The Supreme Court of India in its landmark judgment Peoples Union for Civil Liberties v. State of Maharashtra [(2014) 10 SCC 635] observed that this “encounter” philosophy is a criminal philosophy,
One of the characteristic features of modern NationStates is the monopoly over the power of coercion-namely through instruments of police and the army. These instruments are envisaged to uphold state sovereignty, ensure rule of law and in general to maintain law and order both within and outside the nation.
However, what if these very instruments are used for sinister ends, for political gains. What happens then? .Do we have recourse to something that protects our liberties and ensures that Rule of Law doesn’t wither in extreme and strenuous situations, like demand for instant but illegal and immoral justice. (The case in Telangana and Uttar Pradesh)
This article without going into the procedural aspects and legal provisions aim to gather a perspective on why Extra-Judicial killings in the Indian context are increasingly finding Legitimacy in the eyes of the people. How it augers for a country like India that takes pride in calling itself the world’s largest democracy governed by Rule of Law.
The rule of law has rightly been accorded space in the Basic Structure Doctrine by the Supreme Court. Rule of law is the fundamental principle of governance of any civilized liberal democracy. It is the Anti-Thesis of Arbitrariness. The fundamental premise of Rule of Law is that every human being, including terrorists and the worst criminal, are entitled to basic human rights and Due Process.
The first and foremost question that comes, therefore, in mind is why Encounters are illegal or Extra-Judicial. Article 21 of the Constitution states that “No person can be deprived of his/her life and liberty except by procedure established by law”. Hence, a nation governed by rule of law must operate within the boundaries prescribed the law of the land, and no law in India prescribes Encounters as a form of Justice. This means that a fair criminal trial, judgment based on evidence, an opportunity to the accused be heard, appeal provisions to rectify the trial court’s verdict, etc. are necessary before a person is punished. Fake or staged encounters empower the police to play the role of a judge and executioner and leads to a direct violation of Article 21 as the procedure established by law is not followed in such a case. They are outside the four walls of law, and therefore extra-judicial.
The basic reason for the rising cases of encounters are first, a slow-moving and inefficient criminal justice system, Secondly-the police which is still governed by archaic law of colonial past, a lack of democratic sensibilities among the police in our country, Thirdly-Bulwarks of democracy like National Human Rights Commission and Constitutional Courts not taking a stand on such issues and the last and maybe chief reason –Rising legitimacy being provided to such actions by populist cries for an instant but illegal justice.
Snail’s pace of our Criminal Justice System
There is no denying the fact that our Criminal Justice System is in urgent need of reform in its entire entirety. The criminal justice system involves Investigation, Prosecution, and then finally adjudication by the courts. One cannot by-pass process for the sake of populist pressure or cries for an instant but illegal justice by the public. There have several such attempts in the past like the IPC 1860, CODE OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE 1973, and the INDIAN EVIDENCE ACT that dates back to 1872. However, comprehensive legal reform requires careful consideration and a great deal of deliberation.
In 2003, the JUSTICE MALIMATH committee had come up with some significant far-reaching reforms; some of the suggestions became part of the criminal law. JUSTICE VERMA committee came up with significant reforms on crimes related to women.
The death penalty is also one of the areas that need to be looked into as far as the criminal justice system is concerned. Justice Kurian Joseph stated, “Death Penalty is freakishly imposed”. The doctrine of “Rarest of the rare case” has been arbitrarily and inconsistently used. The SC in Bachan Singh Case (1980) had upheld capital punishment but with a rider that it should be used only in rarest of the rare case. The Law Commission 262nd report has also held that the rider of “rarest of the rare” has failed to prevent the judges from arbitrarily sending a guilty to the hangman.
Therefore, what we need careful deliberation with all stakeholders like the Bar and Bench, Police, and common citizens to reform our criminal justice
Police: Governed by Archaic law, a remnant of colonial past
The police in India is generally viewed as an agent of coercion, which does not auger well for any country, let alone a democracy governed by rule of law. It can become an agent of change with well-intentioned and robustly implemented reforms. The problem in the Indian context is that Police in India don’t view brutality as abhorrent to citizen’s liberties and rights. To them, it is part of the game. A little brutality to them does not harm, not realizing it creates a culture of impunity and violation of liberties of the citizens by the state. As Professor Rajeev Bhargava in his article “Police Terror and the Threat of Law (The Hindu) said correctly-”That local policemen think of themselves as sovereigns in their little territory, executors of “laws, they invent on the go.”
The Law Commission in its 273rd Report has recommended that burden lies on the police to show they are not involved when someone dies in police custody. Numerous expert bodies like the National Police Commission (1977-81), Ribeiro Committee (1998), Malimath Committee (2002-2003), and Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2007) have made genuine, well-intentioned recommendations for police reforms but not to much avail. These need to be implemented. It is a sorry state of affairs that it took 11 years for Tamil Nadu to pass a law to give effect to the judgment in Prakash Singh Case (2006) and that several states still stand in contempt of SC, is a manifestation of the absence of political will for such reforms. There is no questioning the fact that “Covenants without the sword are nothing but words”
(Thomas Hobbes In Leviathan”), enforcement of law requires the use of force. However, rule of law requires constraints on excesses, deployment of force must be consistent with the dignity of the citizen, guaranteed Under Article 21. The police need to uphold professionalism, clean its ranks of the corrupt and the inefficient and liberate the state.
Bulwarks of Democracy Constitutional Courts and the National Human Rights Commission not taking a stand
According to the NHRC’s last Annual Report, 2017- 18, 164 deaths were resulting from police encounters that year. If the NHRC has to shed its “Toothless Tiger” tag (Former Chief justice of India HL DATTU while presiding over the institution had remarked that it is a “toothless tiger’), the time is now. Human Rights are not gifts from the state to be governed by its conveniences. These are sacrosanct and foundations of dignified human existence. Any violation of human rights, even that of a heinous crime or innocent citizens needs to be protected.
While Constitutional courts have tried to protect our very basic rights under article 21, yet here we are, again, where it is reported that daily 5 deaths take place in custody in India. It is no doubt a product of continued institutional apathy towards police reform, it also evident that the judiciary’s approach of only passing directions/ guidelines have proved to be a failure. More often than they are implemented in letter, than in spirit. Often implemented at discretion and conveniences of the government in question. This can be seen in various guidelines of the Constitutional Courts.
In PUCL V/S State of Maharashtra (2014) a two-Judge Bench of then CJI RM Lodha and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman (2014) stated that Is a society governed by rule of law, extra-judicial killings must be properly and independently investigated so that justice may be done. The Supreme Court in Public Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India, while commenting on the legitimacy of encounters, observed as follows –
“if the version of the police with respect to the incident in question were true there could have been no question of any interference by Court. Nobody can say that the police should wait till they are shot at. It is for the force on the spot to decide when to act, how to act, and where to act. It is not for the Court to say how the criminals should be fought.
Article 21 of the Constitution of India guarantees, “right to live with human dignity”. Any violation of human rights is viewed seriously by this Court, as a right to life is the most precious right guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution. The guarantee by Article 21 is available to every person and even the State has no authority to violate that right … …
this Court has stated time and again that Article 21 confers sacred and cherished right under the Constitution, which cannot be violated, except according to the procedure established by law. Article 21 guarantees personal liberty to every single person in the country which includes the right to live with human dignity.”
The Bench issued a set of 16-point guidelines to be followed for a thorough, effective, and independent investigation into every encounter death.
Apart from making registration of FIR mandatory, the Bench made it clear that the involvement of NHRC is not necessary unless there is serious doubt about the independent and impartial investigation, although information of the incident without any delay must be sent to NHRC or the State Human Rights Commission, as the case may be. Point No. 11 says that if on the conclusion of an investigation, the evidence shows that death had occurred by the use of firearm amounting to an offense under the IPC, disciplinary action against such officer must be promptly initiated and he is placed under suspension. Guidelines to focus on aspects such as the role of a judicial magistrate over which it has superintendence and control.
In July 2016 in the case of Extra-Judicial Execution Victim Families Association, where the Supreme Court was dealing with more than 1500 such killings in Manipur, Justice MDAN B LOKUR observed, “Scrutiny by courts in such cases leads to complaints by the state of its having to fight militants, insurgents, criminals and terrorists with one hand tied behind its back. This is not a valid criticism, since, and this is important, in such cases it is not the encounter or the operation that is under scrutiny, but the smoking gun that is under scrutiny. There is a qualitative difference between the use of force in an operation and the use of such deadly force that is akin to using a sledgehammer to kill a fly; one is an act of self-defense, while the other is an act of retaliation”.
The Apex Court has held in Om Prakash v. State of Jharkhand that “it is not the duty of the police to kill the accused merely because he is a criminal.” It was further stated that ‘encounters’ amounted to “state-sponsored terrorism.”
In Sathyavani Ponrai v. Samuel Raj, the Supreme Court has held that a fair investigation is mandatory under Articles 14, 21, and 39 of the Constitution of India and that it is not only a constitutional right but a natural right as well. Further, in Nirmal Singh Kahlon v. the State of Punjab, the Court observed that the right to investigation and fair trial applies to both, the accused and the victim under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
There is a reason why the judiciary is called the weakest branch, all the noble words and intentions of the court order does not automatically translate into reality. This needs money and power of immediate implementation, neither of which courts have. Constitutional courts must re-orient their guidelines to focus on aspects such as the role of a judicial magistrate over which it has superintendence.
Courts and NHRC have also shown a lenient approach towards such incidents. One must remember that in case of serious and heinous crimes, the rule of law does not disappear; it is the very foundation of democracy. Our commitment to Human Rights and the Rule of law is tested during these times. Mob justice is no justice at all; support for police killing will not make society more just. When law enforcers short circuit the due process, the damage to state institutions is severe and long lasting. It dents the credibility of Rule of Law, in effect weakens democracy.
Political Class: Satisfying Domestic Constituencies and Populist Cries For Instant Justice
Political class also needs to remember that upholding Rule of Law is not the sole responsibility of the Judiciary, as elected representatives they even have greater responsibility to cultivate a culture of obedience to Rule of Law. They are role models, to whom citizens should look up to; they should not promote the feudal culture of breaking the law, as it brings home the message of impunity. The foundational principle of the justice system is repetitively, relentlessly and ruthlessly trampled by the continuous reproduction of the narrative that ‘since the deceased was a criminal, it was alright for the police to bypass the rule of law’. Social institutions, whether it is media, films, education, or religion, have been often used to reproduce such narratives which compel the need for brave masochistic male protagonists to take law and order in their own hands to eradicate the evil criminals allegedly for the ‘greater good of society’.
Once a collective consciousness regarding demonstrative justice is manufactured, the question of actual justice is pushed into cold storage. The failure to address and fix the gaps in the criminal justice system is compensated by a socially and politically sanctioned quick fix vigilante justice system. This system of vigilante justice supersedes the rule of law and instead of bringing the wrongful actions of the police to judicial accountability, the criminal acts are often praised and the offenders are given promotions and celebrated as heroes. In cases where efforts are seen to be taken by various responsible stakeholders to raise public opinion, the question of which authority will conduct a fair investigation remains unresolved forever.
Political masters at times themselves are involved for such wrongdoing for reasons well documented by the NHRC.
What, according to the NHRC, are the reasons for fake encounters?
In NHRC’s view, false encounters are, at times, staged by police officers because there is pressure by the political masters to show quick results by means fair or foul. The public, particularly the educated middle class, also do not mind if the police take the law in their own hands and become executioners, particularly concerning the dreaded criminals, says the NHRC’s 2011 manual for human rights for police officers.
The second reason cited by the NHRC is that the police dilemma is compounded by the slow moving the criminal justice system in the country. Trials drag on interminably for years and the outcome remains uncertain, particularly in respect of the criminals enjoying money and muscle power. Hence the pressure on the police for the short cut, and extra-legal methods.
Justified by the police and political leaders on two grounds-Salus populi est suprema lex (the people’s welfare is the supreme law) and salus res publica est suprema lex (the safety of the nation is the supreme law).
Rule of Law is not a meaningless ritualistic legal slogan promiscuously chanted at seminars and workshops and university lectures. Rule of law is not a phrase to be used in only legal jargon; it is a way of life in modern liberal democracies. Rule of Law in essence embodies a lofty concept, a commitment to certain principles and values. It is a salutary reminder that “wherever law ends, tyranny begins” Rule of Law symbolizes the quest of civilized democratic societies. It is to be upheld by all, especially WE, THE PEOPLE. It is the very basis of a civilized society, civilized nation. In its absence, there will be complete Anarchy and Chaos, where MIGHT BECOMES RIGHT, Rule of Law will become Rule of Whims and Fancies of Rulers. It will lead to, as KAUTILYA said “MATSYANYAYA”(Big Fish Eating Small”). We must recall what the Supreme Court said in SALWA JUDUM CASE (2011) -” The primordial value is that it is the responsibility of every organ of the state to function within the four walls of constitutional responsibility. That is the ultimate Rule of Law”. The only true foundation on which the Rule of Law can rest is its willing acceptance by the people of each country until it becomes part of their way of life. Therefore, we should strive to instill the Rule of Law temperament, Rule of Law culture at home, in the schools and universities.
Aprajita Singh is Assistant Professor, School of Law, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies.
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Cancellation of bail cannot be limited to the occurrence of supervening circumstances: SC
It would be very pertinent to note that the Apex Court in a notable judgment titled Deepak Yadav vs State of UP in Criminal Appeal No. 861 of 2022 (Arising out of S.L.P (Crl.) No. 9655 of 2021) pronounced on 20 May, 2022 has minced just no words to hold unambiguously that, “Cancellation of bail cannot be limited to the occurrence of supervening circumstances.” We thus see that the Bench of Apex Court comprising of CJI NV Ramana, Justice Krishna Murari and Justice Hima Kohli observed so while it allowed the appeal against a judgment of the Allahabad High Court which granted bail to a murder accused. It merits mentioning that the Bench while setting aside the bail observed that the High Court has not taken into consideration the criminal history of the accused, nature of crime, material evidences available, involvement of the accused in the said crime and recovery of weapon from his possession. The Court rightly added that the cancellation of bail cannot be limited only to the occurrence of supervening possibilities.
At the outset, this brief, brilliant and balanced judgment authored by Justice Krishna Murari for a Bench of Apex Court comprising of CJI NV Ramana, himself and Justice Hima Kohli sets the pitch in motion by first and foremost putting forth in para 2 that, “The present appeal is directed against the judgment and order dated 22.10.2021 passed by the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad, Lucknow Bench (hereinafter referred to as “High Court”) in Bail No. 11848 of 2021 filed by Respondent No.2 – Accused with a prayer to release him on bail in Case Crime No. 16 of 2021 registered at PS Para, Lucknow under Sections 302 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (hereinafter referred to as “IPC”) during pendency of trial. By the said judgment, the High Court granted bail to Respondent No.2/Accused on furnishing a personal bond and two sureties each in the like amount to the satisfaction of the trial court subject to certain conditions.”
To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in para 3 that, “Briefly, the facts relevant for the purpose of this appeal are that the Appellant/Informant Deepak Yadav lodged an FIR being Crime Case No. 16 /2021 on 09.01.2021 at PS Para, Lucknow under Section 307 IPC against Respondent No. 2/Accused Harjeet Yadav, co-accused Sushil Kumar Yadav and two unknown persons. The allegations against the said accused persons were that on the night of 08.01.2021, at around 8.30 PM, Appellant’s father Mr. Virendera Yadav (deceased) was on way to his home from the lawn located near Jaipuria School and at the same time, the accused persons took position on Kulhad Katta Bridge and fired at him with the common intention to kill the deceased. The bullet shot hit his right cheek and made its exit through the other side leaving him severely injured. In view of his serious condition, the people present on the spot informed the local police station and admitted him at the Trauma Centre, Medical College, Lucknow. The Appellant/Informant, on receiving the information about his injured father rushed to the Trauma Centre with his mother Smt. Sunita Yadav and elder sister Ms. Jyoti Yadav. The Appellant’s mother asked her husband about the incident to which he replied that he was shot by Respondent No.2/Accused Harjeet Yadav and one, Sushil Yadav and that they were accompanied by two other persons as well. The statement given by the deceased was noted down by Sri Mahesh Kumar Chaurasia, DSP/ACP Chowk, Lucknow and Sri. Ashok Kumar Singh, SI/First Investigating Officer.”
While narrating further on the chain of events, the Bench then mentions in para 4 that, “Respondent No. 2/Accused was arrested by the police on 13.01.2021 and one country made pistol with two live cartages were recovered from him. The Appellant/Informant’s father passed away on 14.01.2021 on account of which the case was converted to one under Section 302 IPC. The co-accused, Sushil Kumar Yadav surrendered before the Judicial Magistrate, Lucknow on 16.01.2021.”
Still more, the Bench then states in para 5 that, “After completion of investigation and upon finding sufficient evidence, charge sheet was filed before the trial Court on 06.04.2021 against Respondent No.2/Accused and co-accused Sushil Kumar Yadav under Sections 302 and 34 IPC. Furthermore, investigation against two unknown accused persons is pending.”
As we see, the Bench then discloses in para 6 that, “Respondent No.2/Accused filed Bail Application No. 3340/2021 before the Sessions Judge, Lucknow and the same was rejected vide order dated 28.06.2021 on the ground that he has been named on the basis of the information provided by the deceased himself and that the same has been clarified after the perusal of the documents/forms that the bullet was shot by Respondent No. 2/Accused himself.”
