. On 23 May 2023, Fitness Certificate was issued by certifying that the petitioner was on intensive anti-cancer treatment since 27 September 2022 and that she was fit to rejoin work on 10 July 2023. On 21 July 2023, the petitioner rejoined duties at the Apollo Hospital. On 3 October 2023, the Apollo Hospital wrote to the NBEMS, informing that the petitioner was diagnosed with AML on 27 September 2022, for which she had been on continuous treatment; and that she had taken 296 days of leave. The petitioner was extending her course from 19 August 2023, and that the course would be completed on 10 June 2024. On 11 February 2024, the petitioner apprised the NBEMS of her health condition and requested to extend her DNB training programme from 18 August 2023 to 10 June 2024. On 22 February 2024, the NBEMS wrote to Apollo Hospital expressing serious concerns regarding availment of leave without prior approval from NBEMS. The Apollo Hospital replied by stating that they had informed the NBEMS of the critical state of health of the petitioner and the hospital was waiting for the petitioner to recover to submit the requisite documents.  

Issues:

Whether NBEMS was justified in cancelling the candidature of the petitioner on the ground that the petitioner remained absent from DNB training, without prior approval of the NBEMS?  

  Contentions of the appellant:

The petitioner submitted her response explaining the health issues and to accept her leave under extraordinary circumstances and extend the course from 17.08.2023 to 10.06.2024. The NBEMS vide the impugned communication dated 12-15 March 2024 informed the hospital that the petitioner’s DNB candidature had been cancelled by stating that the training institute did not inform NBEMS regarding her absence and that a DNB Trainees can avail a maximum of 30 days of leave in a year and under normal circumstances leave of one year will not be carried forward to the next year and in exceptional cases such as prolonged illness, the leave may be clubbed with prior approval of NBE.  

Contentions of the respondent:

If the petitioner was indisposed for the period during which she did not attend training, she ought to have submitted a leave application so that her request for leave shall be considered by the NBEMS. Prior approval of NBEMS is necessary before a candidate proceeds on leave. It was only on 3 October 2023 that the Apollo Hospital, Chennai wrote to the NBEMS, informing the petitioner’s prior period of absence. It was only six months after the petitioner had rejoined duty in Apollo Hospital that she addressed an application to the NBEMS, seeking regularisation of the period of her absence from duty of 297 days.

Courts analysis and Judgement:

It is clear from the sequence of events and records that the petitioner was in a critical state of health for the entire period during which she remained absent from training. The petitioner was not in a position to submit leave application or forward medical document either to the Hospital or to the NBEMS. The NBEMS does not dispute the bona-fides of the petitioner’s contention that she was undergoing treatment for the critical illness. The claim is also supported by medical documents. On interpreting Rules 4 to 6 of the Leave Rules, it is observed that they do not stipulate that absence from training without prior approval of the NBEMS can result in cancellation of the candidate’s DNB candidature. Rule 5 states that unauthorised absence from DNB/FNB training for more than seven days may lead to cancellation of registration and hence the usage of the word “may” indicate element of discretion. While deciding whether or not to cancel the DNB candidature, the NBEMS is required to keep all these relevant factors and judiciously exercise the said discretion. A distinction needs to be drawn where the absence of the candidate is negligent or unjustified, from a case in which the absence is bona-fide and owing to circumstances which is beyond the control of the candidate. The NBEMS has to keep in mind the overall public interest. The cancellation of the entire DNB program for the reason that the petitioner did not seek leave in advance would not only destroy her morale but would also do complete disservice to the cause of justice. Any decision to cancel the petitioner’s DNB candidature would clearly result in injustice to the petitioner. The two factors which the NBEMS is required to see is whether the seat is carried over, or whether grant of extension to the candidate would compromise the training of existing trainees but no such contention was averred. The petitioner had never issued any show cause notice proposing to cancel her DNB candidature. The communication dated 22 February 2024 is cautioning her to adhere with the NBEMS leave rules. Cancellation of the DNB candidature of a candidate is an extremely serious matter. In Swadeshi Cotton Mills v. U.O.I. concerning strict compliance with the principle audi alteram partem would apply here with all force. No such decision can be taken without issuing a show cause notice wherein the Candidate is not only required to show cause against cancellation of her candidature, but must also set out the reasons and thereafter an opportunity of personal hearing before taking a decision. The Respondent has failed to follow these procedures and hence the impugned decision cannot sustain in law. Accordingly, the impugned order dated 12/15 March 2024 is quashed and set aside. The DNB candidature of the petitioner is restored. The writ petition stands allowed accordingly, with no orders as to costs.  

