Gujarat High Court Quashes 2017 Criminal Case Against Shah Rukh Khan For Causing Grievous Hurt By Negligence
The Gujarat High Cout has quashed a criminal case against Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan registered in the year 2017 for offences under Sections 336, 337 and 338 of the Indian Penal Code and for offences punishable under Sections 145, 150, 152, 154 and 155(1)(a) of the Railways Act, 1989.
A Bench of Justice Nikhil S. Kariel quashed the crime on a petition filed by Shah Rukh Khan in the year 2017.
The case relates to incidents which had happened when the actor had undertaken an exercise of promotion of his movie "Raees" by a train journey from Mumbai to Delhi when the train had stopped at Vadodara Railway Station.
The case was registered based on a private complaint filed by one Jitendra Solanki who had alleged that when the train had stopped at Platform No. 6 at Vadodara Railway Station, a huge crowd of fans had gathered to see the actor. It was alleged that the actor had thrown 'smiley balls' and 'T- shirts' in the crowd and there was a scuffle in the crowd over catching the same and on account of such scuffle, a stampede had ensued due to which, some persons got injured and some become unconscious. It was also alleged that on account of the chaos created on account of the negligent acts on part of the Khan, one person had died.
However, the Court of learned Judicial Magistrate First Class, Vadodara did not take cognisance of offences under Sections 304(A) (causing death by negligence).
The deceased person had fainted at the Railway Station and was immediately rushed to a hospital by his family members and others. The Doctor informed the family members that the person had died on account of Cardiac Arrest. The Doctor noted that there were no injury marks or any other marks on the body of the deceased. Even though the Doctor had told the family members to have a post-mortem done, they refused.
Shah Rukh Khan had approached the High Court seeking to quash the proceedings in the year 2017 and had obtained an interim order.
Senior Advocate Mihir Thakore appeared for Khan while Public Prosecutor Mitesh Amin appeared for the respondent State and Advocate Ramnandan Singh appeared for the complainant. Advocate M.M. Kharadi appeared for the relatives of the deceased victims.
The Senior Counsel for Khan argued that the offences under the Railway Act are not applicable in the case. With respect to the IPC offences, he argued that "..the rash or negligent act which either endangered human life or caused hurt as per the sections would not be a mere rash or negligent act rather it should be something beyond the ordinary meaning of the term rash or negligent".
He contended that the alleged acts of rash and negligent acts, throwing 'smiley balls' and 'T-shirts' in the crowd and waving at the crowd could not be considered as so rash or negligent either to endanger human life or personal safety. He also alleged that there was negligence on the part of the Railway authorities in stopping the train at a wrong spot and also that the crowd had become unruly.
Since the relatives of the deceased persons had sought to implead in the proceedings before the High Court, it was argued on behalf of Khan that there was no evidence that the death was caused on account of any negligence on the part of Khan.
The Public Prosecutor supported the arguments of Shah Rukh Khan. He argued that there is no material to say that any act on part of Khan was endangering human life or public safety or would be the proximate cause for the death of the person concerned. He also submitted that the acts of Khan could not be termed as "so rash or negligent", which would either endanger human life or personal safety of any person or which would cause any grievous hurt to any person. In any case, the Public Prosecutor would submit that perusal of the report does not indicate that any of the acts of the petitioner were the proximate cause for the incidents which happened at the Railway Station.
The Counsel for the complainant argued that the railway administration could not be in any way held responsible for what happened. He argued that the Magistrate had clearly observed that Khan was knowing that the action on his part would cause chaos and yet, he had done the act negligently and recklessly and that the High Court should not interfere at this stage. The Counsel for the relatives of the deceased also made similar submissions.
The Court noted that Khan was at the relevant time promoting his upcoming movie and permission had been sought from the railway authorities and had received permission. "The petitioner upon seeing the crowd at the relevant point of time had waved and had thrown 'smiley balls' and 'T shirts' as part of promoting the movie in question. As rightly submitted by the learned Public Prosecutor for the State, such acts on part of the petitioner could not be stated to be acts of a very high degree of negligence or recklessness, which would attract the rigors of offence punishable under Sections 336, 337 and 338 of the Indian Penal Code", the Court held.
The Court held that the acts of Khan cannot be termed as the 'causa causans' for the incidents that happened, for the following reasons:-
- The train had been diverted from Platform No. 1 to Platform No. 6, there was a large crowd which was present on Platform No.6.
- The train had stopped in such a way that the compartment in which the petitioner was travelling had stopped near the stairs on the Platform for going to other Platforms. This had resulted in a narrower space being available for the crowd.
- Some sections of the crowd were behaving in an unruly manner and the police had to use force.
- Two international Cricketers had also come to the Railway Station to meet Shah Rukh Khan, which resulted in the crowd getting excited and getting out of control.
- After the train started moving, it stopped all of sudden.
The Court noted that the Investigating Officer had also opined that in addition to the act of the petitioner, there were other intervening acts that lead to what happened on the fateful day.
The Court held that "the act of throwing 'smiley balls' and 'T shirts' into the crowd may have led to some of the members of the crowd getting excited but in the considered opinion of this Court, such acts on part of the petitioner could not be stated to be consisting of a very high degree of negligence or recklessness nor would the act concerned be the proximate acts or efficient cause of the unruly scenes that had happened at the Railway Station".
The Court also held that act could not be termed as having any element of mens rea, which is an essential element to hold negligence as being an offence. The Court also held that the offences under the Railways Act will not apply.
On the argument of the complainant that the High Court should not interfere at the stage of the Magistrate issuing summons, the Court held that the Petitioner had challenged the complaint itself.
While quashing the complaint, the Court held that the allegations made in the complaint, even if they are taken at their face value and accepted in their entirety, do not prima facie constitute any offence or make out a case against Khan.