As things stand, the Bench then reveals in para 7 that, “Respondent No. 2/Accused then moved the High Court for grant of regular bail vide Bail No. 11848/2021 wherein Counsel for the Respondent No.2/Accused contended that the co-accused, Sushil Kumar Yadav has been granted bail by the High Court on 18.10.2021 in Bail No. 8501 of 2021 and that the case of the Respondent No. 2 stands on identical footing making him entitled for bail on the ground of parity. The said bail application was allowed vide impugned judgment/order dated 22.10.2021. The operative portion of the judgment reads as under : –
“Keeping in view the nature of the offence, arguments advanced on behalf of the parties, evidence on record regarding complicity of the accused, larger mandate of the Article 21 of the Constitution of India and the dictum of Apex Court in the case of Dataram Singh Vs. State of U.P. & Anr (2018) 3 SCC 22 and without expressing any opinion on the merits of the case, the Court is of the view that the applicant has made out a case for bail. The bail application is allowed.
Let the applicant be released on bail on his furnishing a personal bond and two sureties each in the like amount to the satisfaction of the court concerned subject to following conditions. Further, before issuing the release order, the sureties be verified.
1. The applicant shall not tamper with the prosecution evidence by intimidating/ pressurizing the witnesses, during the investigation or trial;
2. The applicant shall cooperate in the trial sincerely without seeking any adjournment;
3. The applicant shall not indulge in any criminal activity or commission of any crime after being released on bail;
4. That the applicant shall not, directly or indirectly, make any inducement, threat or promise to any person acquainted with the facts of the case so as to dissuade him from disclosing such facts to the Court or to any police officer;
5. The applicant shall file an undertaking to the effect that he shall not seek any adjournment on the dates fixed for evidence and the witnesses are present in court. In case of default of this condition, it shall be open for the trial court to treat it as abuse of liberty of bail and pass orders in accordance with law to ensure presence of the applicant;
6. The applicant shall remain present, in person, before the trial court on the dates fixed for (i) opening of the case, (ii) framing of charge and (iii) recording of statement under Section 313 Cr.P.C. If in the opinion of the trial court, default of this condition is deliberate or without sufficient cause, then it shall be open for the trial court to treat such default as abuse of liberty of his bail and proceed against him in accordance with law;
7. The party shall file computer generated copy of such order downloaded from the official website of High Court Allahabad;
8. The concerned court/authority/official shall verify the authenticity of such computerized copy of the order from the official website of High Court Allahabad and shall make a declaration of such verification in writing. In case of breach of any of the above conditions, it shall be a ground for cancellation of bail.””
Be it noted, the Bench then enunciates in para 26 that, “The importance of assigning reasoning for grant or denial of bail can never be undermined. There is prima facie need to indicate reasons particularly in cases of grant or denial of bail where the accused is charged with a serious offence. The sound reasoning in a particular case is a reassurance that discretion has been exercised by the decision maker after considering all the relevant grounds and by disregarding extraneous considerations.”
Quite significantly, the Bench then observes in para 30 that, “This Court has reiterated in several instances that bail once granted, should not be cancelled in a mechanical manner without considering whether any supervening circumstances have rendered it no longer conducive to a fair trial to allow the accused to retain his freedom by enjoying the concession of bail during trial. Having said that, in case of cancellation of bail, very cogent and overwhelming circumstances are necessary for an order directing cancellation of bail (which was already granted). A two-Judge Bench of this Court in Dolat Ram And Others Vs. State of Haryana (1995) 1 SCC 349 laid down the grounds for cancellation of bail which are :-
(i) interference or attempt to interfere with the due course of administration of Justice
(ii) evasion or attempt to evade the due course of justice
(iii) abuse of the concession granted to the accused in any manner
(iv) Possibility of accused absconding
(v) Likelihood of/actual misuse of bail
(vi) Likelihood of the accused tampering with the evidence or threatening witnesses.”
Most significantly, the Bench then minces no words to hold in para 31 that, “It is no doubt true that cancellation of bail cannot be limited to the occurrence of supervening circumstances. This Court certainly has the inherent powers and discretion to cancel the bail of an accused even in the absence of supervening circumstances. Following are the illustrative circumstances where the bail can be cancelled :-
a) Where the court granting bail takes into account irrelevant material of substantial nature and not trivial nature while ignoring relevant material on record.
b) Where the court granting bail overlooks the influential position of the accused in comparison to the victim of abuse or the witnesses especially when there is prima facie misuse of position and power over the victim.
c) Where the past criminal record and conduct of the accused is completely ignored while granting bail.
d) Where bail has been granted on untenable grounds.
e) Where serious discrepancies are found in the order granting bail thereby causing prejudice to justice.
f) Where the grant of bail was not appropriate in the first place given the very serious nature of the charges against the accused which disentitles him for bail and thus cannot be justified.
g) When the order granting bail is apparently whimsical, capricious and perverse in the facts of the given case.”
It cannot be glossed over that the Bench then points out in para 35 that, “Coming to the present case at hand, the Respondent No.2/Accused was arrested on 13.01.2021 subsequent to which, he had applied for regular bail before the Sessions Court which was rejected on the ground that he is named in the FIR on the basis of the information provided by the deceased himself and that the same has been clarified after perusal of the documents/forms that the bullet was shot by the Respondent No. 2/Accused himself. Being aggrieved by the same, Respondent No.2/Accused filed an application under Section 439 Cr.P.C before the High Court seeking regular bail. The High Court vide its impugned order granted bail to the Respondent No.2/Accused without considering the relevant facts and circumstances.”
Most remarkably, the Bench then lays bare in para 36 that, “A bare perusal of the impugned order reveals that the High Court has failed to take into consideration the following:-
· espondent No.2/Accused has been named in the FIR bearing Crime Case No. 16/2021 lodged under Sections 302 and 34 IPC and was the main assailant who had a weapon in his hand.
· The main role of Respondent No.2/Accused was that he opened fire at the deceased due to which the bullet hit his right cheek and made its exit through the other side.
· The deceased succumbed to his injuries on 14.01.2021.
· Respondent No.2/Accused had the intention to murder the deceased as there was previous enmity between him and the deceased with regard to some land which Respondent No.2 threatened to grab.
· On being asked about the incident by the Appellant/Informant’s mother, the deceased replied “Ratipal ka dusra number ka ladka aur ram asre ka putra Sushil Yadav ne pull par gaadi rukwakar goli maar di hai or unke sath 2 ladke aur the”. On re-clarifying, the deceased replied “Ratipal ka dusra number ka ladka matlab Harjeet Yadav”.
· Respondent No.2/accused has clearly been named by the deceased and he was actively involved in opening fire which caused the death of the deceased.
· Respondent No. 2/Accused’s statement was recorded by the then IO under Section 161 Cr.P.C in which he admitted to having committed the offence.
· Respondent No. 2 has a criminal history and several criminal matters have been lodged against him:
(1) Case Crime no. 016/2021 u/s 302/34 IPC
(2) Case Crime no. 020/2021 u/s 25 of the Arms Act
(3) Proceedings of 110G on 05.11.2021
(4) Beat Information (G.D No. 33) dated 18.12.2021
(5) Beat Information (G.D. No. 44) dated 19.12.2021.”
Most forthrightly, the Bench then mandates in para 37 that, “There is certainly no straight jacket formula which exists for courts to assess an application for grant or rejection of bail but the determination of whether a case is fit for the grant of bail involves balancing of numerous factors, among which the nature of the offence, the severity of the punishment and a prima facie view of the involvement of the accused are important. This Court does not normally interfere with an order passed by the High Court granting or rejecting bail to the accused. However, it is equally incumbent upon the High Court to exercise its discretion judiciously, cautiously and strictly in compliance with basic principles laid down in a catena of judgments by this Court.”
It must be noted that the Bench then in the same vein adds in para 38 that, “However having said that, in the case at hand, it is manifestly incorrect on the part of the High Court to have granted bail to the Respondent No.2/Accused without taking into consideration the relevant facts and circumstances and appropriate evidence which proves that the Respondent No.2/Accused has been charged with a serious offence.”
It is worth noting that the Bench then observes in para 39 that, “Grant of bail to the Respondent No.2/Accused only on the basis of parity shows that the impugned order passed by the High Court suffers from the vice of non-application of mind rendering it unsustainable. The High Court has not taken into consideration the criminal history of the Respondent No.2/Accused, nature of crime, material evidences available, involvement of Respondent No.2/Accused in the said crime and recovery of weapon from his possession.”
Furthermore, the Bench then directs in para 40 that, “Having considered the aforesaid facts of the present case in juxtaposition with the judgments referred to above, we are of the opinion that the impugned order passed by the High Court is not liable to be sustained and is hereby set aside. The bail bonds of Respondent No.2/Accused stand cancelled and he is hereby directed to surrender within one week from the date of passing of this order, failing which, the concerned police authorities shall take him into custody.”