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new delhi court

Grant of stay of conviction is not a rule, but an exception to be decided on facts and circumstances of cases- Delhi High Court

Case title: Daya Nand Chandela v. State

Case no: CRL.A. 835/2010 & CRL.M. (BAIL) 746/2024

Dated on: 10May

Quorum: Hon’ble Ms. Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma

Facts of the case:

The applicant/appellant is seeking suspension of conviction order passed by the learned Special Judge, NDPS, Rohini, Delhi the cause of action which is arising out of FIR, registered at Police Station Tilak Nagar, Delhi for offences punishable under Section 452/307/34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC’). On 11.12.2008, at about 4:10 pm, Tilak Nagar Police Station received information regarding an attack on the residence of an MLA and by the time the police arrived, injured/victims had already been taken to DDU Hospital, Delhi. Mr.Sudesh Chandela who is the complainant/victim/ informed the police that they had lent Rs. 50,000/- to one Sufi, who absconded without repaying the amount. The complainant rented jhuggi of Sufi and thereafter, the neighbours of the complainant informed that one Manoj who is the co-accused herein had come and put a lock on the said jhuggi which prompted the complainant Sudesh Chandela and his companion to go to Dayanand Chandela’s residence who is the present applicant/appellant along with Manoj. Both of them confronted the accused persons regarding the lock they put on the jhuggi who in turn explained that they also had financial claims against Sufi and since he had not been paying the said amount, they had locked his jhuggi. During the said conversation, there was heated arguments and thereafter, Dayanand Chandela arrived at the scene and took out a sword. The co-accused Nawab was armed with a sword, while Manoj and Meghraj carried sticks with them. Upon seeing the escalation of the issue, Sudesh Chandela and his other companions fled towards their house for safety. However, Dayanand Chandela, along with the three other co-accused followed them and struck Sudesh Chandela with a sword blow, which Sudesh managed to block. The co-accused Nawab, attacked him with a sword, and other co-accused Manoj and Meghraj assaulted with sticks. The accused persons targeted Sudesh’s father Harpal, his uncle Ram Gopal and his brother Ravinder who had intervened to protect the complainant. Thereafter, FIR was registered and after trial, the accused persons i.e; Nawab, Manoj, Megh Raj and the present applicant Dayanand Chandela were convicted by the learned Trial Court.  

Issue:

Whether the Applicant is entitled to get the suspension/stay of conviction order.  

Legal provisions:

Section 452- House tresspass

Section 307- of the IPC- attempted murder.  

Contentions of the appellant:

The present applicant is aged about 70 years and is a distinguished public figure. The applicant wishes to contest the Lok Sabha Elections 2024 to be held in Delhi on 25.05.2024, and the last date for filing of nomination is 06.05.2024. The present applicant has clean antecedents and has never been convicted. The applicant has won Delhi and Rajouri Garden assembly elections. In the year 2013, when the applicant submitted nomination forms, the Returning Officer on account of judgment and the order of sentence disqualified him. Due to the order of conviction dated 03.06.2010, he cannot contest the upcoming Lok Sabha General Elections, 2024 due to the bar imposed by Section 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. There are substantial legal and factual questions involved in the present appeal. It would be in the interest of justice to allow him to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections by suspending his conviction.  

Contentions of the respondent:

The applicant had earlier filed two applications for suspension of order of conviction dated 03.06.2010 i.e., in the year 2015 which was dismissed on 15.01.2015, and the other application in the year 2019 which was also dismissed on 10.01.2020. The Trial Court has rightly convicted the appellant and appreciated the evidence in detail. There are no grounds at this stage to come to the conclusion that the appellant is innocent and the appeal is going to result in acquittal. The evidence on record proved the guilt and therefore there are no grounds for suspension of the conviction. Thus, merely because the present applicant intends to contest the elections cannot be a ground to suspend the conviction.  

