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Judicial intervention: The High Court of Karnataka strikes down proclamation order in pujar bitcoin case  

Case title:   SHRIDHAR K PUJAR VS STATE OF KARNATAKA

Case no.: CRIMINAL PETITION NO. 2380 OF 2024 C/W CRIMINAL PETITION NO. 2916 OF 2024 CRIMINAL PETITION NO. 2925 OF 2024

Dated on: 02th May 2024

Quorum: HON’BLE MR JUSTICE V SRISHANANDA

FACTS OF THE CASE

The Petitioner is a Police Officer of Dy.S. P rank. Allegations are leveled against him that he was involved in interfering with the true course of justice inasmuch as he had interfered with the investigation of Crime Nos.91/2020 and 287/2020 registered in the file of K.G. Nagara Police Station and Ashok Nagara Police Station respectively. In respect of those crimes when the investigation was under process, the petitioner said to have been found in the company of the Lawyer who represented the accused therein. He was required to accompany the Police personnel who had spotted him in the car. At that juncture, he escaped from the clutches and he is not available to the Police is the allegation. Based on the said incident, a case came to be registered against the petitioner in Crime No.19/2024 and Crime No.1/2024 and attempts were made by the petitioner to obtain an order of grant of Anticipatory Bail were rejected. It is also submitted that a Coordinate Bench of this Court also rejected the anticipatory bail request of the petitioner and thereafter he is not available to the Investigation Agency. In the meantime, the prosecution has filed an application seeking proclamation as against the petitioner. The material on record discloses that before issuing a Proclamation Order necessary procedural formalities are not carried out and therefore the very issuance of proclamation is questioned by the petitioner in Criminal Petition No.2925/2024. Fact remains that till today the petitioner is not available to the Investigation Agency. In Criminal Petition Nos. 2380/2024 and 2916/2024 the petitioner is seeking quashing of two criminal cases registered in Crime Nos.19/2024 and 1/2024.

 

ISSUES

  • Whether at all the allegations leveled against the petitioner is true or not cannot be decided by this Court at this stage, as the case against the petitioner is still in the inception stage?
  • Whether the issuance of a proclamation order was procedurally correct.
  • Whether the FIRs against the petitioner should be quashed.

LEGAL PROVISIONS

Indian Penal Code (IPC)

Section 343: Punishment for wrongful confinement for three or more days.

Section 344: Punishment for wrongful confinement for ten or more days.

Section 409: Criminal breach of trust by a public servant, or by banker, merchant or agent.

Section 426: Punishment for mischief.

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

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

Section 204: Destruction of document or electronic record to prevent its production as evidence.

Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000

Section 66: Computer-related offenses, including hacking and unauthorized access.

Section 84C: Punishment for attempt to commit offenses.

Criminal procedure code 1973

Section 482 of the Cr.P.C. Section 482 of Cr.P.C.: Saving of inherent powers of High Court. The section grants inherent powers to the High Court to make such orders as may be necessary to prevent abuse of the process of any court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice.

CONTENTIONS OF THE APPELLANT

Sri. Aruna Shyam learned Senior Counsel submits that in view of the directions issued by this Court in the above criminal petitions, he would not press the anticipatory bail application pending in Criminal Petition No.3062/2024.The petitioner challenged the procedural correctness of the proclamation order. He sought quashing of the FIRs registered in Crime Nos. 19/2024 and 1/2024.He expressed willingness to join and cooperate with the investigation.

CONTENTIONS OF THE RESPONDENTS

The prosecution highlighted the petitioner’s non-cooperation and absconding behaviour. The prosecution requested the court to mandate the petitioner’s participation in the investigation.

COURT’S ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT          

Having heard the parties and perused the material on record, it is crystal clear that the petitioner is not available to the Investigation Agency till now. The attempts made by the petitioner to submit himself for the process of law by seeking an order of grant of anticipatory bail is turned down by the learned District & Session Judge and a Coordinate Bench of this Court. It is a settled principles of law and requires no emphasis that every accused is presumed to be innocent unless the allegations leveled against him stands proved before the court of law beyond all reasonable doubts. However, the prima facie material would reveal that the petitioner said to be involved in helping the accused in crime No.91/2020. Fact remains that unless the petitioner joins the investigation and cooperates with pending investigation in respect of Crime No.19/2024 and crime No.1/2024 no useful purpose would be served by simply keeping the investigation pending. More so, the petitioner being the Police Officer by himself of Dy. SP rank. Under the above peculiar facts and circumstances of the case and in view of the submissions made on behalf of the petitioner that he would be interested in joining the investigation and cooperate with the investigation to the fullest extent subject to the rights of the petitioner as enshrined under the provisions of Constitution, an arrangement needs to be made which would strike a harmonious balance between the rights of the petitioner and the need of the prosecution. Therefore, without expressing further opinion on the merits of the matter, without holding mini enquiry, if the petitions are disposed of by directing the petitioner to join the investigation and cooperate with the investigation process, would meet the ends of justice. Having said thus, it is settled principles of law that generally FIR cannot be quashed unless it has acted prejudicial to the interest of the petitioner and by the allegation found in the complaint, no case is made out against the accused/petitioner. In the case on hand, there is no special reason for this Court to quash the FIR itself. Criminal Petition No.2925/2024 is Allowed. Order of proclamation passed by the learned Trial Judge as against the petitioner stands quashed, on account of procedural irregularities. Petitioner is at liberty to appear before the Jurisdictional court and subject himself for investigation process. Criminal Petition Nos.2380/2024 and 2916/2024 are Disposed Of with the following conditions: Petitioner shall positively join the investigation on 08.05.2024 by appearing before the Investigating Officer at 9.00 a.m., Investigating Officer is at liberty to take the petitioner to the judicial custody and conclude the custodial investigation on the very same day before 6.00 p.m. Petitioner shall completely cooperate with the Investigation Agency. Prosecution shall not indulge in extra-judicial methods while investigating the matter. On conclusion of the custodial investigation, the petitioner shall be let free by taking a bond in a sum of Rs.2,00,000/- (Rupees Two Lakhs Only) with two sureties to the satisfaction of the Investigation Officer. Further, the petitioner is directed to appear before the Investigation Officer as and when called and shall not in any way tamper the prosecution evidence.  In view of the fact that the petitioner has agreed to join the investigation, bail application if any to be filed by the petitioner shall not be opposed by the prosecution. However, disposal of the present petitions would not come in the way of the petitioner in challenging the final report, if it goes against him.