For sake of clarity, the Bench then clarifies in para 41 stating that, “It is however clarified that observations made hereinabove are limited to our consideration of the issue of cancellation of bail, as raised by the appellant. They shall not come in the way of final adjudication before the trial Court. At the cost of repetition, it is stated that the trial Court is to consider the matter pending before it, uninfluenced by any of the observations made, strictly on the basis of evidence that shall be brought on record. This order shall also not preclude the Respondent No. 2/Accused from applying afresh for bail at a later stage, if any, new circumstances are brought to light.”
Finally, the Bench then concludes by holding in para 42 that, “As a result, appeal stands allowed.”
In conclusion, the Apex Court has made it indubitably clear that the cancellation of bail cannot be limited to the occurrence of supervening circumstances. It thus merits no reiteration that the bail thus granted by the Allahabad High Court to the murder accused was cancelled by the top court. Very rightly so!
CREATING A LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR THE INDIAN OFFSHORE WIND SECTOR
The global boom in the offshore wind market is yet to pick up pace in India. India has plans to achieve 5GW Offshore Wind energy by 2022 and 30GW by 2030. Despite such ambitious goals, India has yet to kick-off any offshore wind farms and has been largely in the assessment phase since 2013. While it has achieved 103.05GW of renewable energy so far, it has come mainly through onshore projects, where lack of available land has now become a major constraint. Given India’s commitment at COP26 for achieving 500GW energy from non-fossil fuels by 2030, the importance of the Indian offshore wind sector (“OWS”)— considering it’s 7600 km coastline, cannot be overstated.
The slow progress in the OWS can be attributed to lack of suitable policy and legal framework. The Indian Offshore Wind Policy, issued in 2016, lays out primary steps such as facilitation by the Indian Wind Agency in obtaining permissions; and assured acquisition of power produced from such projects by the government. However, this policy does not address various supervening and foreseeable investor concerns, such as obtaining multiple permissions by the developer— culminating in longer lead times, revocation of incentives due to changing governments, lack of clarity on transferability of operating licences as well as the lack of financial subsidies. Most importantly, the policy is not backed by necessary legal provisions. For example, as per the Policy, a nodal agency would authorise development of offshore wind facilities in the Indian exclusive economic zone (“EEZ”). But, India’s EEZ Act requires that the government specifically make legal provisions for exploitation of wind energy in the EEZ. No such provision currently exists, essentially rendering void any law and nodal agency regulating offshore wind projects in the EEZ.
While introducing legal provisions to govern the OWS by amending existing law would be a quick-fix; I submit that the OWS needs a separate legal framework addressing the full length of issues in constructing, operating and decommissioning offshore projects— that facilitates investment. India’s comprehensive framework developed for oil and mineral exploration in the EEZ can be used as a model. Global forerunners such as the Netherlands, Germany, and Japan have similarly introduced precedent setting laws, catalysing the sector.
Firstly, the framework should address the concerns of investors regarding long lead times in obtaining multiple permissions. This can be solved by extending the powers of the Wind Agency from merely facilitating with other ministries to obtain permissions; to being a ‘one-stop shop’ for issuing all consent requirements, which can reduce construction time and costs of such projects.
In addition, the Wind Agency should be responsible for obtaining nominal permissions— to minimise the number of consents required by the developer. For example, the approval for connecting onshore electric substations to the offshore project, should be obtained by the Wind Agency to help developers. In order to gain such a benefit, an increased coordination between Federal and state governments would be required— as they both concurrently regulate Electricity.
Secondly, the framework should enable the transferability of operating licenses in the event of financial default. Unlike onshore wind installations, offshore installations cannot be easily moved since they are generally fixed to the seabed and taller than the Statue of Liberty! Hence, in case of default by the developer, it is easier to transfer the operating licence instead of moving such assets. This flexibility to transfer licences would reduce the reticence of lenders to finance the OWS, especially in the nascent stage. A stringent government vetting process can be established, in order to address concerns regarding the technical and financial capabilities of the successor, post such transfer.
Thirdly, the framework should ensure protection of investment by turning government incentives into codified law. For example, very recently, a binding national law had to be introduced in India after developers complained that various state governments were terminating assured renewable energy procurement agreements— causing major losses to the developers. This was despite the Federal government’s strict directives to states to adhere to their commitments and ensure uninterrupted energy procurement under power purchase agreements.
In conclusion, implementing the OWS framework will be a challenging task— especially given the current discord between major Indian political parties, which may result in the draft OWS bill not achieving the majority votes to become law; or any such law being repealed by the succeeding government. While I have highlighted the primary challenges to be addressed, several other important bottlenecks remain to be resolved. The government needs to undertake an in-depth study of the best practices in the sector to generate an erudite and well-balanced legal framework which addresses potential risks and reflects the sophistication of the international offshore wind sector, in hopes of presenting it to the Indian parliament. This will help companies such as Tata Power and RWE who are hoping to invest in India’s OWS subject to there being a proper regulatory framework.
The slow progress in the OWS can be attributed to lack of suitable policy and legal framework. The Indian Offshore Wind Policy, issued in 2016, lays out primary steps such as facilitation by the Indian Wind Agency in obtaining permissions; and assured acquisition of power produced from such projects by the government.
THE GUARDIAN OF THE CONSTITUTION
With the announcement of candidates for the office of the President of India, the battle for Raisina Hill has begun. The BJP has declared Mrs. Draupadi Murmu, a tribal leader and former Governor of Jharkhand, its presidential candidate while the opposition parties have fielded Yashwant Sinha, a former Union Minister and a retired Babu, for the highest constitutional office in the country. Sinha is a well-known critic of the Modi government who was compelled to leave the party a few years ago. It is widely believed that Mr Sinha is bound to lose given the numbers in the electoral college. So, the BJP candidate is most likely to occupy the Rashtrapati Bhavan in the last week of July this year. If elected, Mrs. Murmu will be the second woman and the first tribal President of the country. After the election, her main task will be to defend the Constitution and the laws at a time when several political parties, organizations, and individuals have complained about the misuse of central law-enforcement agencies and institutions and the President will have to face such challenges. Undoubtedly, the Constitution empowers the President to stop the violations of the Constitution.
Under the Indian constitutional scheme, practice, and several judicial pronouncements, the President of India is a constitutional head of the Union Government who is generally bound to act on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers in the exercise of his/her constitutional powers and functions, vested in him/her by Article 53 of the Constitution, save in a few areas where he/she can act at his discretion. The Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister is collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha, the popular chamber of Parliament, and not to the President. The President is also an organ of Parliament. No Bill passed by Parliament can become a law unless the President gives his/her assent to that Bill. The President appoints the Prime Minister from a political party that secures the support of the majority in the Lok Sabha. In the case of a hung Lok Sabha, the President has some discretion in the government’s formation. On the advice of the Prime Minister, the President appoints other ministers and allocates them portfolios on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. If someone is ineligible to become a minister, the President can point that out to the Prime Minister who can drop such a name from the list of ministers. The ministers hold their office during the pleasure of the Prime Minister who can eject any minister at any time and the President is bound to go with the Prime Minister’s choice. The Prime Minister is the head of the Council of Ministers which can remain in office until it ceases to secure the support of the majority in the Lok Sabha. The moment the Lok Sabha expresses its lack of trust in the Council of Ministers, the President can ask the Prime Minister to resign and may invite another political party to form the government. Thus, the Lok Sabha is the lifeline of the elected government. The Council of Ministers is the supreme policy-making body in the Union. It makes all decisions and takes initiatives to bring legislative proposals. There is no need to get the prior approval of the President before making decisions. However, the Prime Minister informs the President as a courtesy to fulfil the mandate of Article 78 of the Constitution. Under this provision, the President can also seek any information about the affairs of the Union from the Prime Minister who is duty-bound to furnish him with such information. The President can also ask the Prime Minister to present the decision of any minister before the Cabinet for its approval. This provision is helpful to ensure the smooth compliance of the doctrine of collective responsibility of the government in a parliamentary democracy.
I am unable to accept the view of some constitutional pundits who opine that the President of India is a rubber stamp or merely a figurehead who acts like a robot. The President of India is not a rubber stamp at all. The Constitution allows him/her to play a significant role and he/she can certainly contribute a lot to the constitutional governance in the country. Under Article 74 of the Constitution, the President can ask the Council of Ministers to reconsider its advice once but thereafter, if the Council of Ministers reiterates its advice, the President is bound to accept the same and act accordingly. The constitutional and political pundits call it President’s Referral power. This power is exercised by the President at his discretion. This option was given to the President by the 44th Constitutional Amendment, 1978. During his tenure, then-President K. R. Narayanan exercised this option two times and saved two State Governments from Article 356 of the Constitution. Also, the President can persuade the Prime Minister to run the administration according to the constitutional provisions as the President is duty-bound to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and the laws as per the mandate of his/her oath of office under Article 60 of the Constitution. Article 61 of the Constitution provides a sanction for the fulfillment of the oath because, under Article 61, the President can be impeached “for violation of the Constitution”. Thus, the President cannot accept the illegal and unconstitutional advice of the Council of Ministers blindly. The President needs to apply his/her mind before approving the Cabinet’s decisions or proposals even if Article 361 of the Constitution provides immunity to the President against judicial proceedings. Article 361 cannot stop Parliament from impeaching the President.