Courts analysis and judgement:

The Court noted judgment dated 15.01.2015 passed by the Predecessor Bench, wherein a similar application was moved, and the predecessor Court concluded that the application has no merit. The Court ruled that Petitioner has not made out a case where an order for suspension/ stay against conviction could be granted. The case does not appear to be of exceptional circumstances where if stay is not granted would result in causing injustice to the Petitioner. Supreme Court in Navjot Singh Sidhu held that “grant of stay of conviction is not a rule, but an exception to be resorted to in rare cases”. The appellant contested the election previously in the year 2008 and thereafter he didn’t contest elections. Hence, the application was dismissed. In the second application filed in 2019, the Court held that petitioner could not make out grounds for suspension of his conviction order so as to allow him to contest the elections. The grievance of the applicant is that he has been convicted under Sections 452/307/34 of IPC and has been sentenced to undergo three years imprisonment. The appeal, preferred against the conviction order is still pending and the applicant has once again approached the Court praying to suspend the conviction order to enable him to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha Elections 2024. In Afjal Ansari v. State of Uttar Pradesh, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has held that to suspend the conviction of an individual, the primary factors to be looked are the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case, where the failure to grant stay would lead to injustice. In the present case, the applicant is sentenced to undergo imprisonment for three years by the Trial Court after conclusion of trial. It will be inappropriate to discuss the case for assessing the merits at this stage, as that would mean premature adjudication of the main appeal. The present application is the third application for the same reason and the Predecessor Benches have passed detailed judgments after recording reasons to dismiss the applications. The applicant has not challenged either of the Orders dated 15.01.2015 or 10.01.2020. In case the applicant was aggrieved by the dismissal, he could have approached the Supreme Court by filing SLP which he has not done. The applicant had filed an application on 15.01.2020 for early hearing but the said application was withdrawn on 17.01.2020 which gives the impression that the applicant was not interested in getting his appeal heard expeditiously. The applicant by way of this application is again seeking suspension of the order of conviction on the ground that he wishes to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha Elections 2024, which according to the applicant, is a fresh ground and circumstance thereby relying on the case of Dilip Ray. The facts and circumstances of the said case is different for the reason that there the application seeking suspension of conviction was not rejected. If the applicant genuinely wished to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha Elections, he could have filed the present application earlier and could have sought for early hearing. Further, the applicant has not approached the Court with clean hands, since he failed to disclosed that he had filed two similar applications on earlier occasions and the same was dismissed. Therefore, this is not a fit case to suspend order dated 03.06.2010. There are no extraordinary circumstances to allow the present application. Hence, the application stands dismissed.

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Separate Framing of Issues Not Fatal If Appellate Court Already Addressed Them: SC

Case title: Mrugendra Indravadan Mehta and Ors v. Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation.

Case no: Civil Appeal Nos. 16956-16957 OF 2017

Dated on: May 10th, 2024

Quorum: Justice A.S. Bopanna and Justice Sanjay Kumar.

Facts of the case:

The two appeals arise out of the common judgment dated 18.06.2013 passed by a Division Bench of the High Court of Gujarat at Ahmedabad. The Division Bench allowed the first appeal filed by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and dismissed the cross-objection filed by the respondents. Aggrieved by the same, the said respondents filed the present appeals. The suits were filed against the Corporation seeking compensation of ₹1,63,97,673/- with interest thereon @ 18% p.a. or, in the alternative, allotment of land, i.e., an extent of 974 sq. mts., in any Town Planning Scheme in the western zone of Ahmedabad. The Trial Court, decreed the suit by accepting the alternative prayer to allot an extent of 974 sq. mts. In any Town Planning Scheme in the western zone but rejected the compensation claim of ₹1,63,97,673/- with interest thereon and the plaintiffs were directed to repay the amount of compensation received by them @ ₹25/- per sq. mt. The Corporation preferred the subject first appeal before the High Court while the plaintiffs filed their cross-objection therein. The High Court held that it was not open to the Plaintiffs to claim any damages by accepting the smaller plot and the compensation for the shortfall of 974 sq.mts. without protest.

