Judicial Process Should Not Be Means for Harassment Merely Because Accused Is Celebrity: HC While Quashing 2019 Case Against Salman Khan

Judicial process need not be a means of needless harassment merely because an accused is a celebrity, the Bombay High Court has said in its order quashing criminal proceedings against Bollywood actor Salman Khan in a complaint of intimidation filed by a journalist in 2019.

Justice Bharati Dangre on March 30 allowed applications filed by Salman Khan and his bodyguard Nawaz Shaikh and quashed the proceedings and process (summons) issued to them by a lower court.

In the detailed order that became available on Tuesday, the HC noted that the magistrate’s court had failed to follow the procedural mandate before issuing summons.

“The judicial process need not be a means for needless harassment merely because the accused is a well-known celebrity and without adhering to the procedure of law, he shall not be subjected to unnecessary oppression at the hands of a complainant, who set in the machinery into motion to satisfy his vendetta and assumed that he was insulted by the cine star,” the order said.

This was a fit case where the “issuance of process against the applicants (Salman Khan and Shaikh) and continuation of the proceedings is nothing short of abuse (of) the process”, the judge added.

“…and for doing substantial justice, I deem it appropriate to quash the impugned order,” the court said.

Justice Dangre also stated in the judgement that continuation of any action against the applicants would result in grave injustice.

The magistrate should have first recorded the statement of the complainant to verify his allegations, said the high court.

The lower court surpassed the procedure laid down under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) while issuing the summons and it “suffers from serious infraction of procedure” to be adopted when a private complaint is filed, the HC added.

A magistrate’s court had in March 2022 issued summons to Salman and his bodyguard Nawaz Shaikh, directing them to appear before it on April 5, 2022.

The order was passed on a complaint by a journalist Ashok Pandey alleging that he was threatened and assaulted by the actor and his bodyguard.

Khan moved the HC challenging the summons. On April 5, 2022, the HC stayed the summons.

Pandey had alleged that in April 2019, Salman Khan and Shaikh abused and assaulted him for filming the actor while Khan was riding bicycle on a Mumbai street.

Khan in his petition claimed that he had not said anything to Pandey during the incident.

But Metropolitan Magistrate R R Khan issued summons, noting that a police report submitted in the matter stated that offences under Indian Penal Code sections 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace) and 506 (criminal intimidation) were made out against the accused.

A magistrate’s court issues summons if it finds prima facie substance in the allegations made in a complaint.

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