Admittedly, the President of India needs to exercise his/her constitutional powers and functions on the advice of the Council of Ministers which remains in existence even after the dissolution of the Lok Sabha. But the President has some personal responsibility also. He/she cannot shift all responsibilities to the Council of Ministers. Renowned constitutional jurist H M Seervai rightly states that the Council of Ministers cannot compel the President to act against the provisions of the Constitution. In his famous book on the Constitution of India, Mr. Seervai gives some examples to prove this thesis. As Article 85 of the Constitution provides that: “The President shall from time to time summon each House of Parliament to meet at such time and place as he thinks fit, but six months shall not intervene between the last sitting in one session and the date appointed for the first sitting in the next session”. If the Prime Minister advises the President to call the next session after a year, by which time the government hoped to overcome its political crisis, it is the duty of the President to disregard such advice and to call for a session of the two Houses of Parliament as required by Article 85(1) of the Constitution. For he if acted otherwise, he would be violating a mandatory provision of the Constitution, for which he is liable to be impeached by Parliament. In another example, Mr. Seervai states that the President cannot ignore the opinion of the Election Commission while deciding any matter relating to the disqualification of a Member of Parliament under Article 103 of the Constitution and cannot go with the Cabinet’s advice in such matters. Thus, the President cannot violate the mandatory provisions of the Constitution while exercising his/her powers on the advice of the elected government headed by the Prime Minister.
After the three Judges’ appointment cases, the President is bound to appoint the judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts on the recommendation of the Supreme Court Collegium headed by the Chief Justice of India. If the Prime Minister advises him/her to override the collegium’s recommendation, the President can disregard the Prime Minister’s advice and has to act according to the collegium’s recommendation. This arrangement has been made by the judiciary to protect its independence from the executive. However, in many cases, the judiciary has also misused this freedom and appointed people who should never have been appointed judges. Several constitutional pundits have said on different occasions that the collegium system has promoted nepotism, elitism, and casteism in the judiciary. Unfortunately, a few privileged families of judges and lawyers, some castes, and communities have dominated the higher judiciary badly. This is not good for the health of the legal profession. The time has come when the government should take steps to examine the functioning of the collegium system and enact a law to scrap this judge-made body which has no constitutional foundation.
Given the above discussion, it is submitted that the President of India has a specific role in our constitutional system and he/she must play that role to protect the Constitution and the laws effectively remaining within the constitutional boundaries. The President is not a master of the elected government but he/she is certainly a guardian of the Constitution, a friend of the Prime Minister, and above all, a vigilant citizen who is duty-bound to protect the collective interests of the nation. He/she can guide the government and can persuade the government to act according to the provisions of the Constitution. The President may use his/her activism as and when needed to save democracy, rule of law, human rights, and dignity. The people have lots of expectations from the new tenant of the Rashtrapati Bhavan which is a very powerful building in the land of Professor Upendra Baxi, a great constitutional jurist and defender of human rights and dignity.(For more information about the constitutional powers, functions, and position of the President of India, please read Lokendra Malik, The Power of Raisina Hill, LexisNexis 2015) Let me conclude with these insightful words of Justice Krishna Iyer observed in the Samsher Singh’s case: “The President in India is not at all a glorified cipher. He represents the majesty of the State, is at the apex, though only symbolically, and has rapport with the people and parties, being above politics. His vigilant presence makes for good government if only he uses, what Bagehot described as, the right to be consulted, to warn and encouraged. Indeed, Article 78 wisely used, keeps the President in close touch with the Prime Minister on matters of national importance and policy significance, and there is no doubt that the imprint of his personality may chasten and correct the political government, although the actual exercise of the functions entrusted to him by law is in effect and in law carried on by his duly appointed mentors i.e., the Prime Minister and his colleagues. In short, the President, like the King, has not merely been constitutionally romanticized but actually vested with a pervasive and persuasive role”.
Counsel entitled to physically accompany party to remote point while giving evidence via video conferencing: Karnataka HC
In a very significant development, we saw how just recently on 24 June 2022, the Karnataka High Court has in an extremely learned, laudable, landmark and latest judgment titled K Lakshmaiah Reddy vs V Anil Reddy & Others in Writ Petition No. 10926 of 2022 and cited in 2022 LiveLaw (Kar) 237 held in no uncertain terms that a counsel/advocate appearing for the parties are entitled to be physically present at the remote point from where the evidence of such party is being recorded through video conferencing. It must be mentioned here that a Single Judge Bench of Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum allowed the petition filed by one K Lakshmaiah Reddy who had challenged the order of the Trial Court which had declined permission that was sought by his counsel to be present at the remote point while recording of the evidence. Very rightly so!
To start with, this brief, brilliant and balanced judgment authored by a single Judge Bench of the Karnataka High Court comprising of Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum sets the ball rolling by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, “The captioned writ petition is filed by the defendant No.2 questioning the order dated 30.05.2022 passed on memo filed by the petitioner/defendant No.2. Under the impugned order, the learned Judge has declined permission sought by the counsel appearing for the present petitioner/defendant No.2 to be present at the remote point while recording evidence of defendant No.2.”
To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in para 2 that, “The present petitioner is a resident of Michigan, USA and is aged about 87 years and is suffering from various health issues. Therefore, the petitioner filed applications in I.A.Nos.27 and 28 under Rule 6 of the Video Conferencing Rules and also application in I.A.No.36 under Order 18 Rule 16 of CPC to examine the petitioner immediately. The said applications were allowed by the Trial Court thereby permitting the present petitioner/defendant No.2 and defendant No.5 to record their evidence through Video Conference. The Trial Court accordingly with the consent of parties to the suit, fixed the date of recording evidence through video conferencing on 06.06.2022. The petitioner filed memo on 25.05.2022 requesting the Court to make further e-mail correspondence towards logistic support and to inform the remote point coordinator to issue 5 entry passes to enable the petitioner to have assistance of his Advocate and also attendants.”
While stating the precise reason behind filing of petition, the Bench then specifies in para 3 that, “The contesting defendants filed statement of objections to the said memo. The learned Judge vide impugned order at Annexure-A has refused to permit the petitioner’s Advocate to be present at the remote point while recording evidence of defendant No.2. It is this order which is under challenge.”
To be sure, the Bench then states in para 14 that, “Before I advert to the controversy involved between the parties, it would be useful for this Court to refer to the relevant Rules framed by this Court which is titled as “Rules for Video Conferencing for Courts”. The relevant definitions are culled out as under:
“2(v) ‘Court Point’ means the Courtroom or one or more places where the Court is physically convened, or the place where a Commissioner or an inquiring officer holds proceedings pursuant to the directions of the Court.
2(x) ‘Remote Point’ is a place where any person or persons are required to be present or appear through a video link. 2(xii) ‘Required Person’ includes:
a. the person who is to be examined; or
b. the person in whose presence certain proceedings are to be recorded or conducted; or
c. an advocate or a party in person who intends to examine a witness; or
d. any person who is required to make submission before the Court; or
e. any other person who is permitted by the Court to appear through video conferencing.””
Needless o say, the Bench then mentions in para 21 that, “The respondents are objecting the presence of counsel at the remote point. The moot question that has to be examined before this Court is, as to whether the Court is vested with discretion to permit the counsel on record to be present at the remote point along with his client?”
It would be instructive to note that the Bench then enunciates in para 22 that, “Rule 14 refers to ‘Conduct of proceedings’. It would be useful for this Court to refer to Rules 14.1 and 14.7 which reads as under:
“14.1 All Advocates, Required Persons, the party in person and/or any other person permitted by the Court to remain physically or virtually present (hereinafter collectively referred to as participants) shall abide by the requirements set out in Schedule I.
14.7 The Court shall satisfy itself that the Advocate, Required Person or any other participant that the Court deems necessary at the Remote Point or the Court Point can be seen and heard clearly and can clearly see and hear the Court.””
For sake of clarity, the Bench then clarifies in para 23 that, “On perusal of Rule 14.1, it is clearly evident that the said Rule clearly contemplates and enables all Advocates, required persons, party-in-person either to remain physically or virtually present who are collectively referred to as participants. The only rider to the said sub-rule is that the participants are required to abide by the requirement set out in Schedule-I to the Rules. Therefore, the “Required Person” as defined under Rule 2(xii) would not necessarily mean that it is only the witness, who has to be examined, has to be physically present at the remote point. This Court is unable to understand as to how the counsel on record can be denied a right of audience at the remote point. Rule 14 clearly contemplates and permits all Advocates including required persons or party-in-person to be physically present at the remote point. Further, Rule 14.7 also gives discretion to the Court in a given case to permit the Advocate or any other participants that Court deems necessary at the remote point or Court point.”