Issues:

Can a plot owner who surrendered his land pursuant to a Town Planning Scheme, be allotted any land after reconstitution of the plots?

Legal provisions:

Various provisions of Town Planning Schemes Gujarat Town Planning and Urban Development Rules, 1979.

Contentions of the appellant:

The plaintiff/ Appellant father was the owner of original Plot Nos. 144, 150/P and 151/P in Survey Nos., admeasuring 19823 sq. yds./16575 sq. mts. The Corporation prepared Town Planning Scheme No.6, Paldi, where the plaintiffs’ father was required to contribute 21.40% of his lands, i.e., 4247 sq. yds./3552 q. mts., to the Corporation for public purposes. For the remaining extent, the Corporation allotted two separate plots, viz., Plot No. 478, measuring 11686 sq. yds and Plot No. 463, measuring 3890 sq. yds. The vacant possession of Plot No. 478 was delivered to the plaintiffs’ father but the Corporation failed to deliver possession of Plot No. 463 as it was occupied by slum dwellers. The Corporation then prepared a second varied scheme whereunder, Plot No. 463 was taken for the purpose of slum upgradation and the plaintiffs were offered Plot No. 187, measuring 2724 sq. yds thereby reducing the land allotment by 974 sq. mts. The compensation awarded to them for the shortfall of 974 sq. mts. was meagre. The plaintiffs were constrained to file for compensation for the damages as they had suffered huge monetary losses as they could not enjoy the property since 1963 and thus prayed for compensation of ₹1,63,97,673/-

Contentions of the respondent:

The plaintiffs were paid compensation @ ₹25/- per sq. mt. for shortfall of land under the scheme. The plaintiffs accepted possession of Final Plot No. 187 and the compensation, without protest and without challenging the same. The grievance was required to be preferred under Section 54 of the Act of 1976. The plaintiffs could not pray for compensation on the basis of the original Town Planning Scheme for the reason that upon variation of the scheme, the original scheme ceased, and the varied scheme came into existence.

Courts analysis and judgement:

The High Court has set out all the issues framed by the Trial Court in the body of the judgment and was, therefore, fully conscious of all the points that it had to consider in the appeal. Further, we do not find that any particular issue that was considered by the Trial Court was left out by the High Court while adjudicating the appeal. In effect, we do not find merit in the contention that the impugned judgment is liable to be set aside on this preliminary ground, warranting reconsideration of the first appeal by the High Court afresh. When allotment to plaintiff was modified by the second variation of Town Planning Scheme, where the plaintiffs were allotted Plot No. 187 which was of a lesser area but was silently accepted by them and they neither chose to seek implementation of the original scheme, where under they were allotted a larger plot, or challenge the varied 36 scheme, whereby they were given a smaller plot. Having accepted the plot and upon variation of the scheme, the plaintiffs cannot seek to reopen the negligence and delay, on the part of the Corporation. Upon the preparation or variation of a Town Planning Scheme, the rights in the earlier plots of land stands extinguished and rights accrued, if any, becomes extinct then it cannot be the basis for a later cause of action. The plaintiffs did not choose to adduce any evidence in support of their claim for the quantified damages of 1,63,97,673/-. Though it has been contended that the plaintiffs never actually received the compensation for the shortfall of 974 sq. mts. @ 25/- per sq. yd., but pursuant to the judgment of the Trial Court, the plaintiffs deposited the sum of 24,350/-, being the compensation for 974 sq. mts. @ ₹ ₹25/- per sq. mt., as directed by the Trial Court. If they did not receive such compensation, they ought not to have abided by the direction of the Trial Court and deposited that amount. This voluntary act precludes them from contending that compensation was never paid to them and that they had deposited the amount as it was only a paltry sum. The contention of the plaintiffs that the Act of 1976 does not contemplate a second reduction in the reconstituted plot area cannot be accepted as Section 45 of the Act of 1976 deals with reconstitution of plots. In Prakash Amichand Shah and Ahmedabad Green Belt Khedut Mandal, it was held that a plot owner who has surrendered his original land for the purposes of the Town Planning, is not assured of allotment of a reconstituted plot in lieu thereof then in such case, he is entitled only to compensation. Section 71 postulates that in case of variation of the Town Planning Scheme is to be made then the same needs to be published and sanctioned in accordance with the provisions of the Act of 1976, which means that the entire exercise would be undertaken afresh, therefore, further reduction of a plot which is notified in the original Town Planning Scheme is implicit. The plaintiffs, were aware of the fact that Plot No. 187 allotted to them under the second varied Town Planning Scheme No. 6, Paldi, was of lesser area, and was accepted by them without any protest or raising right to a larger area and their conduct of depositing ₹24,350/- thereby implying receipt of the compensation amount foreclosed their right, to either challenge the allotment of a plot of lesser area or to seek more compensation. In this regard, it is noted that Section 54 provides an appellate remedy to the person aggrieved by any decision of the Town Planning Officer. The quantification of compensation was amenable to appellate review but the plaintiffs did not avail the said remedy. The plaintiffs’ main prayer was for quantified compensation, in the alternative, to allot land in the western zone of Ahmedabad. The Plaintiff did not adduce evidence values of the two final plots. The monetary value of two plots depend upon situation, development, proximity and access to the main road or highway, etc., and the same cannot be concluded without adequate proof. The High Court was fully justified in allowing the first appeal filed by the Corporation. There is no need for any interference. Therefore, the appeals are accordingly dismissed.  

