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The Karnataka High Court held that multiple FIRs can be filed in the case involving the attack on medical personnel in Bangalore's Padarayanapura area amid the COVID-19 lockdown.
The Bench of Justice PB Bajanthri noted that when the complaint constitutes more than a single transaction, then such transactions cannot be amalgamated and clubbed into a single FIR by showing one injured as the complainant and others as witnesses.
It was thus held that registration of a single FIR and filing of a single charge sheet would be contrary to the statutory provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), in such cases.
Karnataka High Court
The allegations against the petitioners were that on April 19, they had formed an unlawful assembly with an intention to spread the Coronavirus and that they obstructed medical officers from lawfully discharging their official duties. It was also alleged that they assaulted medical and police personnel who were on duty by pelting stones and assaulting them with knives, rods and clubs.
Further, it was alleged that the 126 accused destroyed public property including COVID-19 information centres, and stole and damaged CCTVs.
Hence, the police officers present had registered complaints one after the other on the very same day, with slight changes in time and place of occurrence of the alleged incidents.
An FIR was registered with the J J Nagar Police Station against the applicants for the offences under Sections 3 and 4 of Prevention of Destruction and Loss of Property Act, 1981 and under various sections of the Indian Penal Code. Subsequently, other FIRs were also registered relating to 6 different places at Padarayanapura.
This prompted the petitioners to approach the High Court challenging the registration of multiple FIRs in the same, and praying to stay the operation of the same.
Advocate Anees Ali Khan, appearing for the accused, vehemently contended that after the registration of the first FIR, the subsequent FIRs should not have been registered by the police as the same are in connection with the very first transaction and the alleged offences are a part of the same conspiracy.
He further relied on a circular issued in 2015 by the state prohibiting filing of more than one FIR arising out of the common incident and offences.
Countering these arguments, Special Public Prosecutor VM Sheelavant argued that the offences are distinct and there is no element of similarity in them. Further, he submitted that if two FIRs pertain to two different incidents/crimes, the second FIR is definitely permissible.
To further buttress his argument, he cited the Supreme Court judgment in the case of Manoj Kumar v. State of Uttarakhand to support the contention that more than one FIR is permissible.
After hearing the rival submissions, the Court noted that the primary issue in the case was "whether filing of more than one FIR arising out of same allegations relating to offences in a proximity time and place is permissible or not".
To answer the question, the Court proceeded to heavily rely on the Supreme Court's judgment in Anju Choudhary v. State of Uttar Pradesh and others, wherein it was held that whether more than one FIR is permissible to be filed, is a question of law and fact. This judgment states,
Supreme Court judgment in Anju Choudhary v. State of Uttar Pradesh and others
In this view, the High Court went on to hold in the present case,
"In the present case factual aspect like complaint and other events do not constitute a single transaction. Such transactions cannot be amalgamated and clubbed into a single FIR by showing one injured as the complainant and others as witnesses. In respect of such transaction, it is imperative for the State to register a separate FIR if the complainant discloses commission of cognizable offence."
The Court went on to hold that the petitioners have not made out a prima facie case to stay the operation of the FIRs lodged in connection with the Padarayanapura case.
It has now listed the matter for further orders on July 1.
Recently, the 126 accused persons in the Padarayanapura case were granted bail by the High Court.
[Read the order]