Raising a “huge question mark” over the circumstances under which a summary report filed by police in favour of two accused in a case of alleged kidnapping, gangrape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit girl was accepted by a trial court of Modasa in Aravalli through an order, the Gujarat High Court quashed the order last week.
In the judgment passed on December 15 and made available early this week, the HC also ordered the trial court to decide the issue after giving opportunity to close relatives of the deceased, to be heard.
The HC has questioned how the lower court accepted the ‘C’ summary on the day it was filed by the police, after issuing notice to the complainant who also gave his No-Objection to the police summary in the court all in one day — April 1, 2020, when the lockdown was in force due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It is quite unfortunate to note that the ‘C’ summary report was filed on 01.04.2020 and the trial Court passed the order accepting such report on the very same day, i.e. on 01.04.2020. There is a huge question mark as to when the trial Court had issued notice to the complainant and when it was served upon him. Under what circumstances the complainant appeared before the trial Court and filed a pursis stating that he has no objection if the said report is accepted, casts serious doubts about the proceedings that unfolded before the trial Court. The Court is bound to act in a fair and reasonable manner; however, in the present case, the same were missing,” observed a single judge bench presided over by Justice Gita Gopi in its judgment passed last week.
The court was acting on a petition moved by five relatives of the deceased — her parents, two sisters and a brother.
The case pertains to a 19-year-old Dalit girl whose body was found hanging from a tree at a village in Aravalli district on January 5, 2020 after she went missing on January 1, 2020.
The police station concerned had first registered a case of accidental death. Then on January 7, 2020, an FIR was registered against four persons with charges of kidnapping, gang rape and murder under the provisions of the IPC and Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The FIR was registered with a distant relative of the deceased as a complainant.
The four accused named in the FIR included Bimal Bharwad, Darshan Bharwad, Satish Bharwad and Jigar Parmar.
To probe the case, the then Gujarat DGP had formed a Special Investigation Team led by a senior IPS officer, Gautam Parmar.
In their petition before HC filed with the guidance and help of a retired additional district judge K B Rathod and through advocate Kashyap Joshi, the five relatives of the deceased had challenged a summary report filed on April 1, 2020 by police in the court of Special Judge & Additional Sessions Judge of Modasa in Aravalli in favour of two accused, Darshan Bharwad and Jigar Parmar.
The complainant in the case too remained present before the trial court on the same day and gave his No-Objection to the ‘C’ summary report. And the trial court had accepted the summary report while passing an order the same day.
The petitioners stated that under the provisions of Section 15A of the Atrocity Act, they are the victims and the trial court accepted the summary report without hearing them. They also presented the circumstances under which the summary report was filed during nationwide lockdown and accepted by the trial court.
They stated that against the principles of natural justice, the trial court “recorded the consent of the complainant and accepted the report without assigning any reasons and also without giving any opportunity of hearing to the near relatives of deceased” and “passed the order directing release of both the accused from jail”.
The petitioners also pointed out that along with the summary report, police had also filed a chargesheet against other accused.
“However, in the chargesheet, the respondent No. 2 (investigating officer) has replaced it (the main charges in the FIR like kidnapping, gang rape and murder) with Sections 306 (abetment of suicide), 201 (causing dispappearance of evidence of offence) and 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace) of IPC,” they pointed out to the court as recorded by the latter in its judgment.
The HC bench recorded that the order passed by the trial court to accept the summary report in favour of two accused was “cryptic”.
“The impugned order is cryptic in nature in as much as…it has been recorded that notice has been issued to the complainant and that in pursuance of such notice, the complainant appeared before the Court and filed a pursis to the effect that he has no objection if the ‘C’ Summary filed in favour of the two accused named therein is accepted. It is to be noted that all the above events took place on the very same day,” the judgment read.
The HC observed that the complainant in the case is merely an informant who cannot be called a victim and the trial court should have issued notice to the “victims” (the five petitioners) before passing the order. It has also ordered the trial court to issue notice to the five “victims” and grant them due opportunity to present their case on the ‘C’ Summary and decide the issue in accordance with law.