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“Supreme Court Upholds High Court’s Bail Grant to Businessman in UAPA Case Linked to Maoist Funding”

Case title: Union of India v. Mrityunjay Kumar Singh @ Mrityunjay @ Sonu Singh

Case no: Criminal appeal no. 2024 @ Special leave petition (Criminal) No.2024 @ Diary no. 27308 of 2023.

Dated on: May 10

Quorum:   Hon’ble Justice Mr. Pamidighantam Sri Narasimha and   Hon’ble Justice Mr Aravind Kumar.

Facts of the case:

On 22.11.2019, at about 8.00 PM, the patrolling party of Chandwa Police Station during their routine patrol had stopped at Lukuiya More where the banned terrorist organization CPI (Moist) fired indiscriminately at them resulting in the death of four (4) police personnel. The arms and ammunitions of the martyred police personnel was looted and after raising slogans the moist fled away. One of the home guards, Dinesh Ram, who escaped unhurt rushed to Chandwa Police Station and lodged a complaint which resulted in lodging FIR against 18 named and few unknown persons. The Central Government directed the NIA to take up investigation whereby FIR was re-registered for the offences under IPC, Arms Act and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The Respondent herein is one of the people apprehended who preferred appeal against the order of the Special Judge, NIA. The Union of India is now challenging High Court of Jharkhand, Ranchi order dated 30.01.2023 whereby the respondent appeal was allowed, and bail was extended thereby setting aside the order passed by the Special Judge, NIA, Ranchi.  

Issues:

Whether High Court was right in enlarging the bail of the Respondent?

Legal provisions:

Sections 120(B), 121, 121(A), 122, 147, 148, 149, 302, 307, 353, 395, 396 and 427 of IPC and under Sections 10, 13, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 38, 39 and 40 of UAP Act and under Sections 25(1B)(a), 26, 27 and 35 of the UAPA Act.

Contentions of the appellant:

The respondent was a key partner of a construction firm M/s Santosh Construction and was closely associated with Regional Commander of CPI-Maoist Ravindra Ganjhu and provided financial as well as logistics support for the terrorist activities. The respondent managed the terrorist fund by showing dubious entries and investments in his company/firm’s accounts. The respondent is directly connected to the incident which led to the killing of four (4) police personnel of the Jharkhand Police. The search at the house of the respondent resulted in recovering unaccounted cash of Rs.2.64 crores for which there was no justifiable explanation. There are other three (3) cases registered against the respondent which gives sufficient grounds to reject the bail. The respondent and his associates are threatening the life of the complainant and pressurizing him to withdraw the case. The respondent is an influential person and would try to threaten or influence witnesses.  

