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A Stricter Approach is required to be taken in granting Bail to Police in Custodial Death Cases: Supreme Court

Case title: Ajay Kumar Yadav Vs The State of Uttar Pradesh & Ors

Case no.: SLP (Crl.) No.9816/2023

Decision on: March 12th, 2024

Quoram: Justice Aniruddha Bose and Justice Sanjay Kumar

Facts of the case

The appellant before this Court is the complainant, who reported the death of his brother in police custody on 12th February, 2021. The deceased was arrested in connection with a robbery case and was taken into the police custody. The appellant accused the police officials for his brother’s death. A charge-sheet was submitted against 19 police officials, which included the allegations of commission of offences under Section 34 read with Sections 302, 330, 331, 218 and Section 120-B of the Indian Penal Code.

The Allahabad High Court, however, granted bail to one of the police constables accused of commission of the said offence. The Appellant assailed this decision of the Court before the Apex Court.

Contentions of the Appellant

The Counsel questioned the legality of the order passed by the High Court. He vehemently submitted that the investigation was handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and Mrs. Bhati, learned Additional Solicitor General, representing the said agency, also supported the appellant’s case.

Contentions of the Respondent

The Counsel submitted that his client, being a police constable, was working as a substitute driver, only as a stopgap arrangement, and had no role to play in the alleged commission of the offence on that date. He contended that the High Court granting him a bail primarily on this ground was valid.

Court’s Analysis and Judgement

The Bench on perusal of the charge-sheet observed a certain role attributed to the respondent in the commission of the alleged offences. It rejected the argument of the respondent and noted that his role was not confined to just being a driver of a police vehicle so far as commission of the alleged offences is concerned.

The Court highlighted a peculiar circumstance of custodial death to invoke its jurisdiction under Article 136 of the Constitution in order to invalidate a bail order. It observed that such offences being grave and serious in nature ought to be dealt cautiously. The Court mainly relied on the precedence in State of Jharkhand vs Sandeep Kumar to decide the case. This case dealt with an anticipatory bail granted to an accused police official. It pointed out that the offence in that case was much more serious in nature and decided to apply the same principle.

The Bench made an exception from the general rule of granting bail and adopted a stricter approach. This was primarily on two grounds which were in consonance with the principles applied in the Sandeep Kumar case. They are:

  • The first one is that respondent No.3 is part of the police force and the allegation is that of custodial death, in which he has been implicated. In cases of this nature, having regard to the overall influence a member of a police force may wield in connection with a case against them pertaining to custodial death, a stricter view is to be taken on the question of granting bail.
  • Secondly, the charge is under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code and the appellant has been enlarged on bail within 1 and ½ years of his detention. The alleged offence is of grave and serious nature and that factor has not been properly considered by the High Court.

The Supreme Court, in light of the above observations held that such a stricter view is required partly because a police officer may wield more influence than an ordinary person and thereby set aside the impugned order of the High Court. It directed the respondent to surrender before the CBI Court within a period of four weeks. Therefore, it clarified that these observations were purely relate to the question of grant of bail and stated that the same shall not in any way influence the trial.

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Judgement Reviewed by – Keerthi K

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Delays in submitting documents proving his educational qualifications should not make him ineligible for selection for a post: Supreme court

Case title: Shaila Tanaji Patil vs Maharashtra Public Service Commission,

Case no.: Writ Petition No.15613 Of 2022

Decided on: 14.02.2024

Quorum: Hon’ble Justice A. S. Chandurkar, Hon’ble Justice Jitendra Jain

 

FACTS OF THE CASE:

The petitioner seeks to challenge an order of the Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal dismissing the petitioner’s filed by holding that the petitioner did not file the ‘Sports Verification Certificate’ with the respondents along with the application and thus cannot be considered for selection to the post of Police Sub-Inspector under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution.

PETITIONERS CONTENTION:

The petitioner claimed that she was already selected as a Police Constable under the ‘Sports Category’ based on the Certificate issued by the Association of Indian Universities. This is the certificate she had verified for the position of Police Sub-Inspector, and the respondents themselves verified it. The certificate was presented at the time of the interview.