Frankly speaking, the Bench then observes in para 24 that, “The definition “Required Person” and further persons who can be permitted to be present at the remote point as contemplated under Rule 8.11 cannot be so narrowly construed and interpreted so as to exclude a counsel. If such a proposition is accepted, that would take away the valuable rights of a client who is entitled for apt assistance by his counsel on record. It is an established tradition that a trusting relationship between a client and Advocate is necessary for effective representation. Therefore, legal assistance before a witness is examined or cross-examined plays a vital role. The counsel appearing for either of the parties are the most important actors of most court room interactions. The Advocates on record are the central influence in the court room. Therefore, personal contact between a counsel and his client stand together in Court and therefore, is deemed very important in establishing trust which would ultimately result in establishing a litigants’ faith in the legal system overall and this trust is often built by the Advocates on record who are also officers of the Court. Mere presence of Counsel of a deponent under cross-examination at remote point would result in either prompting or tutoring the witness.”
Most forthrightly, the Bench then states in para 25 that, “The definition “Required Person” under Rule 2(xii) coupled with Rule 8.11 authorizing a coordinator at the remote point to ensure that no person is present at the remote point cannot be read in isolation. The above said relevant rules have to be conjointly read along with Rules 14.1 and 14.7. A witness is entitled for legal assistance even when he is cross-examined. However, at the time of cross-examination, his counsel cannot prompt or tutor him. Based on mere apprehension, the above said rules cannot be narrowly interpreted so as to exclude the counsel on record who is an integral part of legal system and plays a vital role in dispensation of justice. The Advocates admittedly play a role as an Officer of the Court. His presence at the time of cross- examination of his witness is further more essential. It is a common fact that cross-examination often involves a battle of wits between cross-examiner and witness. At times, Advocates cross-examining the witness may have to use guile to expose the unreliability of the witness, as when the latter is lulled into a false sense of security and does not realise that he is being trapped or set up for questions which will effectively challenge him. Advocates often adopt such an approach which are essential to break the effect created by the witness in examination-in-chief or in his affidavit of the evidence in chief. Therefore, it is the counsel appearing for the witness who is subjected to cross-examination can object to the questions posed to the witness which are found to be contrary to ethical rules. In such circumstances, it is the Advocate who has to meticulously watch the proceedings of cross-examination and has to be vigilant to see that Advocate who is cross-examining does not lie or put untruths to the witness. The essence of the principle here is that the cross- examiner must not act dishonestly. He must not mislead the Court as well as the witness who is being cross-examined. Therefore, the presence of Advocate also plays a vital role when his witness is being cross-examined at the remote point. The presence of Advocate at the remote point would create a sense of security and would help him to face test of cross-examination. That cannot be misconstrued to such an extent that it would amount to prompting or tutoring. His mere presence at the remote point will not violate the Rules.”
Quite commendably, the Bench then holds in para 26 that, “Therefore, in the present case on hand, defendant No.2 is entitled to seek legal assistance even when he is being cross-examined by way of video conferencing. Using video conferencing, the defendant’s rights cannot be sacrificed in the name of procedural efficiency. The adversarial model which is adopted for several decades cannot be abandoned under the garb that the Rules relating to video conferencing does not permit. Adversarialism is a cornerstone of the legal process; the system is predicated on this tenet. Denial of legal assistance while recording ocular evidence of a witness through video conferencing violates fundamental fairness.”
In the present context, the Bench then also makes it clear in para 27 that, “Looking to the recent trend, video conferencing does have a place in the legal system. The challenge is not to exclude it but to use it responsibly. The video conferencing can produce better results, but at the same time, certain highlighted issues which may prop up down the line have to be addressed effectively. The client is entitled to seek assistance and therefore, the clients interaction with his counsel on record is quite essential to a fair trial and a person who is supposed to be cross-examined is entitled to meet his counsel ahead of time to discuss every anticipated questions, concept or a piece of evidence. The Rules that are framed by this Court governing recording of evidence through video conferencing require all participants to follow the Rules in terms of Schedule-I which is annexed to the Rules.”
As a corollary, the Bench then observes in para 28 that, “It is in this background, the proposition floated by the counsel appearing for the contesting respondents cannot be acceded to. An Advocate should always be with his client. The Rules framed by this Court do not intend to support plaintiffs team or a defence team. The counsel appearing for respective clients are entitled to stand together and the same is necessary for an attorney-client relationship to function properly. A medium that interferes with the court’s main mission should be eliminated.”
Quite forthrightly, the Bench then also clearly states in para 29 that, “The contesting parties are entitled to have a discussion with their Advocates on record as they need to discuss important decisions concerning vital documents, basic legal strategy prior to appearing in Court. Personal meetings are better for hastening out case strategies, fact gatherings and basic legal tactics. Therefore, it is in this context, if the proposition of respondents is accepted and if counsel appearing for a witness who is supposed to be cross-examined is denied a right of audience at a remote point, the apprehension that the ocular evidence recorded through video conferencing will not satisfy the prescribed requirements of a fair trial and the same would create a doubt in regard to legitimacy of a legal process may turn out to be a hard reality. Therefore, denial of right of audience to a counsel on record has its own ramifications and may result in violation of fundamental fairness and may also have impact on due process of law.”
Furthermore, the Bench then states in para 30 that, “By introducing technology and by bringing in recording of ocular evidence through video conferencing, an attempt is made in all good faith to meet the standards of face-to-face trial. By bringing in new Rules, the Courts have to meet the established standards and traditions in recording evidence physically in the open Court. The dignity and ritual of physical presence in the Court was found to be absolutely necessary for public perception of justice. A very ceremony of trial and presence of fact finder may exert a powerful force for truth telling. The opportunity to judge the demeanor of a witness face-to-face is accorded great value in our tradition. Now in a given case, where parties consent to record ocular evidence through video conferencing has to meet the above said standards. There is an apprehension that non-verbal cues are unavailable or harder to read when associated with video conferencing. Therefore, the presence of counsel of a witness to be cross-examined at a remote point becomes further more essential.”
What’s more, the Bench then stipulates in para 31 that, “In the light of the discussions made supra, now let me see whether the Court is vested with discretion to permit the counsel appearing for a witness who is supposed to be cross-examined to be present at the remote point. The remote point has to be considered as an extended court room. A Court includes a physical court and a virtual court and if a Court can have court point at one or more place, then the Rules clearly prescribe that the counsel on record can be present at all point either in the Court physically or through a video link or at a remote point physically. Rule 14.1 clearly contemplates persons who are entitled to participate in court proceedings. Rule 14.1 clearly indicates that all Advocates and required persons are entitled to remain physically or virtually present. A discretion is also vested with the Court under Rule 14.7 and it is well within the discretion of the Court in a given set of facts to permit Advocate, required person or any other participants that court deems necessary at the remote point or at the court point. If at all any mischief is played during the course of recording evidence, the Court is better placed to hold an enquiry in regard to any mischief that would be complained.”
Of course, the Bench then rightly points out in para 32 that, “Unlike face-to-face hearing, a Judge has a privilege of replaying the recording and find out as to whether the witness is hoaxed or tutored. The court can also examine whether counsel on record has interfered and assisted the witness under cross-examination. The guidelines set out in Schedule-I coupled with Rule 5.6.4 clearly provides adequate protection. It is in this background, this Court would find that the apprehension of the respondents and objections raised in regard to entitlement of counsel on record to be physically present at remote point appears to be misconceived.”
Most significantly, the Bench then lays down in para 33 that, “If the order under challenge is tested in the light of the above said discussions made supra, this Court is of the view that the order under challenge is not at all sustainable. Mere bald allegations that if the counsel is permitted to be physically present at remote point, then every possibility of petitioner getting prompted, tutored or coaxed cannot be acceded to and such an objection is not at all sustainable. In fact, Rule 14 which lays down guidelines for conducting proceedings through video conferencing clearly contemplates and authorizes all Advocates to be present physically at remote point. A discretion is also vested with the Court in a given set of facts to permit the counsel or any other unconnected participants to be physically present at the remote point. It is in this background, this Court would find that the learned Judge erred in not exercising discretion judiciously. Therefore, the finding of the learned Judge that counsel appearing for the present petitioner/defendant No.2 is already present at the remote point and he can join recording of evidence by joining the link does not satisfy the requirements of a fair trial. The learned Judge erred in not exercising judicial discretion by permitting the counsel appearing for defendant No.2 to be physically present at the remote point.”
In addition, the Bench then also most commendably notes in para 34 that, “If a coordinator at the remote point is already available and if the entire ocular evidence is video recorded, any slight mischief can be easily taken notice of and the consequences would follow if the counsel contravenes any of the courtesies and protocols applicable to a physical Court. Therefore, I am of the view that the counsel appearing for the defendant No.2 is entitled to be physically present at the remote point.”
