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Observing that there was no power imbalance in the case, the Delhi High Court recently invoked its inherent powers to grant anticipatory bail to a person in connection with an FIR for offences under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. (Naresh Tyagi vs State)
The order was passed by a Single Judge Bench of Justice Asha Menon.
The Petitioner had filed a petition under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 seeking the quashing of FIR under Sections 323 and 506 of the IPC and Sections 3(1)(r) and 3(1)(s) of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
The Petitioner contended that the FIR was prompted by enmity as the Complainant was annoyed with the Petitioner for having complained to the the DM (South) for diverting food meant for the poor for consumption by animals.
After the complaint was made, the Complainant publicly insulted and abused the Petitioner for having filed the complaint and a verbal altercation occurred during the course of which, the complainant allegedly threatened to teach the petitioner a lesson, it was asserted.
The Petitioner said that even before the FIR in question was registered, his well-wishers had informed that the Complainant was attempting to implicate him in a false case.
It was also contended that the Petitioner was not at all aware that the Complainant belonged to SC community.
The Complainant, on the other hand, argued that the Petitioner's assertion that he was unaware of the caste of the Complainant was irrelevant and the FIR could not be quashed at this stage.
The State submitted that the CCTV footage had established the presence of the Petitioner at the relevant place and time and thus, prima facie, a conclusion with regards the falsity of the complaint could not be drawn.
While referring to the Supreme Court's case in State of Haryana & Ors vs Bhajan Lal & Ors, the Court noted that the courts while exercising their inherent powers under Section 482, must use them sparingly, either to prevent abuse of process of any court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice.
It thus stated,
"..this Court would not be justified in embarking upon an inquiry as to the truthfulness of the contents of the FIR. Only a prima facie view must suffice to record satisfaction that a case is made out. If the allegations in the FIR disclose the commission of an offence that is cognizable, the court would be slow to doubt the veracity and would be reluctant to quash the FIR."
The Court opined that without a complete investigation, it was not possible for it to come to any conclusion that the FIR was indeed false.
As far as the issue of grant of anticipatory bail was concerned, the Court recorded that Section 18 and 18A of the SC/ST Act provided that the provisions of Section 438 CrPC was not available in cases under the Act.
The Court, nevertheless, noted that in terms of the Supreme Court's judgement in Prithvi Raj Chauhan v Union of India and Others (2020), the Courts continued to have inherent powers to grant pre-arrest bail in appropriate cases.
Referring to a series of cases passed by the Supreme Court on the grant of bail in relation to SC/ST Act, the Court observed,
In view of the peculiar facts of the case, the Court observed that it was not a case of power imbalance as both the Petitioner and the Complainant were party workers engaged in executing the welfare measures of Delhi Government meant for the poor.
Secondly, while the altercation took place on May 5, the FIR was registered only on May 11, the Court noted.
Since the investigation was not complete and the Court was not inclined to quash the FIR, the Court opined that in the totality of the facts and circumstances of the case, it was appropriate to grant anticipatory bail to the Petitioner, in the interest of justice.
The Petitioner was extended anticipatory bail till the filing of the chargesheet, on furnishing a personal bond and a surety bond in the sum of Rs.25,000/- each in the event of his arrest and to the satisfaction of the SHO concerned.
The Court also directed the Petitioner shall join the investigation, not approach the witnesses or tamper with evidence and not leave the jurisdiction of Delhi Courts without intimation to the SHO concerned.
The Petitioner was represented by Avocates Saket Sikri, Pradyuman Kaistha, Gautam Khazanchi.
State was represented by APP Amit Gupta.
Senior Advocate Ramesh Gupta with Advocate Bharat Sharma represented the Complainant.
Read the Order: