Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttarakhand High Court: Ravindra Maithani, J. has asked the State of Uttarakhand whether an Investigating Officer, by conducting DNA tests, has the right to determine the gender or sex of a transgender person who underwent a gender reassignment surgery.

The petitioner, in this case, had filed an FIR alleging she was raped, but the FIR was registered by the police under Section 377 (unnatural offences) of the Penal Code, 1860. She had identified herself as a female and also claimed that she had undergone gender reassignment surgery and had obtained a certificate declaring that she may be addressed as a “she”. She approached the High Court, contending that she had been harassed by the investigating officers by lodging the FIR as an unnatural offence instead of rape and addressing her as a male.

The Court took into consideration the matter being one of social importance and hence it needs to be observed strictly as it is not only touching the petitioner alone but many others who have faced such an issue. The Court reiterated what has been laid down in the landmark case National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India, (2014) 5 SCC 438, wherein the petitioner’s “right to self-identification of gender” was denied and the Supreme Court rejected the age-old principle laid down in Corbett v. Corbett, (1970) 2 All ER 33 that an individual’s sexual constitution is fixed at birth and cannot be changed. The Hon’ble Supreme Court went on to prefer the “psychological test” instead of “biological test”. It stated “When we examine the rights of transsexual persons, who have undergone SRS, the test to be applied is not the “biological test”, but the “psychological test”, because psychological factor and thinking of transsexual has to be given primacy than binary notion of gender of that person. Seldom people realize the discomfort, distress and psychological trauma, they undergo and many of them undergo “gender dysphoria” which may lead to mental disorder. Discrimination faced by this group in our society, is rather unimaginable and their rights have to be protected, irrespective of chromosomal sex, genitals, assigned birth sex, or implied gender role.”

The Court questioned the acts of Investigating officers and the public servants and stated they have not taken into consideration the Supreme Court judgment. It asked the Home Secretary of the State of Uttarakhand to file an affidavit answering various questions as to how the Investigating Officer had the right to determine the sex or gender of the petitioner how could the Investigating Officer apply the “biological test” instead of the “psychological test” in light of the Supreme Court judgment.[Shilpi Lawrence Elenjikal v. State of Uttarakhand, Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 28 of 2019, decided on 29-04-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerela High Court: The Bench of N. Anil Kumar, J., allowed the bail application of a seventy years old man, filed under Section 439 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

In the present case, the applicant was alleged of committing unnatural sexual intercourse with a boy aged 13 years and was charged under Section 377 of Penal Code, 1860 and Section 3(a) read with Section 4 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. The victim filed the complaint belatedly on 21-03-2019 and the accused was arrested on 22-03-2019, since then he had been in judicial custody. Applicant had asked for the bail on the grounds of his old age and suffering from various illness including cardiac ailments which required regular medication and medical consultation. He also pointed towards the inordinate delay in reporting the matter to the police by the victim indicating the falsity of the allegations, as ground for bail.

The Court in its order granting the bail said, “In view of the fact that the petitioner is a 70-year-old senior citizen and that no purpose will be served by further detaining the applicant in judicial custody, it is just and proper to grant bail to the petitioner after imposing stringent conditions. Further, the petitioner has been in judicial custody since 22-03-2019.” The Court also put several conditions while granting bail such as, the applicant would be executing a bond for Rs 50,000 along with two solvent sureties, he would be appearing before investigating officer on all Mondays and Thursdays on scheduled time for the next three months, he would not be contacting the victim or his family members and would not intimidate the prosecution witnesses and he would surrender his passport and not leave the territory of State without the Court’s permission. In case if he fails to comply with any of these conditions, the Court would be free to cancel his bail order.[Eni v. State of Kerela, 2019 SCC OnLine Ker 1407, Order dated 03-05-2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court:  The 3-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, CJ and Navin Sinha and KM Joseph, JJ has clarified that  all pending criminal prosecutions, trials and appeals prior to the law laid down in Mohan Lal vs. State of Punjab, (2018) SCC Online SC 974 shall continue to be governed by the individual facts of the case, as the said judgment cannot be allowed to become a spring board by an accused   for   being   catapulted   to   acquittal,   irrespective   of   all   other considerations pursuant to an investigation and prosecution when the law in that regard was nebulous.

In the said judgment, the 3-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, R. Banumathi and Navin Sinha, JJ was dealing with the question as to whether in a criminal prosecution, it will be in consonance with the principles of justice, fair play and a fair investigation, if the informant and the investigating officer were to be the same person. It had held that:

“To leave the matter for being determined on the individual facts of a case, may not only lead to a possible abuse of powers, but more importantly will leave the police, the accused, the lawyer and the courts in a state of uncertainty and confusion which has to be avoided. It is therefore held that a fair investigation, which is but the very foundation of fair trial, necessarily postulates that the informant and the investigator must not be the same person. Justice must not only be done, but must appear to be done also. Any possibility of bias or a predetermined conclusion has to be excluded. This requirement is all the more imperative in laws carrying a reverse burden of proof.”

When the present matter came before the Court, it noticed the facts of the present case were different from that in the Mohan Lal case. In the present case, it was argued that the conviction must vitiate as the informant is also the investigating officer. Strong reliance was placed on the Mohan Lal verdict. The Court, however, noticed that the facts in Mohan Lal case were indeed extremely telling in so far as the defaults on part of the prosecution was concerned. In the said case, the paramount consideration being to interpret the law so that it operates fairly, the facts of that case did not show any need to visualise what all exceptions must be carved out and provided for.