Finally, the Bench then concludes by holding in para 35 that, “For the reasons stated, supra, I pass the following:
(i) The writ petition is allowed;
(ii) The impugned order dated 30.05.2022 passed in O.S.No.66/2016 on the file of the III Additional City Civil & Sessions Judge, Bengaluru is set aside. Consequently, the memo dated 25.05.2022 filed by the petitioner/defendant No.2 is allowed;
(iii) The coordinator at the remote point shall ensure that while recording evidence of the petitioner/defendant No.2, the persons who are permitted to be present at the remote point will not indulge in interfering with his cross-examination;
(iv) Before commencing with the recording of evidence of petitioner/defendant No.2, the Court shall satisfy itself that the counsel appearing on behalf of petitioner/defendant No.2 can be seen and heard clearly at the remote point;
(v) The Court shall also monitor and take all necessary precautions that recording of ocular evidence of petitioner/defendant No.2 is conducted by strictly following the Rules.”
In essence, the Karnataka High Court has thus made the entire picture pretty clear in this notable judgment about counsel being entitled to physically accompany a party to remote point while giving evidence via video conferencing. We have already discussed it in detail. It merits no reiteration that all the courts must definitely pay heed to what the Karnataka High Court has held so very explicitly in this leading case!
Accused can’t be convicted for charge which is not framed by trial court, says Karnataka HC
It is worth mentioning that the Bench then observes in para 23 that, ‘Having heard the respective counsel and also on perusal of the material available before the court, the trial court imposed a fine of Rs 4,000 each and accordingly, accused No.1 deposited the fine amount and whether the accused No.2, the revision petitioner herein, has deposited the amount or not is not forthcoming. Admittedly, this petitioner has also not challenged the same in any appeal before the Appellate Court i.e., the sentence of fine imposed by the trial court’.
While fully, firmly and finally espousing the legal right of the accused, the Karnataka High Court in an extremely learned, laudable, landmark and latest judgment titled M Ajithkumar vs The State By Food Inspector, Koppa in Criminal Revision Petition No. 1527/2016 and cited in 2022 LiveLaw (Kar) 234 that was pronounced finally on June 24, 2022 has set aside the conviction that was handed down under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act by the Trial Court for a charge which it did not frame against the accused and remanded the matter back to be considered afresh. A Single Judge Bench of Justice HP Sandesh while allowing the petition filed by one M Ajithkumar said that, “There is a glaring error on the part of the Trial Court since charge has been framed for Section 7(1) of the Act and conviction and sentence is passed for the violation of Section 7(2) of the Act. The Appellate Court also failed to take note of this aspect into consideration and concentrated mainly on the minimum sentence.” We thus see that the Karnataka High Court very rightly sets aside the conviction and sentence order passed by the court below.
To start with, this refreshing, remarkable, robust and rational judgment authored by a Single Judge Bench of Hon’ble Mr Justice HP Sandesh sets the ball rolling by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, “This criminal revision petition is filed under Section 397 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 praying this Court to set aside the judgment passed by the Civil Judge and JMFC, Koppa dated 24.04.2013 in C.C.No.451/2008 and also set aside the judgment dated 09.11.2016 passed in Crl.A.No.233/2013 by the Principal District and Sessions Judge, Chikkamagaluru and acquit the revision petitioner for the offences alleged against him and grant such other relief as deems fit in the circumstances of the case.”
While elaborating on prosecution case, the Bench then states in para 2 that, “The factual matrix of the case of the prosecution is that the Food Inspector, Koppa has visited the shop belonging to the accused No.1-M. Umar on 16.02.2008 situate at Koppa and inspected the food articles and examined 20 packs each containing 200 miligrams of sungift refined cooking oil and found that there is adulteration in the said oil and noticed that the said oil was supplied by the revision petitioner and filed the complaint against the accused persons stating that they have violated Section 7(2) of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 (‘the Act’ for short) and thereby committed the offence punishable under Section 16(a)(i) of the said Act.”
Needless to say, the Bench then specifies in para 3 that, “Based on the complaint, cognizance was taken against this revision petitioner and accused No.1 and both of them not pleaded guilty. Hence, the prosecution, in order to prove their case, examined P.Ws.1 to 4 and relied upon the documents Exs.P1 to P13(a) and two memo of objects were marked as M.Os.1 and 2 containing sungift refined cooking oil.”
To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in para 4 that, “The Trial Court, after considering both oral and documentary evidence placed on record, convicted both the accused and imposed sentence of fine of Rs.4,000/- each, failing which they are liable to serve the sentence of simple imprisonment for seven months. The accused No.1 paid the fine amount and the prosecution also challenged the inadequate sentence and filed appeal in Criminal Appeal No.233/2013 and the First Appellate Court reversed the judgment of the Trial Court and imposed sentence of six months vide judgment dated 09.11.2016. Hence, the revision petitioner-accused No.2 has filed this revision petition.”
As we see, the Bench then stipulates in para 22 that, “Having heard the respective counsel and also on perusal of the material on record, the points that would arise for consideration of this Court are:
(i) Whether the revision petitioner has made out a ground to exercise the revisional jurisdiction to set aside the orders passed by the Trial Court as well as the First Appellate Court?
(ii) What order?”
It is worth mentioning that the Bench then observes in para 23 that, “Having heard the respective counsel and also on perusal of the material available before the Court, the Trial Court imposed fine of Rs.4,000/- each and accordingly, accused No.1 deposited the fine amount and whether the accused No.2, the revision petitioner herein has deposited the amount or not is not forthcoming. Admittedly, this petitioner has also not challenged the same in any appeal before the Appellate Court i.e., the sentence of fine imposed by the Trial Court. However, the State has filed an appeal before the First Appellate Court on the ground of inadequate sentence. Hence, the Appellate Court modified the sentence of simple imprisonment for a period of six months, instead of fine of Rs.4,000/-.”
No doubt, the Bench then rightly points out in para 24 that, “The first and the foremost contention of the learned counsel for the revision petitioner before this Court is that there was no adulteration and it was only a misbranding. The counsel also relied upon the document Ex.P10 i.e., the report received from the Divisional Public Analyst cum Regional Assistant Chemical Examiner, Mysuru Division, N.P.C. Hospital Compound, Nazarbad, Mysuru, wherein it is opined that the sample sent for analyst is not adulterated but, it is misbranded wide label-3(e) and the said report is given on 6th day of March, 2008. On perusal of the records of the Trial Court, it is seen that the charge was framed on 18th August, 2011 subsequent to receipt of the report. On perusal of the charges, it is seen that the trial Judge has framed the charge for the offence under Section 7 of the Act, particularly, Section 7(1) in respect of adulteration of food and Section 7(2) is in respect of misbranding food. The charge has been framed for the offence under Section 7(1) i.e., adulteration of food and that is not the case of the prosecution and the case of the prosecution is misbranding.”
Be it noted, the Bench then most commendably enunciates in para 25 that, “On perusal of the complaint which is dated 8th July 2008 particularly, page No.2 in the bottom, it is stated that the information given in the packet is erroneous and also referred that the report of the analyst is misbranded and categorically mentioned in page No.3 that there is violation of Section 7(2) of the Act, punishable under Section 16(a)(i) of the Act. However, the allegation against this petitioner is that he has not issued cash bill in terms of Section 14 of the Act and he had distributed the oil packet, wherein also specifically mentioned that the petitioner has violated Section 7(2) of the Act, punishable under Section 16(a)(i) of the Act. But, the trial Judge has framed the charge for the offence under Section 7(1) of the Act and not for the offence under Section 7(2) of the Act. It is also important to note that the complaint dated 8th day of July, 2008 is subsequent to the receipt of the report from the analyst which is marked as Ex.P10 which is dated 6th day of March, 2008. Hence, it is clear that the report is received on 6th day of March, 2008 and complaint is filed in the month of July i.e., 8th day of July, 2008 and inspite of it, though allegation is in respect of Section 7(2) of the Act, the Trial Court framed the charge for the offence under Section 7(1) of the Act. Hence, very framing of the charge itself is erroneous.”
Most forthrightly, the Bench then mandates in para 26 that, “It has to be noted that the trial Judge, even while passing the judgment invoked Section 7(2) of the Act punishable under Section 16(a)(i) of the Act and not altered the Section from 7(1) to 7(2) of the Act. It is also rightly pointed by the learned counsel for the revision petitioner that no notice was given to invoke Section 7(2) of the Act and though the same is noticed by the Trial Court, the charge has been framed for violation of Section 7(1) of the Act and punishment was provided for the violation of Section 7(2) of the Act. Hence, there is a glaring error on the part of the Trial Court since charge has been framed for Section 7(1) of the Act and conviction and sentence is passed for the violation of Section 7(2) of the Act. The Appellate Court also failed to take note of this aspect into consideration and concentrated mainly on the minimum sentence. Hence, the very judgment of the Trial Court as well as the First Appellate Court requires to be set aside on the ground that the charge has been framed for violation of Section 7(1) of the Act and conviction and sentence has been passed for violation of Section 7(2) of the Act.”
