The Supreme Court imposed heavy costs on Police officers who illegally detained tenants, coerced them to sign documents, and got the premises demolished.

The court imposed a hefty fine, of Rs. 50,000/- per Constable, Rs. 1,00,000/- for the Head Constable, Rs. 1.50 lacs for the Sub-Inspector, and Rs. 2.0 lacs for the Inspector, adding up to a total of Rs. 6.0 lacs for each case, for involvement of police officers in the illegal detention of tenants and unauthorized demolition of premises.

The Court allowed the Petitions challenging the High Court’s affirmation of the Sessions Court order to direct registration and investigation.

The Bench comprising Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Satish Chandra Sharma observed, “however, what we are not satisfied with is why the police personnel have been allowed to go scot-free in a case where they had an apparent role in conspiring and in abetting the crime of the illegal detention of the tenants, coercing them to sign the document against their will, and getting the premises in question demolished without any order from a competent Court”.

Advocate Rahul Chitnis appeared for the Appellant and Advocate Siddharth Dharmadhikari appeared for the Respondent.

Three tenants originally occupied the disputed premises, but the focus shifted to two—Vijaykumar Vishwanath Dhawale and Vinod Dodhu Chaudhary. The third tenant did not file a complaint and was therefore not part of the proceedings.

The property dispute arose when Rajeev Ramrao Chavan sold the premises to five individuals in 2021. Following Chavan's alleged suicide in 2022, the tenants were implicated in a suicide note, leading to a police complaint. The police, however, registered it as an accidental death, without an FIR.

The tenants were detained for 24 hours while the premises were demolished. Coerced into signing documents at the police station, they later filed a complaint. The Magistrate's order for an inquiry was challenged, leading the Sessions Judge to direct registration and investigation.

The High Court upheld the Sessions Judge's decision, now contested through six petitions. SLP (Crl.) Nos. 15433 and 15294 of 2023 were filed by the deceased's brother, SLP (Crl.) Nos. 14734-14735 of 2023 by the five purchasers, and SLP (Crl.) Nos. 14585 and 14572 of 2023 by the six police personnel—all related to the two tenants' complaints.

During the pendency of the petitions, the Court observed that a settlement had been reached between the complainants and the 13 accused. The subsequent purchasers had paid Rs. 10 lacs to each tenant, who, in turn, filed affidavits expressing their decision not to pursue the complaint further. Based on this settlement, a plea was made for the allowance of the petitions, and the proceedings arising from the two criminal complaints under Section 156(3) Cr.P.C. were requested to be quashed.

From the recorded factual matrix, the Court noted that the continuation of the two criminal proceedings would serve no purpose once the complainant himself stated the intention to withdraw the complaint. With the losses compensated, any further investigation or trial was deemed futile.

The Bench observed that compensation for the tenants was provided by subsequent purchasers, ostensibly as they were now the property owners responsible for the illegal demolition. While the deceased's widow and brother may have no further interest, concern was expressed about the apparent involvement of police personnel in conspiring and abetting the crime of illegal detention and coercion of tenants.

The Court directed that six police personnel incur a cost of Rs. 6.0 lacs each for the two complainants. The amount varied based on their ranks: Rs. 50,000/- per Constable, Rs. 1,00,000/- by the Head Constable, Rs. 1.50 lacs by the Sub-Inspector, and Rs. 2.0 lacs by the Inspector, totalling Rs. 6.0 lacs for each case. This sum was to be deposited in the Armed Forces Battle Casualties Welfare Fund within four weeks, and proof of deposit was to be submitted to the Court, Magistrate, and High Court within six weeks. Upon deposit, the proceedings of the two complaint cases were to be quashed and closed.

The Bench observed that any observations or the direction for compensation to tenants would not be treated as adverse to the police personnel's interests concerning promotions or service records. Additionally, failure to provide proof of deposit within the stipulated time would result in the dismissal of the petitions filed by the police personnel.

Accordingly, the Court allowed the Petitions.

Cause Title: Shatrughna Atmaram Patil & Ors. v Vinod Dodhu Chaudhary & Anr. (2024 INSC 75)


Appellant: Hersh Desai, Shwetal Shepal, Chander Shekhar Ashri, Sudhanshu S. Choudhari, Rucha A. Pande, M. Veeraragavan, Gautami Yadav, Pranjal Chapalgaonkar, Ravindra Keshavrao Adsure, Jitendra Patil, Sagar Nandkumar Pahune-patil, Advocates.

Respondent: Aaditya Aniruddha Pande, Bharat Bagla, Sourav Singh, Aditya Krishna, Raavi Sharma, Yamini Singh, Anish R. Shah, Advocates.

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