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Judgement Reviewed by – HARIRAGHAVA JP

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“Supreme Court Overturns Conviction: Lack of Conclusive Evidence Leads to Acquittal in Landmark Criminal Appeal”

Case Title – Arun Shankar Vs. The State Of Madhya Pradesh (2024 INSC 298)

Case Number – Criminal Appeal No. 001186-001186/2022

Order Number – 5th December, 2017

Quorum – Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka

 FACTS OF THE CASE

 In the case of Arun Shankar Vs. The State Of Madhya Pradesh (2024 INSC 298), the appellant and the deceased (Sushildhar Dubey) were related and were residents of a village named Amgaon. Both the appellant and the deceased were habituated to consume alcoholic beverages together. On September 29, 1993, the appellant visited the house of the deceased and implored him to partake in consuming alcohol. This scenario was spectated by a witness. However, nobody witnessed any further sightings of the deceased. Subsequently, the deceased’s body was retrieved on 30th September,1993. The appellant was convicted by the Sessions Court under Section 201 and 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 which was duly confirmed by the High Court. Further, the appellant was sentenced to serve for life imprisonment. However, the appellant was acquitted by the High Court due to lack of Conclusive Evidence.

CONTENTIONS OF THE APPELLANT

  1. The appellant, through their counsel, in the said case contented that the respondent’s argument on the “Last Seen Together” Evidence is deemed to be a weak piece of evidence taking into consideration the close relationship between the appellant and the deceased.
  2. The appellant, through their counsel, in the said case contented that the knife retrieved at the appellant’s instance could not be concluded to be knife possibly used for the purpose of murder of the deceased since the knife could have been planted to deliberately implicate the appellant.
  3. The appellant, through their counsel, in the said case contented that the respondent failed to prove the motive for the commission of the offense on the part of the appellant given the good relationship between the appellant and the deceased.

CONTENTIONS OF THE RESPONDENT

  1. The respondent, through their counsel, in the said case contented that the case is based on circumstantial evidences and that the legal principles administering the case is well established.
  2. The respondent, through their counsel, in the said case contented that the circumstantial evidences in this case are- (i) Recovery of the knife alleged to be used in the commission of the murder of the deceased, (ii) Medical report of the deceased’s bodily injuries and the cause of death, (iii) The last seen together, and (iv) The habit of consuming alcoholic beverages together.
  3. The respondent, through their counsel, in the said case contented that the use of the knife was proven and that all required circumstance forming parts of the chain of events have been established.
  4. The respondent, through their counsel, in the said case contented that taking into consideration the oral testimony of the PW-7 and PW-15 collectively, the theory of death of the deceased due a motorcycle accident cannot entirely be discounted. Hence, the benefit of doubt should be on the appellant.
  5. The respondent, through their counsel, in the said case contented that the body was discovered in close proximity of the last known presence of the appellant and the deceased.

LEGAL PROVISIONS

  1. Section 201 of IPC prescribes the Punishment for causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender
  2. Section 302 of IPC prescribes the Punishment for Murder – Whoever commits murder shall be punished with death, or [imprisonment for life], and shall also be liable to fine.

ISSUES 

  1. The main issue of the case revolved around whether for the purpose of conviction of the appellant for the offenses of murder and destruction of evidence, the furnished by the respondent was enough?
  2. The issue of the case also involved whether the assertion of the defense concerning the weaknesses of the circumstantial evidence and the absence of motive held merit?

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGMENT

The court in the case of Arun Shankar Vs. The State Of Madhya Pradesh (2024 INSC 298) observed that there is a grammatical and legal differentiation between ‘May be proved’ or ‘Must be or should be proved’ and that the accused is needed to be strongly proven guilty, not assumed to be guilty before a court can convict the accused. The court analysed that there should be consistency of the circumstances only with the hypothesis of the accused’s guilt and that the nature of the circumstances should be conclusive and tendency. The court highlighted that it remained unproven the discovery of the murder weapon at the instance of the appellant and that it remained a mystery, the presence of a large number of glasses in and around the place of the discovery of the body of the deceased. The court stated that the chain of circumstances was unestablished and that the theory of last scene was not proved in the absence of any motive on the part of the appellant to cause the death of the deceased since the appellant being in the company of the deceased was habitual and usual.

Hence, the court in the case of Arun Shankar Vs. The State Of Madhya Pradesh (2024 INSC 298) stated that since the appellant is on bail, he is allowed and the impugned judgments are set aside. Moreover, the bail bonds of the appellant are cancelled. The court decided that the conviction of the appellant cannot be sustained and the appellant is thus acquitted of all charges imposed on him.

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Judgement Reviewed by – Sruti Sikha Maharana

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