Subsequent to his release, the accused had taken out a procession with a hoarding prominently displaying captions like “Bhaiyaa is back”, “Back to Bhaiyaa”. These hoardings were intentionally placed in the locality where the victim and her family resided.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court bench led by the Chief Justice of India, N.V Ramana and comprising Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli, in Ms P vs. State of Madhya Pradesh & Anr, cancelled the bail of the rape accused on the grounds of supervening adverse circumstances subsequent to his release.
As per the complainant-appellant, the accused who belongs to an influential family, had applied vermillion (sindhoor) on the forehead of the complainant and he had convinced her that they had got married as per Hindu rituals only to enter into a physical relationship with her. Later, when she got pregnant, he terminated the child without her consent in a private hospital in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh. Thereafter, he did not maintain any contact with the complainant and when confronted by the complainant, he refused to solemnise the marriage with her.
On a complaint by the appellant, a First Information Report [FIR] was lodged against the accused on June 21 last year. Apprehending his arrest, he filed an application of anticipatory bail. However, the same was rejected by the Supreme Court on September 13, last year.
After the completion of the investigation, the accused’s regular bail was rejected by the trial court but he was released underSection 439 of the Code of Criminal Procedure by the High Court of Madhya Pradesh on November 16, last year.
Subsequent to his release, he had taken out a procession with a hoarding prominently displaying captions like “Bhaiyaa is back”, “Back to Bhaiyaa”. These hoardings were intentionally placed in the locality where the victim and her family resided. His photographs also appeared in the social media with crown and heart emojis.
The accused started threatening the complainant which compelled the father of the victim to lodge an FIR on December 14, last year.
The Supreme Court, while remarking that the accused does not deserve the concession of bail, observed, “The brazen conduct of the respondent No.2 has evoked a bona fide fear in the mind of the appellant/complainant that she would not get a free and fair trial if he remains enlarged on bail and that there is a likelihood of his influencing the material witnesses.”
The counsel of the accused had argued that those posters were not to mock the complainant as they were mounted to celebrate the ‘Maa Narmada Jayanti’ greetings. The Supreme Court in this regard stated, “The emojis of crowns and hearts tagged with the captions quoted above are devoid of any religious sentiments sought to be portrayed by the respondent No.2.”
The bench pointed out, “On the other hand, they amplify the celebratory mood of the respondent No.2 and his supporters on his having been released from detention in less than two months of being taken into custody for a grave offence that entails sentence of not less than ten years that may even extend to life”.
Further, even if those posters were not contemporaneous to the release of the accused, the captions tagged to his photographs on the social media highlight the superior position and power wielded by him and his family in the society and their deleterious impact on the complainant, the Supreme Court observed.
Conditions that may lead to cancellation of the bail
The Supreme Court also recognised that the court cannot interfere once the bail has already been granted unless cogent and overwhelming circumstances exist. One such ground, as the bench pointed out, can be that the bail order suffers from illegality, perversity or is based on irrelevant evidence.
The bench relied on its previous decisions to state that certain conditions must be considered by the court while granting bail. These are, namely, the nature of the accusations, severity of the punishment, nature of evidence in support of the accusations, reasonable apprehension of witnesses being tampered with, threat to the complainant and the prima facie satisfaction of the court in support of the charges.
The Supreme Court observed that the courts have placed the liberty of individuals at the highest pedestal. But it also acknowledged that liberty is not absolute and while granting bail, the court has to balance this right by giving reasoned bail orders, even if the reasoning is brief.
Thus, in the present case, the Supreme Court recorded that the High Court of Madhya Pradesh not only erred in overlooking the criminal antecedents of the accused and his father who are politically well connected and are in an influential position due to which there is an apprehension of threat to the complainant but it also overlooked the material evidence including photographs produced by the complainant that showed the accused marrying her as per the Hindu rituals. These are cogent grounds to cancel the bail of the accused and not to forget, his brazen conduct, subsequent to his release on bail, also warrants cancellation of bail.
Resultantly, the bench directed the accused to surrender within one week of the pronouncement of the judgment.