The petitioner claimed that she was already in possession of the Certificate when she applied for the position of Police Sub-Inspector, and that she was appointed as a Police Constable on the basis of this certificate prior to the examination. The petitioner contended that on a true and proper construction of the advertisement’s Clauses, it cannot be said that she did not comply with the Clauses relating to the holding of the certificate at the time of making the application.

RESPONDENTS CONTENTION:

The respondents argued that they agreed with the Tribunal’s decision and further stated that the petition should be denied because the “Sports Verification Certificate” was not submitted with the application, indicating that the advertisement’s requirements were not met.

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT:

The court ruled that the Tribunal erred in dismissing the petitioner’s OA. And, admittedly, the petitioner had already obtained the sports certificate, which was also on record with the respondents. Furthermore, the verification certificate for the sports certificate obtained was filed and submitted at the time of the interview, in accordance with the advertisement’s clauses. Thus, even on this point, the Tribunal and the respondents were not justified in rejecting the petitioner for the position of Police Sub-Inspector.

The court relied on the case of Dheerender Singh Paliwal vs. Union Public Service Commission, which held that if a candidate is otherwise found to be meritorious and there is a delay in filing documents in support of his educational qualification that were filed before the date of selection, such a candidate should not be considered ineligible when deciding on selection for the post.

 

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Written by – Surya Venkata Sujith

 

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“De Minimis Non Curat Lex: The Supreme Court emphasised that Law does not concern itself with trifles

Case title: Vashist Narayan Kumar vs The state of Bihar & Ors.

Case no.: Civil Appeal No. 1 of 2024

Decided on: 02.02.2024

Quorum: Hon’ble Justice J.K Maheshwari, Hon’ble Justice K.V Viswanathan

 

FACTS OF THE CASE:

The appellant applied for the position of police constable and took the written and physical examinations. He provided his educational certificates/mark sheets, as well as his caste certificate, for document verification. On June 11, 2018, the final results indicated that he had failed. The only reason was that his date of birth was 08.12.1997 on the online application form, but 18.12.1997 on the school mark sheet.  After failing to receive a response, the appellant filed a writ petition in the High Court. The High Court dismissed his writ petition challenging this decision.

ISSUES:

Whether the error in the uploaded application form was material or trivial, and was the State justified in declaring the appellant to have failed as a result?

APPELLANTS CONTENTION:

The appellant contended that he derived no advantage because he was eligible regardless of which date was used; the error also had no bearing on the selection, and he produced educational certificates that reflected his correct date of birth despite being unaware of it.

RESPONDENTS CONTENTION:

The respondent contended that the advertisement contained all of the clauses stating that if the information provided by the candidates was incorrect or misleading, the application form would be rejected, and criminal action would be taken. It also stated that candidates must enter the correct date of birth as shown on their 10th board certificate. The clause also stated that candidates must correctly fill out their name, father’s name, address, and other information on the application form. It states that if any discrepancy is discovered while reviewing the documents, the candidate’s candidature will be cancelled.

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT:

The court determined that the appellant successfully completed all stages of the selection process. The error in the application was trivial and had no bearing on the selection process. The State’s exaggeration of the situation was unjustified.

The court stated that they did not believe the appellant could be penalised for this minor error that had no bearing on the final outcome. Errors of this nature, as seen in the present case, do not constitute misrepresentation or wilful suppression.

The court emphasised the principle of De minimis non curat lex, which states that trivial errors or omissions are exceptions because the law does not deal with trifles.

 

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Written by – Surya Venkata Sujith

 

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Criminal proceedings can only be initiated against a public servant based on the recommendation of the administrative enquiry: Delhi High Court.

Case title: Bijendar Singh Vs State & Anr.

Case no.: CRL. A. 292/2020

Decided on: 08.02.2024

Quorum: Hon’ble Justice V. Kameswar Rao, Hon’ble Justice Saurabh Banerjee

 

FACTS OF THE CASE:

The current appeal stems from the order of a special judge of the SC/ST court. The complainant filed an application under sections 4 and 3(2) (vi) and (vii) of the SC/ST Act, as well as sections 217 and 218 of the IPC, against an investigation officer who failed to appear in court for the hearing and also for no arresting the accused. The court ordered to file an FIR against the appellant.

 LEGAL PROVISIONS:

The SC/ST Act’s Section 4 discusses the penalties for public servants who fail to perform their duties.

