Chhattisgarh HC quashes rape charges against BJP MLA’s son; says relationship with tribal woman seems consensual

The Chhattisgarh High Court on Friday quashed rape charges against a Bharatiya Janata Party MLA’s son accused of sexually exploiting a tribal woman on the pretext of marriage with the observation that it appears to be a case of “consensual relationship”.

A bench of Justice Rakesh Mohan Pandey passed the verdict on the petition filed by the accused Palash Chandel, who had sought to quash the chargesheet and subsequent criminal proceedings in the case, the petitioner’s lawyer Hari Agrawal said.

The HC also quashed Indian Penal Code section 313 (causing miscarriage without woman’s consent) and provisions of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) in the case.

It, however, maintained the criminal proceedings under section 323 of the IPC in the case and directed the trial court to take necessary steps, Agrawal informed.

Palash Chandel is the son of Chhattisgarh Assembly Leader of Opposition and Janjgir Champa MLA Narayan Chandel.

In January this year, a case was registered against Palash Chandel in Raipur after the victim, a government school sports teacher, accused him of sexually exploiting her several times in Janjgir-Champa district on the pretext of marriage.

The victim had also alleged the accused made her undergo an abortion in 2021. She claimed he had assaulted her and refused to marry her as she belonged to a Scheduled Tribe.

She had complained in this regard to Chhattisgarh State Women Commission before lodging a complaint with Mahila Thana Raipur.

Palash Chandel was booked under IPC sections 376 (rape), 376(2)(n) (committing rape repeatedly on the same woman) and 313 (causing miscarriage without woman’s consent) as well as provisions of SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

The case was registered as a ‘Zero FIR’ in Raipur and then transferred to Janjgir Champa police for further action.

The police had filed a chargesheet in May before a special court in the district.

In April, the HC had granted anticipatory bail to Palash Chandel in the case. Later, he had filed an instant petition in the HC seeking to quash the chargesheet and subsequent criminal proceedings in the case, Agrawal said.

After the final hearing in the case on August 23, the HC had reserved its order, which was delivered on Thursday, he said.

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“From the perusal of the contents of FIR and the statement of the victim recorded under section 161 of the CrPC, it appears it is a case of a consensual relationship, as both of them came in contact through social media i.e. Facebook. They were in a relationship with each other for quite some time and enjoyed each other’s company,” the HC observed.

“The victim is a well-educated lady who knows the pros and cons of such a relationship and entered into it with wide and open eyes based on her consent and volition. It is also not in dispute that the victim has not obtained a divorce from her first husband. Since that is the indisputable factual position in this case, it cannot be held that the consent of the victim was obtained based on a misconception of fact or fraud,” it further said.

The HC said the two were in a relationship for about two-and-half years and added there was no material or document to establish the allegation that he got her pregnancy terminated.

The HC said the petition is allowed in part and the FIR, chargesheet and criminal proceedings are hereby quashed with respect to offences punishable under Sections 313, 376, 376(2)(n) of the IPC and Sections 3(2)(v) and 3(2)(va) of the SC/ ST Act.

However, the continuance of the criminal proceedings under Section 323 of the IPC is hereby maintained and the trial court is directed to take necessary steps in furtherance of this order, the HC said.

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