Supreme Court indicts Gujarat for not filing an appeal against HC’s grant of bail in a case involving grave offence

THE Supreme Court, in a judgment on Monday, reprimanded the Gujarat government for not filing an appeal against a verdict of the Gujarat High Court releasing on bail two persons accused in a serious criminal matter, holding that it had “failed to protect the rights of the victim”.

A two-judge bench of the court, comprising of Justices M.R. Shah and B.V. Nagarathna, made these observations while quashing the high court’s bail orders from 2019, and directing the accused persons to surrender before jail authorities within one week’s time.

The two accused persons were among the five charge-sheeted by the Gujarat police for offences under Sections 302 (Punishment for murder), 342 (Punishment for wrongful confinement), 354 (Assault of criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 323 (Punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 143 (Punishment for being a member of an unlawful assembly), 147 (Punishment for rioting), 148 (Rioting, armed with deadly weapon), and 149 (Every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence commit­ted in prosecution of common object) of the Indian Penal Code, Sections 3(1)(r), (s) and 3(2)(v) of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and Section 135 of the Gujarat Police Act, 1951, for, among other things, the murder of the husband of the appellant, along with beating the appellant and her aunt, after abusing all of them, in 2018.

The Supreme Court reasoned that the high court had not considered the gravity of the offences and the evidence collected during the investigation, which formed part of the charge-sheet, as well as the statements of eyewitnesses and the fact that the crimes had been recorded in CCTV footage as well as on a mobile phone, while making its decision.

In this case, the deceased person’s wife, who was also a victim in the case, had appealed to the Supreme Court against the high court’s decisions, while the state government had not preferred an appeal on the pretext that it takes the government time to decide whether to make an appeal.

Coming down hard on the state government for the same, the Supreme Court noted:  “In criminal matters the party who is treated as the aggrieved party is the state which is the custodian of the social interest of the community at large and so it is for the State to take all the steps   necessary   for   bringing   the   person   who   has   acted against the social interest of the community to book.”

Further, it excoriated Gujarat’s Director of Prosecution for failing to perform his duties in this case, reminding that it is the Director’s duty to take prompt decisions in such matters. It chided the state government for not being “very serious [about] … maintain[ing] rule of law in a serious matter like this”, and directed the Director of Prosecution and the legal department of the state government to take prompt decisions in such matters henceforth where bail is granted to persons accused of grave offences.

To ensure the same, it also directed copies of the decision to be sent to the Principal Chief Secretary and Secretaries of the Home and Legal Departments of the state government “to take further corrective steps”.

Click here to read the Supreme Court’s full judgment.