Contentions of the respondent:

The conditional bail was granted on 30.01.2023 and even after lapse of more than 1 year and 3 months, there is no allegation of violation of bail order. The prosecution is seeking for setting aside the impugned order for the reason that respondent is involved in three (3) cases apart from the case registered by NIA. The case registered by Chandwa PS has resulted in acquittal and in the case No.108 of 2015, the respondent has been enlarged on bail by the High Court of Jharkhand. In the case No.4 of 2020, the respondent has been granted anticipatory bail by the High Court of Jharkhand. The purported criminal antecedent did not sway the mind of High Court while considering the prayer for grant of bail. The pendency of three (3) other cases would have no bearing for the continuation of the bail order granted in favour of the respondent.   


Courts analysis and judgement:

The High Court has scrutinized the entire material on record and has recorded a finding that name of the respondent did not figure in the initial FIR registered or in the statements of witnesses and most of the statements did not mention the respondent’s name. It is well settled position that an accused cannot be detained under the guise of punishing him by presuming the guilt. In Vaman Narain Ghiya v. State of Rajasthan, it was been held that the concept of bail emerges from the conflict between the police power to restrict liberty of a man who is alleged to have committed a crime, and presumption of innocence in favour of the alleged criminal. An accused is not detained in custody with the object of punishing him on the presumption of guilt. The broad probability of accused being involved in the committing of the offence alleged will have to be seen. In NIA v. Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali, it was held that it is the duty of the Court to be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusation against the accused is prima facie true or otherwise. Under the special enactments such as TADA, MCOCA and the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, the Court is required to opine that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accused is “not guilty” of the alleged offence. The satisfaction to be recorded is that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusation against such person is “prima facie” true. The court at the time of considering the application for grant of bail shall consider the question from the angle as to whether he was possessed of the requisite mens rea. The court must take into account the antecedents of the accused, his propensities and the nature and manner in which he is alleged to have committed the offence. In an order granting bail, reasoning should demonstrate application of mind. In Puran v. Rambilas it was held that at the stage of granting bail a detailed examination of evidence and elaborate documentation of the merits of the case need not be undertaken. In Jayendra Saraswathi Swamigal v. State of T.N. it was held that the considerations to be weighed by the court while granting bail in non-bailable offences and they are — the nature and seriousness of the offence; the character of the evidence; circumstances peculiar to the accused; possibility of non-securing the presence of accused at the trial; apprehension of witnesses tampering; the larger interest of the public or the State. The elaborate examination or discussion of evidence is not required. The Court is only expected to record a finding of the probabilities of the involvement of the accused in the commission of an offence. The respondent has been ordered to be enlarged on bail by the High Court on 30.01.2023 upon conditions. The prosecution has no case that the stipulated conditions have been violated. In the absence of a strong prima facie case of violation of the bail order, it would not be appropriate to reverse or set aside order after a lapse of fifteen (15) months. In Himanshu Sharma v. State of Madhya Pradesh, it was held that considerations for grant of bail and cancellation of bails are different and if conditions of bail is misused or bail was granted in ignorance of statutory provisions or bail was obtained by playing fraud then bail granted to the accused can be cancelled. The arguments that the respondent is involved in three (3) other cases and by considering that the respondent has been enlarged on bail or is on anticipatory bail would reflect that respondent having been enlarged on conditional bail and the conditions stipulated have not been violated and the appellant not seeking for cancellation of the bail till date are prime reasons for not entertaining this appeal.There is no other overwhelming material on record to set aside the order granting bail which outweighs the liberty granted by the High Court under the impugned order. Hence, interference is not warranted. However, to allay the apprehension of the prosecution, the prosecution can seek for cancellation of the bail in the event any of the conditions being violated by the respondent. The observations made is restricted to the consideration of the prayer for bail and the jurisdictional court shall not be influenced by any of the observation above. Subject to the above observations, the appeal stands dismissed.

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Judgement reviewed by- Parvathy P.V.
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