In relation to the case at hand, the Court said that the facts in the present case were equally telling with regard to the accused. It added:

“There is a history of previous convictions of the appellant also. We cannot be oblivious of the fact that while the law stood nebulous, charge sheets have been submitted, trials in progress or concluded, and appeals pending all of which will necessarily be impacted.”

Stating that criminal jurisprudence mandates balancing the rights of the accused and the prosecution, the bench said:

“Individual rights of the accused are undoubtedly important. But equally important is the societal interest for bringing the offender to book and for the system to send the right message to all in the society — be it the law­abiding citizen or the potential offender. ‘Human rights’ are not only of the accused but, extent apart, also of the victim, the symbolic member of the society as the potential victim and the society as a whole.”

[Varinder Kumar v. State of Himachal Pradesh, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 170, decided on 11.02.2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gujarat High Court: The Bench of  Vipul M. Pancholi, J., allowed the application made for granting an anticipatory bail on the grounds that the applicant was a lady, she was a doctor having two minor children and had cooperated with the investigating officer. 

The facts of the case are that the applicant was booked for the offenses punishable under Sections 419, 420, 423, 465, 467, 468, 470, 471, 474, 477-A, 120-B of the Indian Penal Code for which this application was filed under Section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 for grant of anticipatory bail. The counsel for applicant argued that the nature of allegations were such for which custodial interrogation at that stage was not necessary. Additional Public Prosecutor appearing on behalf of the respondent – State opposed grant of anticipatory bail by emphasizing on the gravity of the offence.

The Court allowed the application on the ground that the applicant was a lady; she was a Doctor having two minor children and had cooperated with the investigating officer thus granting her anticipatory bail. [Varsha Madhukar Wagh v. State of Gujarat, 2019 SCC OnLine Guj 127, decided on 22-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jammu and Kashmir High Court: A Bench of Sanjay Kumar Gupta, J. allowed this petition seeking a direction to the official respondents for reinvestigation because of shoddy, incomplete and unreasoned investigation conducted in a perfunctory manner.

The facts of the case are that the father, brother of the petitioner and the petitioner himself were criminally abused, beaten up and restrained by the accused persons. An FIR was lodged but the police refused to take any actions against the accused persons. It was stated that the Challan in the aforesaid FIR was produced before the Court of Learned Munsiff only under Sections 341/323/34 RPC and only against a few of the respondents and left over the serious offences and rest of the accused persons. The petitioners further contended that the criminal case under the FIR whose challan was presented in the Court of Munsiff required a reinvestigation as the medical record which had been annexed with the petition was not considered by the Investigating Officer during the investigation.

The Court allowed the petition and ordered for further investigation. [Mohd. Arif v. State of J&K, 2018 SCC OnLine J&K 1046, decided on  24-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Tripura High Court: A Bench of Arindam Lodh, J. allowed a petition for quashing of criminal proceedings pending against the petitioner.

The petitioner was arrested with other co-accused in connection with a crime under Sections 364-A, 302 and 201 IPC along with Section 27 of Arms Act. The petitioner through his counsel D. Bhattacharya, Advocate submitted that after investigation, the chargesheet submitted by the Investigating officer did not show his name. Further, that the IO specifically observed that there was no evidence against the petitioner. However, after taking cognizance of the case, the Judicial Magistrate (First class), Sonamura issued an arrest warrant against all the accused including the petitioner. Aggrieved thereby, the present petition was filed.

After carefully perusing the record, the High Court expressed serious dissatisfaction to the conduct of JMFC who did not think it necessary to go through the chargesheet itself. This, according to the court, is unexpected from a Judicial Officer. The JMFC was cautioned that any such mistake in future would draw appropriate action. It was observed, “It is the solemn duty of the court to protect the life and liberty of a citizen and none should be harassed unnecessarily”. The Court was satisfied that the petitioner was discharged by the IO and therefore it allowed the petition by quashing the proceedings pending against the petitioner. [Priyalal Debbarma v. State of Tripura, 2018 SCC OnLine Tri 261, Order dated 05-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of S.P Garg, J held that the sole testimony of the investigating officer cannot be grounds for convicting the accused under the NDPS Act in the absence of other evidence.

In this case, an intelligence officer, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence received a secret information on phone about two persons of certain descriptions who would arrive at a certain bus stop on Wazirabad road at about 9:00 p.m. carrying contraband. The said call was allegedly made at around 5:00 p.m. This information was recorded in writing and placed before senior officers and the complainant was directed to take necessary steps which resulted in the arrest of two persons matching the description given by the anonymous caller with around 6 kg of heroine in their possession. The DRI claims that during the arrest, two public persons joined the raiding team at about 8:30 p.m.

The Court found many discrepancies in the investigation and arrest. The Court questioned the absence of the two public persons during cross-examination. Moreover, the anonymous tip was recorded in a loose sheet of paper. Moreover, the DRI was unable to make a case as to where the accused persons had come from, where they were headed, who they were bringing the contraband for where they got the contraband from. In light of the above-mentioned circumstances surrounding the case, the Court allowed the appeal setting aside the sentence. [Mohammad Burhan v. Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, 2017 SCC OnLine Del 10060, decided on 24.08.2017]