Most significantly, the Bench then holds in para 27 that, “The other contentions of the learned counsel for the revision petitioner are that, no authorization to file any complaint and the delegatee also cannot delegate the powers. He also would contend that no notification was produced regarding appointment of Food Inspector and the independent witnesses have not been examined. It is also his contention that non-furnishing of report of Public Analyst and misbranding of label does not require any opinion from the Public Analyst. When charge has not been properly framed and conviction and sentence is passed for in respect of violation under Section 7(2) of the Act, it is appropriate to set aside the judgments of both the Trial Court as well as the First Appellate Court by keeping open the other contentions of the learned counsel for the revision petitioner and remand the matter to the Trial Court for framing appropriate charges and consider the matter afresh. If need arises, the Trial Court shall also permit the prosecution as well as the revision petitioner to adduce evidence before the Trial Court since, proper charge has to be framed and an opportunity has to be given to the revision petitioner to meet the case of the prosecution and unless the charge is specific, meeting the case of the prosecution by the defence is also very difficult. Hence, the judgment and sentence passed by the Trial Court as well as the First Appellate Court is not legally sustainable in the eye of law and it requires fresh consideration. Accordingly, I answer point No.(i) as ‘affirmative’.”
Finally and far most significantly, the Bench then concludes by holding in para 28 that, “In view of the discussions made above, I pass the following:
(i) The criminal revision petition is allowed.
(ii) The judgment passed by the Civil Judge and JMFC, Koppa dated 24.04.2013 in C.C.No.451/2008 and the judgment passed by the Principal District and Sessions Judge, Chikkamagaluru dated 09.11.2016 in Crl.A.No.233/2013 are set aside. The matter is remanded to the Trial Court to consider the matter afresh in accordance with law within a period of six months, since the matter is of the year 2008.
(iii) The revision petitioner and the prosecution are directed to appear before the Trial Court on 25th July, 2022 without expecting any notice.
(iv) The respective parties are directed to assist the Trial Court in disposal of the case within the stipulated time.
(v) The Registry is directed to transmit the records forthwith to the concerned Court.”
In a nutshell, the Karnataka High Court has thus not left even a straw of doubt to make it indubitably clear that the accused can’t be convicted for a charge which is not framed by the Trial Court. It merits no reiteration that all the Courts must definitely pay heed to what the Karnataka High Court has held in this leading case. Of course, we thus see that the matter has been very rightly remanded to the Trial Court to consider the matter afresh in accordance with the law within a period of six months, since the matter is of the year 2008 as mentioned above. No denying it.
Be it noted, the Bench then most commendably enunciates in para 25 that, “On perusal of the complaint which is dated 8th July 2008 particularly, page No.2 in the bottom, it is stated that the information given in the packet is erroneous and also referred that the report of the analyst is misbranded and categorically mentioned in page No.3 that there is violation of Section 7(2) of the Act, punishable under Section 16(a)(i) of the Act. However, the allegation against this petitioner is that he has not issued cash bill in terms of Section 14 of the Act and he had distributed the oil packet, wherein also specifically mentioned that the petitioner has violated Section 7(2) of the Act, punishable under Section 16(a)(i) of the Act”.
Friendly relations not consent to establish physical relations: Bombay High Court
The complainant herself has narrated the repeated incidents when they indulged in sex, on an assurance by the applicant that he is going to marry her. The complainant conceived and was found to be carrying six weeks’ pregnancy. She immediately contacted the applicant, but he refused to take up any responsibility and, on the other hand, blamed her for her ‘bad character’ and alleged that she is in relationship with some other person. Repeatedly, she kept requesting the applicant to marry her, but he refused.
While clearly drawing the red lines most distinguishably for boys in cases of establishing physical relations with a girl, the Bombay High Court in an extremely commendable, cogent, courageous and composed judgment titled Ashish Ashok Chakor vs State of Maharashtra in Anticipatory Bail Application No. 1676 of 2022 as recently as on June 24, 2022 in exercise of its criminal appellate jurisdiction minced just no words to hold that a girl merely being friendly with a boy doesn’t allow him to misconstrue it as her consent to establish a sexual relationship with her and rejected the anticipatory bail application of a man accused of impregnating a woman under the pretext of marriage. It must be mentioned here that the Single Judge Bench of Hon’ble Smt Justice Bharati Dangre rejected the pre-arrest bail that was filed by one Ashish Chakor who was accused of raping a woman under the pretext of marriage and booked him under Sections 376(2)(n), 376(2)(h) and 417 of the IPC. No doubt, this extremely laudable judgment by the Bombay High Court should serve as a very loud and strong message to all males that they cannot hide under the guise of friendly relations to develop physical relations with any female and if they dare to do so then they must be prepared to face the horrendous consequences by finding themselves landing in jail for a good number of precious years thus spoiling their whole life!
To start with, this recent, refreshing, robust, remarkable and rational judgment authored by a single Judge Bench of the Bombay High Court comprising of Hon’ble Smt Justice Bharati Dangre sets the ball rolling by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, “The applicant is apprehending his arrest in C.R.No.462 of 2022 lodged with M.H.B. Colony Police Station for the offences punishable under Sections 376(2)(n), 376(2)(h) and 417 of the IPC. The complainant is a girl aged 22 years, who was briefly acquainted with the present applicant. Somewhere in the year 2019, when she alongwith her friend had visited a residential premises of a third friend, the applicant is alleged to have committed forcible sexual intercourse with her. When she opposed, he expressed that he likes her and in any case, he is going to marry her. Thereafter, on multiple occasions, the act was repeated. The complainant herself has narrated the repeated incidents when they indulged into sex, on an assurance by the applicant that he is going to marry her. The complainant conceived and was found to be carrying six weeks’ pregnancy. She immediately contacted the applicant, but he refused to take up any responsibility and on the other hand, attributed her a bad character and alleged that she is in relationship with some other person. Repeatedly she kept requesting the applicant to marry her, but he refused.”
On the face of it, this prima facie reflects that the men himself is at fault and he had no business to indulge in physical relationship with her. Not just this, he even promised to marry her but later retracted. This clearly demonstrates that he is culpable and cannot be exonerated for what he has done so very wrongly!
Truth be told, the Bench then mentions in para 2 that, “Upon such a complaint, referring to the incidents occurring between 17/05/2019 to 27/04/2022, the complaint has been lodged. As far as the last incident is concerned, even on 27/04/2022, the complainant states that he had forcibly committed sexual intercourse with her.”
To be sure, the Bench then brings out in para 3 that, “Reading of the complaint would reveal that the girl, who is major, developed a liking for the applicant, but her version as far as the sexual relationship is concerned, is that she permitted it, since the applicant gave a promise of marriage. The sexual relationship was established on multiple occasions on the promise of marriage. However, when the girl conceived, the applicant attributed infidelity, but once again committed forcible sexual intercourse with her on the last date as mentioned in the complaint.”
Finally and far most significantly, the Bench then minces just no words to hold so very rightly in the last para 4 that, “Merely sharing friendly relationship with a girl do not permit a boy to take her for granted and construe it as her consent to establish physical relationship. In today’s society when a man and woman are working together, it is quite possible that proximity may develop between them, being either mentally compatible or confiding in each other as friends, ignoring the gender, since friendship is not gender based. However, this friendship with the person of fairer sex, does not confer a licence upon a man to force himself upon her, when she specifically refuse copulation. Every woman expects ‘Respect’ in a relationship, be it in the nature of friendship based on mutual affection. Here is the applicant, who is accused of maintaining sexual relationship on the pretext of marriage, but when the complainant conceived, he walked out alleging that pregnancy carried by her is on account of her relationship with other persons. The accusations faced by the applicant definitely require a thorough investigation to ascertain the version of the prosecutrix that she was forced to give her consent for sex. The application is rejected.”
In conclusion, the Single Judge Bench of the Bombay High Court comprising of Hon’ble Smt Justice Bharati Dangre has been forthright enough to hold that this friendship with the person of fairer sex, does not confer a licence upon a man to force himself upon her, when she specifically refuse copulation. It is also very rightly held that every woman expects ‘Respect’ in a relationship, be it in the nature of friendship based on mutual affection. We thus see that the anticipatory bail application of the men is thus rightly rejected as he took undue advantage of friendly relations to establish physical relations and gave false assurances of marriage which cannot be condoned. So it merits no reiteration that he had to face the consequences and the same was accordingly ensured by the Bombay High Court in this leading case so very rightly! No denying it!
It must be mentioned here that the Single Judge Bench of Hon’ble Smt Justice Bharati Dangre rejected the pre-arrest bail that was filed by one Ashish Chakor who was accused of raping a woman under the pretext of marriage and booked him under Sections 376(2)(n), 376(2)(h) and 417 of the IPC. No doubt, this extremely laudable judgment by the Bombay High Court should serve as a very loud and strong message to all males that they cannot hide under the guise of friendly relations to develop physical relations with any female and if they dare to do so, then they must be prepared to face the horrendous consequences by finding themselves landing in jail for a good number of precious years, thus spoiling their whole life.
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