The Supreme Court has set aside the Rajasthan High Court order granting bail to two accused, including a son of a local MLA, for allegedly gang-raping a minor daughter of a police constable several times in 2021 after drugging her and filming the act, saying the offence was “heinous” and an “onslaught on the dignity of womanhood”.
The top court said though the grant of bail is a discretionary relief, such discretion has to be exercised in “a judicious manner and not as a matter of course” and issued broad guidelines for allowing the relief.
“While granting bail the court has to keep in mind factors such as the nature of accusations, severity of the punishment, if the accusations entail a conviction, and the nature of evidence in support of the accusations,” a bench of justices S Ravindra Bhat and Aravind Kumar said.
Dealing with the facts of the case, it observed that the high court primarily got “swayed” by the submissions that there was a delay of 13 months in filing the complaint and did not consider the fact that one of the accused was the son of a lawmaker and, consequently, there was possibility of pressure being exerted on the victim’s family.
“The offence alleged in the instant case is heinous and would be an onslaught on the dignity of womanhood and the age old principle of …(where women are respected, Gods live there) would recede to the background and the guilty not being punished by process of law or accused persons are allowed to move around freely in the society or in spite of there being prima facie material being present they are allowed to move around freely in the society before guilt is proved.
“And are likely to indulge in either threatening the prosecution witnesses or inducing them in any manner to jettison the criminal justice system, then the superior court will have to necessarily step in to undo the damage occasioned due to erroneous orders being passed by courts below,” the bench said, cancelling the bail of the accused.
The bench, in its verdict, issued broad guidelines on grant of bail but acknowledged there cannot be exhaustive parameters for allowing such relief.
Reasonable apprehensions of the witnesses being influenced or evidence being tempered with or the apprehension of there being a threat to the complainant should also weigh with the court while granting bail, it said.
While it is not accepted to have the entire evidence establishing the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt but there ought to be always a prima facie satisfaction of the court in support of the charge, it said.
“Frivolity of prosecution should always be considered and it is only the element of genuineness that shall have to be considered in the matter of grant of bail and in the event of there being some doubt as to the genuineness of the prosecution, in the normal course of events, the accused is entitled to have an order of bail,” it said.
The bench was dealing with the appeal of the uncle of the minor victim seeking cancellation of the bail granted to the accused.
The victim, aged 15 years and six months, was studying in Class 10 and had got acquainted with accused Vivek, who allegedly seduced her and took her to a hotel at Mahwa in Rajasthan on February 24, 2021.
He along with his friends Deepak and Netram allegedly raped the girl after drugging her and shot videos of the incident, police had said.
The girl, who was allegedly threatened by the accused, lodged the police complaint after a delay of 13 months and this was one of the grounds for grant of bail by the high court.
Asking the accused to surrender in two weeks, the bench said, “When we turn our attention to the facts on hand, it would not detain us too long to arrive at a conclusion that High Court seems to have been primarily swayed by the fact that there has been delay in filing the complaint i.e. 13 months for granting bail in favour of accused…”.
The allegation made in the complaint relates to gang-rape of a minor girl who is aged 15 years six months, studying in Class 10, and the fact of her father being a police constable, who is far below in the hierarchy of service cannot be lost sight of, the apex court said.
“One of the accused against whom allegations have been made is the son of a sitting MLA …Yet another accused Vivek seems to have criminal antecedents and the third accused is the manager of the hotel where the alleged incident of gang-rape had occurred,” it noted.