No inquiry or approval is necessary in order to file a First Information Report (FIR) against any individual, according to Section 18A (1) of the SC/ST Act.  

Section 15A(11)(i) of the SC/ST Act states that it is the State’s duty and responsibility to specify a scheme for providing a free copy of the chargesheet.

APPELLANTS CONTENTION:

The counsel for the appellant argued that the SC/ST Act’s proviso, which states that a public servant may only be booked based on the recommendation of an administrative inquiry, was disregarded and overlooked by the learned special court. It must be acknowledged that at the time the contested order was issued, the learned special court had not yet requested or received any such report, and the contested order was issued without it.

He argued that the complainant’s grievances in the application are completely baseless and would not constitute a violation of the SC/ST Act. The complainant’s complaint that the appellant did not provide a copy of the chargesheet to him is without merit because the non-supply of the chargesheet does not violate any of the provisions of the SC/ST Act alleged by the complainant.

RESPONDENTS CONTENTION:

They contended that the provision in Section 4(2) of the SC/ST Act requiring an administrative inquiry only applies to the stage of framing charges, not the registration of a FIR. Furthermore, Section 4 must be read in conjunction with Section 18A and the overreaching object of the SC/ST Act. As a result, the impugned order of the learned special court cannot be challenged on the basis that it did not follow the procedure outlined in Section 4 because it was for the registration of a FIR rather than the framing of charges.

The counsel further contends that the appellant did not arrest the accused persons in accordance with the law laid down in Arnesh Kumar, but that the appellant failed to consider the recent judgement passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Union of India vs. State of Maharashtra, (2020) 4 SCC 761, which held that where there is no provision for anticipatory bail, arrest must be made. The appellant did not comply with Arnesh Kumar’s requirement to provide reasons for not arresting the accused, which was mandatory.

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGMENT:

The court held that, while it is true that the accused has no right to be heard prior to the registration of the FIR, the SC/ST Act is a special act that supersedes the general provisions of Cr.P.C, and the proviso to section 4(2) clearly mandates that charges against public servants be booked only based on the recommendations of the administrative enquiry.

Based on various judgements, the court determined that the appellant, as the IO, has the discretion to arrest or not arrest the accused individuals based on the evidence gathered and the gravity of the offences. Also, once the appellant, who is an IO, files the chargesheet, the Magistrate cannot question the decision not to arrest the accused persons.

The court made it clear that this decision is solely for the purpose of deciding the appeal and will not interfere with the complainant’s case before the learned special court.
The appeal is granted, and any pending applications are resolved in accordance with the terms outlined above.

 

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THE SUPREME COURT UPHELD AN ORDER SUMMONING POLICE OFFICERS IN A CORRUPTION CASE

Case title: Gurdev Singh Bhalla vs State of Punjab & Ors.

Case no.: SPL(Crl.) appeal no. 11654 of 2013

Decided on: 05.01.2024

Quorum: Hon’ble Justice Vikram Nath

FACTS OF THE CASE:

The appellant has filed a criminal appeal with the Supreme Court of India, contesting the decision made by the High Court of Punjab and Haryana in Chandigarh on March 23, 2023, which dismissed the Criminal Revision the appellant had filed in opposition to the Special Judge’s Bathinda order of March 5, 2018, which had allowed the application under Section 319 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, summoning the appellant and three other police department officials.

Punjab Agro Food grains Corporation Ltd. of Bathinda filed a complaint against Devraj Miglani at the Phul Police Station in the District of Bathinda, which was registered as a FIR. The complaint alleged that Devraj had misappropriated paddy. The investigation of the said FIR was transferred to the Vigilance Bureau in Bathinda, where the appellant was posted as an Inspector and tasked with investigating the crime. The accused, Devraj, was arrested. He was granted police remand and then transferred to judicial custody.

And the informant in this case, Puneet Kumar Miglani, is the accused Devraj’s son. According to the informant in this case, on September 6, 2013, Head Constable Kikkar Singh approached Ms. Ritu, the accused Devraj’s niece, at her workplace, the Bathinda branch of the SBI, demanding a sum of Rs.50,000/- by handing over a slip purportedly written by the accused Devraj, indicating that the holder of the slip may be provided with the said amount. Devraj and his niece Ritu allegedly conversed on Head Constable Kikkar Singh’s mobile phone. The informant came to know of the said demand by Kikkar Singh. He went to the bank, took the slip, and after recording a conversation between his wife and his father, he presented it to the learned Magistrate, along with a complaint.

