The Supreme Court today in a Special Leave Petition filed by an IAS Officer accused of molesting two Khiamniungan minor girls, refused to transfer the trial of the POCSO case despite alleged threats of mob lynching and death in the State of Nagaland. However, the Court granted the IAS Officer liberty to appear virtually before the Trial Court.

The Bench of Justice Aniruddha Bose and Justice Dipankar Datta in its order noted "We do not find any reason to transfer the subject-case being Criminal Case No. G.R. 58 of 2021 in connection with SCPS Case No. 04 of 2021 to any other Court as applied for in this petition. The special leave petition is, accordingly, dismissed. The petitioner, however, is given liberty to apply for putting in his appearance virtually and on the days of hearing on which the Special Court is satisfied that his personal appearance is not required, the petitioner shall be allowed to appear through virtual mode."

The Bench further dictated that "Stay if any shall stand dissolved." The IAS officer had challenged the order of the Gauhati High Court which had refused to transfer the trial of the POCSO case from the Special Court (POCSO) Tuensang, Nagaland, to any other Special Court (POCSO) within the State of Nagaland.

Appearing for the IAS Officer, Advocate-on-Record Kaushik Choudhury submitted that the tribal and local people are organizing protests and rallies against the IAS Officer and his appearance before the Trial Court will be a problem. "It is about fair trial because of the protest which is going on," submitted the Advocate. "That will have an effect on the judge?" asked Justice Bose.

Responding to the same, the Advocate further said "There is an issue of mob lynching in Nagaland and similar incidents have been reported." He further said that "I am requesting to expedite the hearing but before some other District. Even the Police are not enquiring properly and I have received threat calls".

Appearing for the Respondent girls, Senior Advocate Vrinda Grover submitted that the POCSO case was listed today before the Trial Court and is pending since February 21, 2023. She also stated that there has been a stay on the trial by the Apex Court. "These are all tactics to delay the trial, he is an IAS Officer posted as a Join Secretary", submitted Grover.

Refusing to transfer the Trial, the Bench remarked "What is the problem here? We are not accepting this". The Advocate appearing for the IAS Officer further requested that the liberty to approach the Court virtually may be granted. "There is a threat to life, milords may grant virtual access. If something happens to him tomorrow then it will be a problem", submitted the Advocate.

Accordingly, the Court granted the liberty to appear before the Trial Court virtually whenever the physical presence was not sought by the Trial Judge.

The Supreme Court had earlier stayed the Criminal proceedings. In the impugned order of the High Court, it was submitted by the IAS Officer that "there was a social media campaign against the petitioner that the petitioner should be the second guy to be hanged at the City Tower Dimapur, a reference to an incident of the recent past was one alleged accused namely Syed Arif Khan facing trial in a rape case was forcibly dragged out from the Central Jail Dimapur by the protestor after overpowering the jail guards and lynched to death in full view of the public, the Police and the District Administration."

It was also submitted by the IAS Officer that all such situations against him may create a very volatile atmosphere which may disrupt and adversely impact the smooth and proper conduct of the trial before the Special Judge (POCSO) at Tuensang, where people belonging to the Tribe from which the victim hails has a sizable population.

Cause Title: Reny Wilfred v. The State Of Nagaland & Ors. [Special Leave to Appeal (Crl.) No(s). 6301/2023]