The Supreme Court in a minor’s gang rape case has directed the three accused persons including an MLA's son to surrender saying that the order granting bail was bereft of material and the High Court got swayed on the ground of delay in lodging the FIR.

The Court was dealing with a batch of two criminal appeals filed by the uncle of the minor victim against the order passed by the Rajasthan High Court whereby it allowed the applications of the accused under Section 439 of the Cr.PC.

The two-Judge Bench comprising Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice Aravind Kumar held, “… we notice that the impugned order granting bail is not only bereft of material particulars which would justify grant of bail, but it seems that the High Court has got swayed on the ground of delay and the video having not been recovered during the course of investigation and has given a complete go by to the allegation made in the FIR and statement recorded under Section 161 and 164 of the Cr.P.C. as also the testimony of the prosecutrix before the jurisdictional court.”

The Bench said that the High Court erred in not considering the basic facts while considering the prayer for grant of bail by taking into consideration the well-established judicial pronouncements.

Advocate Anuj Bhandari appeared for the appellant/complainant while Senior Advocate Meenakshi Arora appeared for the respondents/accused.

Facts of the Case -

The appellant/complainant i.e., the uncle of the minor victim registered an FIR in 2022 with the jurisdictional police alleging gang rape, threat of making video of rape recorded viral and extortion for the offences punishable under Sections 376D, 384, and 506 of the IPC read with Section 326 of POCSO Act and Section 66D of IT Act. As per the prosecution’s case, in 2021, the minor girl aged 15 years, studying in Class-X, got acquainted with a boy (MLA's son) who seduced her and took her to a hotel whereby he along with his two friends gang raped her after drugging and then took videos of the incident.

All the three accused i.e., the respondents threatened the victim not to disclose the aforesaid incident. They proclaimed that they were powerful and hence, the victim got scared and under the threat of video being circulated, gave gold ornaments of her mother to the accused. The accused raped her 4-5 times which made her weak and sick. Finally, in 2023, the girl disclosed about the incident after much persuasion. The applications for grant of bail filed by the respondents were dismissed by the Special Court but the High Court granted relief to them taking into consideration the statement of the victim and the possibility of time being consumed for trial. The complainant being aggrieved by this, approached the Apex Court.

The Supreme Court after hearing the contentions of the counsel observed, “The fact that accused Deepak is the son of sitting MLA would disclose the domineering influence he would wield not only in delaying the proceedings but also in pressurizing the witnesses to either resile from their statement given during the course of investigation or pose threat to them from deposing against accused on their failure to act according to his dictates or induce them to testify as per his dictates or to help the defence of the accused.”

The Court said that the complainant’s grievance has been that the accused was threatening the victim and other witnesses and that there is every possibility of threat to their life in the event they depose to the truth, and such apprehension is justifiable, especially because he is in a domineering position.

“The complainant underlines the influence and possibility of the clout being wielded on the witnesses which cannot be discounted. The fact that even after recording of the deposition of the prosecutrix other prosecution witnesses have not come forward to tender evidence though more than nine dates of hearing has passed, would lend credence to the apprehension of the complainant”, noted the Court.

Accordingly, the Apex Court allowed the appeals, set aside the order of the High Court, and directed the respondents to surrender before the jurisdictional court within two weeks.

Cause Title- Bhagwan Singh v. Dilip Kumar @ Deepu @ Depak and Another (Neutral Citation: 2023 INSC 761)

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