The local police were directed to register the complaint and investigate it further. Following a thorough investigation by Deputy Superintendent of Police Janak Singh, it was determined that the allegations against Head Constable Kikkar Singh were prima facie true, and a First Information Report was filed at the police station Vigilance Bureau in Bathinda. During the investigation of the aforementioned FIR, the informant, informant’s wife, Devraj, and others provided statements. Following the investigation, a police report against Head Constable Kikkar Singh only.

The date of both trials, the trial arising out of the FIR against Devraj and the trial arising out of the FIR against Head Constable Kikkar Singh, coincided on September 29, 2014. The appellant went on to depose, supporting both the prosecution’s case and his own investigation of Devraj. On that date, in the trial against Head Constable Kikkar Singh, informant Puneet Miglani provided additional evidence as PW 1. On the specified date, he completed both his chief and cross examinations. In addition, he prepared and filed an application under Section 319 Cr.P.C. to summon the appellant and three other police officials.

The trial court dismissed the application due to a lack of sanction under both the PC Act and the Cr.P.C. The said order was successfully challenged before the High Court, and the High Court, in an order dated 23.01.2018, remanded the matter to the Trial Court for a fresh order, ignoring the issue of sanction. The High Court believed that no sanction was required. The Trial Court granted the application under Section 319 Cr.P.C. and summoned the four police officials in accordance with the remand. The appellant challenged the 05.03.2018 order in the High Court.

The high court dismissed the said revision in the impugned order dated March 23, 2023. Aggrieved, and it is now being appealed to the Supreme Court.

LEGAL PROVISIONS:

Section 319 of the Cr.P.C. deals with “Power to proceed against other persons appearing to be guilty of offence”,

406 of IPC deals with “Punishment for criminal breach of trust”,

409 of IPC deals with “Criminal breach of trust by public, servant. or by banker, merchant or agent”,

420 of IPC deals with “Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property”,

457 of IPC deals with “Lurking house-trespass or house-breaking by night in order to commit offence punishable with imprisonment” and

Section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act read with Section 13(2) of PC Act deals with “Criminal misconduct by a public servant”.

APPELLANTS CONTENTIONS:

He claimed that it was a pressure tactic on the part of the informant to browbeat the appellant because he had deposed against his father Devraj. The informant, was convicted in another case, so his statement should not have been relied on.

The complaint dated 06.09.2013 made no allegations against the appellant. The complaint was filed on September 6, 2013, for a demand of only Rs.50,000/-. Subsequently, in a statement issued on September 29, 2014, the four officials, one Deputy Superintendent of Police, the appellant, and two other Head Constables, allegedly demanded Rs.24 lakhs.

RESPONDANTS CONTENTIONS:

They claimed that the appellant and other police officers had not only harassed and tortured Devraj while he was in custody, but also threatened and tortured family members both mentally and physically in order to extract a large sum of money. They submitted the relevant witnesses’ statements recorded under Section 161 Cr.P.C. both during the investigation and before the Trial Court.

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGMENT:

After considering the submissions, the court concluded that it is clear that the informant, in his statement under section 161 Cr.P.C. recorded on 22.09.2013, narrated complete facts regarding the conduct of police officials immediately following his father’s surrender on 30.08.2013 in the case registered against him for misappropriation. The informant has consistently supported the statement under section 161 Cr.P.C. from that point forward, including during the trial.

Even Devraj and Eshaa Miglani, in statements recorded during the investigation on 15.10.2013 and 22.10.2013, respectively, provided the same information as narrated by informant Puneet Miglani on 22.09.2013. Furthermore, their statements during the trial support and align with their previous statements. All of these witnesses have unequivocally described incidents that occurred at various locations, including threats, demands for large sums of money, torture of Devraj.

The Informant gave the same statement under Section 161 Cr.P.C. and before the Trial Court on May 26, 2014, which was continued on September 29, 2014. There appears to be prima facie evidence on record to establish a triable case against the appellant. As a result, we are unlikely to challenge the contested order. Therefore, the appeal is dismissed.

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